Condiments are such an easy way to enhance the flavour of your food. Condiments can refer to anything from sauces to dips, to spices and the list goes on and on.
Here are a couple of food pairings that are quintessential for Singaporeans or anyone enjoys Singapore food. Soft boiled eggs with salt and pepper. Kaya with toast. Sushi and soya sauce. Fries and ketchup. Fried noodles with sweet soya sauce. I am already salivating thinking about it!
We consume these condiments on a daily basis, but have you ever wondered about its nutritional value? As with all other food, having your condiments in moderation will most probably not cause significant risks to your health. Certain condiments can even provide you with health benefits. But when you go overboard and use too much unhealthy condiments, you can turn your healthy food into unhealthy food.
Have you ever ordered a salad and the waiter brings out a plate of mayonnaise or thousand island sauce with a side of salad? Yikes!
Generally, unhealthier condiments contain additives like sugar, sodium and/or unhealthier forms of fat (saturated/ trans-fat). Unfortunately, these 3 nutrients can be bad for heart health.
Let’s start off with condiments loaded with sugar. According to the Health Promotion Board (HPB), the recommended sugar intake* for the average adult should be no more than 50 grams per day, based on a 2000kcal daily calorie intake.
To simplify things, we will compare the sugar content of these condiments with a can of coke—that contains 40 grams of sugar- that’s 80% of the recommended sugar intake (shocking, I know).
Sweet soy sauce or kecap manis—it is the thick and sticky soy sauce, not to be confused with dark soy sauce. People commonly pair this with char kway teow, chicken rice, or fried noodles. Just 1 tablespoon of kecap manis contains 12 grams of sugar, slightly more than ¼ the amount of sugar in a can of coke.
Kaya—that tastes so amazing on a piece of toast! Just 1 tablespoon of kaya contains 9 grams of sugar, slightly less than ¼ the amount of sugar in a can of coke.
Try this: Look out for less sugar options when out grocery shopping or do it yourself at home! This way, you will be able to control the amount of sugar that goes into your kaya.
Ketchup—the perfect pairing with bar chor mee, hotdog and fries. Just 1 tablespoon of ketchup contains 4g of sugar, approximately 1/10 the amount of sugar in a can of coke.
Try this: Salsa can be an amazing substitute to ketchup. It contains olive oil, tomatoes and peppers which have loads of vitamins and minerals that are beneficial for you! You may also want to consider healthier dips like hummus.
There are also other condiments that contains loads of sodi-yum! According to HPB, the recommended sodium intake* for the average adult is 2000 milligrams (mg).
Salt—one of the most widely used condiments globally. 1 tablespoon of salt contains approximately 348% of your recommended daily intake (RDI) for sodium.
Try this: Incorporate different spices into your food other than salt. You can consider flavouring your food with citrus fruits, chilli flakes, rosemary, garlic, onion, basil, cumin, etc., and your food will still pack a punch!
Fish sauce—commonly used as a marinade for meat, in stir fry and especially in Thai food. 1 tablespoon of fish sauce contains 50% of your RDI for sodium.
Light soy sauce—a must with sushi, soft boiled eggs, and almost every Asian dish from stir-fry to soup, to noodles or rice dishes. 1 tablespoon contains 40% of your RDI for sodium.
Try this: Look out for low-sodium soy sauce if you are grocery shopping. If you’re more of a do-it-yourself person, you can consider soaking dried mushrooms in water to add that note of umami into your food or make your own miso-paste (with reduced salt of course).
Deep fried ikan bilis—the essential topping for noodles, nasi lemak, etc. 1 tablespoon contains 10% of your RDI for sodium.
Moving onto the last category of condiments, which contains unhealthier forms of fat like saturated fat. It is important to note that the daily recommended fat intake for the average adult should be approximately 55-65 grams, based on a 2000 daily calorie intake. However, the RDI also includes healthy fats (unsaturated fats).
Butter—can be found in baked goods or paired with fish or poultry etc. 1 tablespoon of butter contain 6 grams of saturated fat.
Try this: Depending on what you’re using the butter for, you can consider healthier alternatives like olive oil, Greek yoghurt, avocado and applesauce.
Ready-to-eat creamy pasta sauce—1 tablespoon contains 3 grams of saturated fat. However, the usual serving size is half a cup or ¾ cup, which adds up to 22 grams of saturated fats.
Try this: Choose pasta sauces that are lower in saturated fat such as olive oil based, pesto sauce, or marinara sauce.
Even though the sugar, sodium and unhealthy fat content of these condiments may be high, you can still have them in moderation. When you are out grocery shopping, do keep a lookout for the healthier choice logo or look out for sugar, sodium and saturated fat content on nutritional labels. Or, make some of these condiments at home, so that you can have control over the ingredients that are used.
Here are some healthier options that you can consider: pesto, mustard, kimchi, hummus, guacamole, salsa, vinegar (balsamic or apple cider), olive oil, lemon juice, all types of spices (pepper, cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, rosemary etc.), garlic, onion, coriander etc.
Healthy condiments generally have little to no added sugar and contain protein, healthy fats, and fibre. Some of them might even have anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects.
A Final Note
Condiments are such an easy way to add flavour to our meals. However, we do have to take note of the nutritional content of the food that we eat. As we look forward to cultivating sustainable eating habits, eat all foods in moderation and enjoy all your meals!
*These are rough guidelines for the average adult. However, some individuals may require more or less of the nutrient, based on factors like age, gender, activity level or any other existing health conditions.
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About Actxa Wellness
Actxa Wellness’ mission is to bring about sustainable lifestyle solutions through fitness, health and wellness. Our flagship programme is the Actxa Wellness Programme which provides employee wellness solutions to team build and create culture; elevate engagement and happiness; and improve overall mental wellbeing.
From providing hardware to track personalised physiological data, to leveraging a proprietary algorithm called the Healthy Living Score (HLS), to incorporating a tried-and-tested curriculum which includes workshops and challenges to engage and build sustainable positive lifestyle habits revolved around EAT, REST and EXERCISE, we have got our clients well covered.
About Sheryl Ng
Sheryl is the Programme Lead for the Actxa Wellness Programme. Her passion for health and wellness stems from her love for sport. She’s constantly on the lookout for interesting, meaningful and evidence-backed wellness related content so that she can level-up her content knowledge, to share with others.
If she’s not creating content or delivering wellness workshops, you can find her in the kitchen trying out healthy and delicious recipes or enjoying the outdoors!