It might be second nature to reach for a jar of store-bought condiment, but the taste of homemade stuff alone is worth the prep work involved. Learn why outsourcing your pestos, dips and dressings is less fun, and less good for you.
By
Kris Franken

2 Jul 2014 - 12:02 PM  UPDATED 2 Jul 2014 - 12:02 PM

Simple meals really come to life with delicious, generous condiments. Zesty, sweet, fruity, spicy, hot, creamy or tart little homemade dips are abundantly healthy, but sadly not if they’re off a store shelf. Freshly made will also get you bags of satisfaction from tasting your knockout creations.

“One of the reasons ready-made sauces and condiments taste so great is because they contain high amounts of fat and salt,” explains nutritionist Lola Berry. “Good fat and good salt are great for us in moderation, but some condiments have not-so healthy fats in them and highly refined salt. So they’re far from nutritious.”

Mayonnaise

Traditionally, mayonnaise is simply made with egg yolk, olive oil and a drop of lemon juice. “Olive oil is anti-inflammatory, protects the heart and is rich in antioxidants. But the olive oil in bought mayonnaise is almost always poor quality, which lacks benefits,” explains Anthia Koullouros, naturopath and founder of Ovvio Organics. “Egg yolk is a complete protein and nutritious, but some ready-made products use soy instead of egg, and soy can have an effect on hormones, as it’s an endocrine disruptor.”

Buying? Avoid vegetable oil, food acid, vegetable gum, soy, sugars, colours and natural flavours (which are synthetically created to taste “natural”). “Vegetable oils, like canola, rapeseed and sunflower, are farmed with chemicals and pesticides  and a chemical is used to extract the oil  while the structure of the oil is changed to make it stable, giving it shelf life,” says Koullouros.

Dips

Once you get the hang of making dips, you’ll be hooked. Super easy and rewarding, you just blend a base – like cooked eggplant, chickpeas or ripe avocados – with olive or coconut oil, seasoning or spices in a blender and you have an irresistible, versatile dip. “Homemade dips are free of preservatives and additives, because they don’t require shelf life,” says Koullouros.

World's best avo mash by Lola Berry

Buying? Avoid vegetable oil, flavours, colours, thickeners, preservatives, emulsifiers and soy solids. “There's a chance that the oils in these products are rancid, and thus cause inflammation in the body,” explains Berry.

Spicy roast pumpkin dip from Lola Berry

Pesto

Homemade pesto positively glows it’s so green, smells fiercely aromatic, and tastes like a garden come to life. All you need is the leaves from a large bunch of basil, parsley, coriander, chives and/or rocket blended with a good cold-pressed olive oil, a few pine nuts or walnuts, a pinch of garlic, spices, citrus zest or Parmesan and seasoning and you’re good to go.

Fresh basil, the most common pesto base, is anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, protects cells from free-radical damage, and is packed with vitamins and minerals, including a good source of magnesium.

Buying? Avoid vegetable oil, glucose syrup, potato flakes, acidity regulators and natural flavours, and choose a pesto from the fridge section.

Tomato sauce

It takes a little love, time and effort, but all natural tomato sauce is worth it for your next barbecue. Made from a cooked and blended combination of tomatoes, onions, spices, garlic, salt, vinegar and sugar, it’s so good you'll want to drink it.

Get choosy with your ingredients – think organic, ripe, local tomatoes with organic sugar and unrefined salt and good quality everything else – and you’ll find the health and flavour improve dramatically.

Buying? Avoid refined sugars, acidity regulators, colours and flavours.

Salad dressings

Nothing could be more mouth-watering than extra-virgin olive oil, a splash of quality vinegar, and a pinch of sea salt, shaken with vigour and poured over salad. Extra-virgin olive oil is loaded with antioxidants that boost immune function and prevent disease. Choose freshly cold-pressed oil and go for traditionally fermented vinegars so you get the good bacteria, live cultures and enzymes.

Detox rainbow salad with almond butter dressing by Lola Berry

Buying? Avoid vegetable oil, soybean oil, buttermilk powder, food acid, vegetable gum, salt, sugars, colours and flavours. “Whenever you see salt on a label, it’s refined salt, not sea salt, and can cause too much sodium in the body, leading to high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries,” warns Koullouros.

Mustard

If you’re going to cheat, this is the condiment to buy. Although homemade mustards aren’t too labour intensive, there are some lovely, local, simple varieties available that are as good as homemade. But just once, make it from scratch with fragrant mustard seeds, smashed together and infused in piquant vinegar.

Koullouros recommends choosing locally grown spices or organic imported ones. “Spices from overseas are irradiated for pests when they arrive here, which destroys some of the active constituents and antioxidants.”

Buying? Avoid food acid, acidity regulators and sugars.

Eat real food

“Everything you shouldn’t be eating is in a pre-made condiment or sauce,” says Koullouros. “Processed, unnatural or chemically altered ingredients are toxic, hard to digest, difficult for the body to use, pro-inflammatory and stick to arteries. They’re just not real food.”