We don’t typically think of condiments as anything more than flavor-enhancing substances that we add to foods to make them taste better. But many are healthy and life giving! Here are some of our favorite condiments with little-known health secrets:

Apple-Cider Vinegar

Apple-cider vinegar is rich in potassium and helps reestablish a healthy inner ecosystem with friendly bacteria. Thanks to apple-cider vinegar’s mineral content (especially potassium), it has the ability to normalize your body’s acid/alkaline balance. Its antiseptic qualities cleanse the digestive tract. The acidity aids in the removal of calcium deposits from joints and blood vessels, but has no effect on normal calcium levels in the bones or teeth. Pectin in unfiltered apple-cider vinegar promotes elimination and healthy bowels. The potassium in the vinegar regulates growth, hydrates cells, balances sodium, and enables proper performance of the nervous system.

Sea Salt

High-quality, mineral-rich sea salt is essential for life and has medicinal value. Salt does not raise blood pressure. If yours is high, ask yourself these questions: “Am I drinking enough water for maximum hydration? Do I drink alcohol and wine, causing further dehydration?” These are usually the true underlying causes of elevated blood pressure. Because salt has an alkalinizing effect, we naturally have an innate desire to sprinkle it on acid-forming foods such as animal protein. In fact, salt is the most alkalinizing of all foods and can help correct an over-acid condition in the body. When using sea salt, listen to your intuition and add just enough of this true salt to make your food taste delicious. This means that the flavors will be enhanced, but your food won’t taste “salty.”  Buy the best quality sea salt available—one that retains a high percentage of minerals, trace elements (including iodine), and nutrients that are inadequately represented in our diets today. Minerals, in particular, balance the sodium and chloride in our bodies, and they can’t be found in traditional refined salt.

Garlic

Chock-full of minerals and nutrients, garlic has powerful antibiotic, antifungal, anticancer, antiparasitic, antioxidant, and antiviral properties. Nearly all cultures attest to its amazing healing potential, and throughout history, it has been used to treat a wide range of ailments, from athlete’s foot to typhoid. In fact, some people believe garlic should be classified as a drug. If you know someone who eats garlic regularly and rarely gets sick, it may be because of its special ability to heal wounds both inside and outside the body. Chewing, chopping, or crushing garlic causes a natural ingredient in the plant called alliin to change into the antibiotic substance allicin. When garlic cells are ruptured by cutting, allicin is created, resulting in the pungent garlicky scent we know so well. Today, garlic is once again being prescribed by doctors as a treatment for colds and bronchitis.

Finishing Oils

Oils pressed from olives, nuts, and seeds are used as flavorful toppings to add taste, subtlety, and variety when sprinkled on dishes.

  • Olive oil: Extra-virgin olive oil can be drizzled onto everything on your plate. Meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, and grain-like seeds all complement this almost sacred oil. Use it generously and watch your skin grow moist with each passing day. It’s an anti-aging miracle.
  • Flaxseed oil: Use flaxseed oil in salad dressings and mixed with smoothies or as a dip for veggies and bread. Always buy flaxseed oil from a refrigerator case at your health-food store (and keep it refrigerated or frozen at home).
  • Pumpkin-seed oil: This delicious oil adds a nutty flavor when drizzled over salads and veggies or stirred into milk kefir.
  • Macadamia-nut oil: This is another flavorful alternative to olive oil and has been linked to appetite suppression. Use it as you would any other condiment.

Herbs and Spices

Herbs and spices are a great way to add flavor and medicinal properties to your meals. Organic varieties are widely available now, and research is beginning to show that the phytochemicals in some spices can actually help with inflammatory diseases. Great options include bay leaves, chives, coriander, dill, Italian and Mexican seasonings, mustard powder, marjoram, oregano, black pepper, poppy seeds, sage, tarragon, thyme, nutmeg, cinnamon, and many others. Experiment with your favorite herbs and spices. You can have a new taste experience just about every day as you vary what you cook and how you flavor it.

Donna Gates, M.Ed., ABAAHP, is the international best-selling author, A fellow with the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, she is on a mission to change the way the world eats.