| 15.8°C Dublin

Weight loss

Q I'VE BEEN struggling to shed some extra pounds and my flatmate reckons it's because I use a lot of condiments. I've been following a low-fat diet but I regularly add ketchup, chutney or sweet chilli sauces to my meals. Could they slow my weight loss down?

A Your flatmate has a good point I'm afraid. Although most popular dips and sauces are often low in fat, they're usually high in sugar and salt. Obviously, the salt is bad for your health but it's the sugar that may be hindering your weight loss.

Ketchup, for example, is made up of concentrated tomatoes, sugar, vinegar and salt. Although it's low in fat, an average supermarket brand will contain the equivalent of one teaspoon of sugar in each tablespoon serving. On the plus side, ketchup does contain lycopene, an antioxidant that's been linked to fighting cancers, including prostate cancer. In fact, processed tomatoes contain more lycopene in a form that's better absorbed by the body than fresh tomatoes, thanks to the cooking process. I'd recommend that you choose a brand from a health food store such as Whole Earth which contains considerably less sugar.

The same applies to chutneys and sweet chilli sauces. Check the label because the sugar and salt content can vary considerably. Mango chutney, for example, can contain twice as much sugar as sweet pickle and sweet chilli sauce contains a whopping two teaspoons of sugar per tablespoon.

I'd recommend that you cut down on the condiments, or at least opt for brands that are conscientious about sugar content such as the Irish brand Follain.

QIt has been suggested that I start eating tofu as I am heading towards the menopause. I don't even know what tofu is, never mind how to cook it, please advise.

ATofu is a curd made from soya beans. To make soya beans more digestible, they are made into tofu. Apart from easily digestible protein, tofu contains B vitamins, calcium, phosphorus, iron and potassium. It is also low in calories.

Soy has been shown to be helpful in alleviating the symptoms associated with menopause. Soy foods, such as tofu, contain phytoestrogens, which have the ability to mimic oestrogen in the body. During perimenopause, when a woman's oestrogen fluctuates, soy's phytoestrogens can help her maintain balance and thus reduce symptoms such as hot flashes.

Tofu is a versatile food. It can be baked, steamed, deep fried and sautéed. It works particularly well as part of a vegetable stir fry and in Asian soups.

I'd recommend that you marinade the tofu first before using it in a stir fry. Mix one teaspoon of grated ginger, one tablespoon of sesame oil, one minced garlic clove and 2 tablespoons of tamari (wheat-free soya sauce). Pour the mixture over the tofu and let it marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Elsa Jones is a qualified nutritional therapist. She offers one-to-one consultations to treat your individual health concerns. www.elsajones nutrition.ie