Hot sauce is one of the most popular condiments in the United States. About 74% of Americans consume hot sauce at least occasionally, and 45% say they have it at least once per week. However, the possible health benefits of this fiery condiment are hotly debated. Is hot sauce good for you?
Is Hot Sauce Good for You?
Most Americans consider any sauce, seasoning or salsa made mostly from chili peppers to be hot sauce. The exact ingredients vary by brand and type but commonly include vinegar, seasonings, salt, citrus fruits, and pickled vegetables. Some commercially manufactured sauces also contain artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives. The exact ingredients in the sauce you choose can impact its health benefits.
Most hot sauces have less than 1 calorie per serving, making them a very low-calorie food. Hot sauce contains little to no carbohydrates, protein, or fat. So, if your plane goes down and the only thing you can scrounge from your checked bags is a bottle of hot sauce, it might make the bugs and roots you are about to eat taste better, but it won’t keep you from starving on its own.
A serving of hot sauce contains enough vitamin C to cover about 4% of your daily requirement. Vitamin C has antioxidant properties and helps support a healthy immune system, but unless you drink the whole bottle, you’re not likely to get enough vitamin C from hot sauce to make much of an impact.
Capsaicin is the compound that makes chili peppers spicy. It’s also responsible for most of the health benefits associated with eating spicy foods. Research has linked capsaicin with several potential health benefits:
- Pain relief
- Weight loss
- Decreased inflammation
- Cancer prevention
- Lower blood pressure
That all sounds pretty awesome. However, the researchers who did these studies were using much higher doses of capsaicin than you could ever get by consuming hot sauce. Additionally, some studies were only performed on animals, and more research on humans is still needed.
Pain relief is one of the best-known benefits of capsaicin. Patients typically apply capsaicin treatments topically. The chemical works by first stimulating and then deadening the pain receptors in the skin.
However, before you go rubbing hot sauce on your sore shoulder, keep in mind that topical creams and patches have a lot more capsaicin than hot sauce, and doctors generally do not recommend do-it-yourself capsaicin compounds.
Multiple studies link consuming spicy foods with increased metabolism and decreased appetite. Additionally, studies suggest that people may eat smaller portions of spicy foods.
Sprinkling hot sauce on your food is not likely to significantly impact your ability to burn fat. However, using hot sauce in place of higher-calorie condiments can be a good way to improve the flavor of foods without adding calories. Plus, it might encourage you to eat smaller portions.
One study linked consuming spicy food with neuropeptide releases that reduce blood pressure in people with high blood pressure. Researchers need to do more studies to conclusively prove this link, though.
Preliminary research has shown promising results for capsaicin as a treatment that can slow the growth and spread of cancer cells. However, most of the studies were in animals and the research is still in its early stages.
Eating spicy food is a mixed bag when it comes to your sinuses. It breaks up mucus, which can relieve coughing, and it may provide temporary relief from a stuffy nose. However, it can also cause your nose to run and may trigger a nonallergic sinusitis attack in some people.
Hot sauce is a similarly double-edged sword for your digestion. It can stimulate digestive fluids that improve digestion and fight bacteria. However, it can also irritate the lining of your stomach, and while it doesn’t cause ulcers, it can make an ulcer you already have worse.
That burning sensation you feel when you get spicy foods on your skin or in your mucus membranes fools your body into thinking you have been physically burned. This causes your body to release endorphins.
Because endorphins can improve your mood, consuming spicy foods may be good for your mental health. However, if you are currently receiving treatment for a mental health condition, you should talk to your medical provider before you change anything.
If you consume enough hot sauce, you may become immortal. Well, not really, but studies have found that consuming spicy food may reduce your risk of premature death by about 25%.
Some studies show that consuming chilis regularly can reduce insulin resistance in people who have Type II Diabetes. However, if you are diabetic, you should talk to your doctor before you change your diet.
If you have ever wondered why spicy food is so popular in parts of the world that are very hot, it’s in part because chilis tend to grow well in hot, dry soil, but it may also be due to the role capsaicin plays in regulating body temperature. Eating spicy food can cause you to sweat, and that sweat can help lower your body temperature.
Is Hot Sauce Good for You All the Time?
It’s generally safe to consume hot sauce as a part of a healthy diet if you don’t have allergies or health conditions related to the ingredients. However, some brands can be high in sodium, and spicy foods can cause unpleasant side effects, such as stomach upset, acid reflux, and diarrhea.
Is Hot Sauce Good for You or Not?
There is no definitive answer to the question, “Is hot sauce good for you?” For most people, the answer is likely, “Probably won’t hurt; could help.” Because you typically consume such small portions of the condiment, you’re neither likely to obtain significant benefits nor suffer serious problems. However, talk to your doctor if you have any allergies or medical conditions before overloading on the spice. For more manly advice about what you should eat to not die, visit The Rugged Standard.