What is hot sauce?
In the U.S., hot sauce typically refers to any sauce, salsa, or seasoning made primarily from chili peppers found in the genus Capsicum and other nutritional ingredients.
Chili peppers are native to the Americas, spread across the globe through trade routes, and were cultivated worldwide.
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We experience the spicy flavour and sensation from chili peppers and hot sauces due to capsaicin. Capsaicin is the active component found in chili peppers.
What ingredients are common in hot sauce?
Chili peppers of all varieties are the main ingredient in hot sauces providing their fiery flavour.
Other common ingredients include vinegar, citrus fruits (lemons, limes, etc.), seasonings (e.g., garlic), salt, and other vegetables and fruits often pickled in the sauce.
Is hot sauce good for me? What about chili peppers?
Manufacturers make hot sauces from chili peppers. Capsaicin is the critical component in hot sauces and chili peppers, so let’s look at them separately to understand these ingredients better.
Nutrition and hot sauce? Is that a thing?
Hot sauce is typically low in calories, fats, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, and minerals but is relatively high in sodium. While it can add an extra zing to your meal without additional calories, it can also add extra salt.
While sodium is a critical nutrient supporting our ongoing bodily functions, experts link too much sodium to adverse health outcomes such as high blood pressure.
If you’re sensitive to sodium or have high blood pressure or kidney problems, paying attention to your sodium consumption levels is essential.
Chili peppers are an excellent food as they are low in calories, fats, carbohydrates, and protein but contain fibre, vitamins, and minerals necessary to a healthy diet.
As part of a balanced diet, chili peppers impart great flavour to dishes and boost nutritional content without adding excess calories, fats, or sodium to a meal.
Two epidemiological studies suggest that regular chili consumption may improve life span as part of a well-rounded diet. While others disagree, there’s no current research showing chili peppers cause harm to folks without chilli-pepper-related allergies.
Is capsaicin good for me?
Both hot sauces and chili peppers contain capsaicin. Researchers have found that capsaicin possesses many positive health-related attributes, including
- reducing neuropathic pain that varying health conditions can cause.
- Helping manage weight and weight loss.
Other early studies in controlled laboratory settings show promising results around capsaicin, which may pave the way for future research and potential medical advancements, including,
- decreasing inflammation.
- cancer prevention.
While research suggests there may be health benefits associated with capsaicin, the scientists in the listed studies are using a higher capsaicin concentration in doses and at dose rates that you cannot typically mimic through your diet.
Research helps us advance our understanding of specific compounds and how to use those compounds to improve health in more ways than just diet alone.
What else do I need to know?
It’s safe to liberally enjoy hot sauces and chili peppers as part of a well-rounded diet unless you have allergies or medical conditions to the ingredients.
As with all foods, don’t go overboard because you can upset your stomach and cause pain by consuming too many hot sauces, chili peppers, and foods with capsaicin-containing ingredients with a high SHU. While this isn’t lethal in normal quantities, it can be incredibly uncomfortable.
Working with a medical doctor or pharmacist for pain management rather than using capsaicin-containing chili peppers to make your treatments is essential.
The good news.
Hot sauces and chili peppers can be part of a healthy diet, and we can confidently say that they aren’t causing undue harm.