Is hot sauce good or bad for you?

Some people absolutely love hot sauce and pour it on almost everything that they eat, whereas others simply can’t tolerate the heat. I tend to eat hot sauce occasionally, but will definitely be increasing my intake, especially because of some of the health benefits it brings.

With there being hundreds of companies that manufacture hot sauce, it comes in lots of different forms. Some sauces are very simple, containing only vinegar and salt as added ingredients. Others make use of fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices.

However, the ingredient that they all have in common is the chili pepper. Chili peppers come in a wide range of varieties, each with their own flavour, colour and shape. Some popular peppers include tabasco, habañero and serrano.

The Scoville scale provides an indication of how spicy a chili pepper or food derived from chili peppers (such as hot sauce) is. For example, the serrano pepper has a rating of 6,000 – 23,000 Scoville heat units, whereas the tabasco pepper has a rating of 30,000 – 50,000 units. The hot sauces that are made from these peppers tend to measure much lower on the scale. TABASCO® Original Red Sauce has a rating of 2,500 – 5,000 units.

Capsaicin is the compound that gives chili peppers their heat and in its pure form it has a rating of 16,000,000 on the Scoville scale! You definitely wouldn’t want to gulp down a spoonful. In fact because of its heat, it is used as the active component in pepper spray and many insect & animal repellents. In general, the hotter the chili pepper, the more capsaicin it has.

Studies have found that capsaicin and spicy foods bring with them a number of health benefits.

This Chinese based study found that the consumption of capsaicin allowed blood vessels to relax in rats. This in turn could help reduce blood pressure. Even though studies would need to be carried out to confirm whether this is the case for humans, the researchers said there are some clues that suggest so. For example, the prevalence of hypertension in Southwestern China, where more spicy food is eaten, is 6 – 10% less than in Northeastern China. Capsaicin might also boost heart health by lowering cholesterol levels and reducing the accumulation of cholesterol in the body.

This study looked at questionnaire data submitted by almost half a million adults across China. It was found that those who ate spicy foods multiple times per week showed a lower risk in mortality than those who ate spicy foods less than once a week. Individuals who didn’t drink alcohol benefited more from spicy foods than those who did. Eating spicy foods was associated with a reduced risk of death due to cancer, respiratory diseases and ischemic heart diseases.

The consumption of hot sauce could also potentially assist with weight loss. For starters, spiciness can help to control appetite, prevent overeating and slow down the rate at which you eat. Studies have shown that capsaicin increases energy expenditure and boosts metabolism for a short period. This certainly does not mean hot sauce is a miracle weight loss food that will make you shed pounds of fat overnight, because it won’t. However, if you are trying to lose weight, eating it might be able to help ever so slightly.

The consumption of spicy foods can also improve ones mood, thanks to endorphins, which are ‘feel good’ chemicals that are released by the brain in order to relieve pain and induce feelings of euphoria. Additionally, capsaicin has been found to be effective at killing certain types of cancer cells, however more studies are required to test its effectiveness when eaten.

Apart from capsaicin, chili peppers are a rich source of various vitamins. Vitamin C is most commonly associated with citrus fruits, however foods such as kale and broccoli also provide large amounts. But did you know that chili peppers are one of the best sources of vitamin C that there is? An average sized green chili pepper provides you with more than 100% of your daily requirement!

Vitamin C is required by the body for a multitude of functions; it assists with iron absorption, keeps your heart healthy and is required for wound healing. It is also a powerful antioxidant that reduces damage caused by free radicals.

Additionally, red chili peppers contain vitamin A, which promotes the health of your eyes and skin. They also contain vitamin K, the B vitamins and vitamin E.

All in all, the consumption of hot sauce can be beneficial to your health. With that being said, it should be consumed in small amounts, especially if you don’t tolerate spicy food well. Like with many other foods, moderation is key when it comes to hot sauce; overindulgence can have uncomfortable drawbacks.

The type of hot sauce that you eat is also important because not all of them are created equal. Before making a purchase, it is a good idea to read the nutrition label so you know exactly what is being used in the sauce. Avoid those that have high levels of sodium, sugar and lots of artificial ingredients added.

Alternatively, it is very simple to make your own batch at home, and doing so means you are able to control exactly what goes in the sauce. This recipe shows you how to make hot sauce with natural ingredients such as carrots, onions, garlic, tomatoes and chili peppers of varying spiciness. All you need is a blender, pot (or saucepan) and some common kitchen utensils.

Conclusion

Eating a high quality hot sauce which is made up of mostly natural ingredients can bring with it many health benefits. However, it is important to consume hot sauce in moderation.

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