Yes, it’s a type of music. And yes, it’s a style of dancing. But today, in observance of National Salsa Month, we’re talking about food … specifically one of the most delectable and versatile blends of tomatoes, peppers, onions, spices and more to ever grace a dinner table. With a rich and delicious history that dates back to ancient Aztec, Incan and Mayan civilizations many years ago, salsa is Spanish for “sauce” and, as I’m sure we’re all aware, it comes in a broad spectrum of consistencies, colors and, most importantly, heats. 

In 1807, Americans started to develop a taste for spicy condiments and bottling our own recipes. In 1868, our own home state of Louisiana jumped into the game and started distributing salsa’s distant cousin, Tabasco, across the country. Then in 1948, Texas became the home of the first salsa manufacturing plant, created by David and Margaret Pace (yes, it’s the same Pace Foods who created the picante sauce that still exists today) in the U.S. Thanks to these forerunners developing a market for peppery sauces salsa would eventually surpass ketchup sales in 1992 and it has stayed on top ever since.

George and Jerry celebrating the popularity of salsa in the U.S.

Why do we love salsa so much? Well, besides the fact that it can bring just about any dish from burgers and baked potatoes to salad and steaks to the next level, there are also a great many health benefits associated with eating this unique tomato-based delicacy.

Fiber. All of the natural fruits and vegetables that go into a salsa recipe are loaded with fiber to aid in gut heath. Bonus: Replace the corn chips with celery, carrot sticks or jicama to crank up your fiber intake.

Hydration. Tomatoes are largely composed of water so eating salsa can be a great way to get in your eight glasses a day. Bonus: If that salsa is extra spicy, you’ll probably drink more than just eight glasses.

Lycopene. A powerful antioxidant that has been linked with preventing cancer, lycopene is abundant in tomatoes and tomato-based sauces. Bonus: Add some red peppers to your salsa recipe to further boost your lycopene

Vitamin C. Limes, onions and tomatoes are all chock full of this essential antioxidant that helps strengthen our hearts and fight aging. Bonus: Everything is served raw which aids in better absorption into the body.

Weight loss. The jalapeños used in fresh salsa contain capsaicin which can increase your body’s ability to burn fat. Bonus: Toss in some fresh cilantro to dial your capsaicin content even higher.

Since we celebrated National Avocado Day last summer, it seems only right that we raise a glass … or a chip, as it were … to our friend, salsa. Here’s one of the recipes we enjoyed at Southshore’s fiesta!

“Eats Like a Meal” Game Day Salsa

  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can corn kernels, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 jar salsa (mild, medium or hot)
  • ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 limes, juice only
  • Onion powder to taste (or minced red onions if preferred)
  • Salt and pepper (optional)

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl and chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of two hours. Enjoy!

Southshore Physical Therapy, Metairie Louisiana, national salsa month, collage

Michele Robert Poche