I eat a lot of hot sauce and so do consumers all across America and throughout the world. The consumption of hot sauce is only increasing as new flavors are constantly being manufactured and introduced into the market. Over consumption of any product is possible but is consuming too much hot sauce unhealthy?
Eating hot sauce is not unhealthy. In fact most hot sauces are low in calories and full of antioxidants. In addition they also help to boost metabolism and provide the body with much needed vitamins A and D.
Americans and consumers all over the world are NOT consuming hot sauce because of its health benefits, they are consuming it for flavor and heat. But there are some positive health factors attributed to consuming hot sauce. Due to some of the immediate effects it has on your body it could be perceived as being unhealthy, but there are several health benefits related directly to eating hot sauce. This title should really be ” The health benefits of capsaicin”, which is the chemical found in hot peppers that give them their heat.
Capsaicin by definition is a compound that is responsible for the pungency of capsicums (peppers). Dictionary.com defines capsaicin as a colorless, crystalline, bitter compound C18H27NO3 present in capsicum, which we now know to be peppers. The capsaicin is a natural deterrent of the fruits to keep animals from eating them. In my terms capsaicin in the chemical compound found in peppers that make them hot. Therefore, bell peppers, the lowest on the Scoville scale, contain very low amounts of capsaicin.
Capsaicin is the key here for what causes the heat and also produces some health remedies, treatments and benefits. Capsaicin is relatively new as a medication and is being used more in topical treatments but the best source to receive capsaicin into your system is pepper consumption. Found in a larger group called Vanilloids, capsaicin is the best known.
Do other foods contain capsaicin?
Capsaicin can be found in other foods, but it is usually only in smaller amounts. Cinnamon contains a much lower amount of capsaicin and it is not ranked on the Scoville scale but there is also some capsaicin found in cinnamon oil. Other foods that contain capsaicin are ginger root, paprika and miniscule amounts found in oregano, cilantro, turmeric.
While not a direct health benefit, when eating hot sauce your brain releases endorphins and dopamine creating a euphoria similar to a runners high. I’ve have done plenty of running and have tapped into other methods of releasing dopamine, but I don’t know if I really have that same reaction from hot sauce.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF CAPSAICIN
- Vitamins. Peppers are packed with vitamins and minerals to include vitamin C and A. Vitamin C is obviously a key component in fighting the common cold. Vitamin A is important in good vision and supporting the immune system states Healthline.
- Reducing high blood pressure. I almost automatically think that hot sauce is going to increase blood pressure, but actually hot sauce produces nitric oxide and is released in the blood to help lower high blood pressure. It is the anti-oxidants found in habanero, serrano and jalapeño that help reduce blood pressure.
- Capsaicin Creams. Capsaicin used in topical treatments and orally, but the topical treatment is more well known. Capsaicin creams are used in treating bone cancer in animals. Capsaicin contains anti inflammatory properties to shorten recovery time. The application of capsaicin creams can soothe arthritis symptoms but needs to be applied often.
- Increase Metabolism. Hot sauces increase metabolism even several hours after your meal and this also helps with appetite control. Calorie burning is more evident in people who do not eat spicy food on a regular basis. Spicy foods can help you lose weight by increasing your metabolism by as much as 5%.
- Vision. Chipotle Peppers contains phytonutrients lutein and zeaxanthin which can help reduce the risk of cataracts. Phytonutrients are essential to your body and can also produce anti-inflammatory properties.
- Clear your nose. Eating hot sauce if you are congested will temporarily clear your nose. This is also listed as an adverse effect below but I go into details to describe why it happens.
- Low Calories. Hot sauces are very low in calories and many varieties may not have any calories at all. Obviously reading the labels of products will give you the calories of each brand before you consume it. Due to the minimal amount of hot sauce I consume the calorie count is very low. Compared to many other condiment hot sauces tend to have the lowest calories. Homemade hot sauces as well as artisan sauces may have more calories depending on what they are made with.
ADVERSE EFFECTS OF HOT SAUCE
While there are some direct health benefits directly related to the consumption of hot sauces there can also be some adverse effects as well. However, these adverse effects do not negatively effect your health and are simply oddities of consumption.
Why Does Hot Sauce Make Me Hiccup?
Hiccups are involuntary contractions in the diaphragm and eating spicy foods will irritate it. As this muscle contracts so do the vocal cords and it ultimately interrupts the breathing and causes a muscle spasm.
Others say that it is a warning that your body does not like what you are feeding it. While I some agree with this the hiccups only happens on the first bite and if I can calm myself, drink a couple sips of milk I am fine. Getting hiccups from spicy food and hot sauce is very normal. Come on…there is a product called pepper spray…used by police force. The heat released from most peppers and hot sauces can be potent enough to take out criminals. I sometimes can feel it in the air when I am cooking with hot sauce or hot peppers, similar to cooking with onions. So, ingesting something with these qualities can surely disrupt your breathing patterns and cause hiccups.
How to prevent hot sauce from making you hiccup?
Eating or drinking too fast in and off itself can cause hiccupping. The capsaicin in peppers will activate neurons in the diaphragm. While there are so many medical terminology answers as to why this happens, the easy answer is to stop eating hot sauce.
Dealing with hiccups from hot sauce is similar to focusing on what you need to do when getting hiccups in other circumstances. For me a slow and steady controlled breathing works best. Also, I use a calming, don’t panic mode which will direct my diaphragm into regular rhythms. Another reason I continue getting hiccups is because the table of friends I am with will begin laughing at me and that will always prompt me to laugh as well. This also certainly disrupts the steady movement of the diaphragm.
Some of the age-old ways of relieving yourself of hiccups can also be applied when hot sauce makes you hiccup. Oddly enough if I eat more they seem to go away. Breathing slowing can ease the hiccups from occurring and drinking some milk can seem to coat the inner workings of your body. This a method I use if a sauce is too hot.
Why Dose My Nose Run After Eating Hot Sauce?
Is it normal for my nose to run after eating hot sauce? Yes, it is normal. The pungency of the capsaicin causes the mucus membranes to get inflamed from the spiciness in the hot sauce and produces extra mucus as a defense mechanism to get rid of chemicals. I expect it now and always try to keep a tissue handy. The same irritant is why your eyes water.
How do I stop my nose from running after eating hot sauce?
So…you are going out to dinner with a new date and you both decide you enjoy spicy food but you are a little shy about your nose running every time you eat spicy foods. Surprise! It happens to almost everyone. Your nose will most likely run every time you eat hot sauce so just be ready for it.
Sweating is the bodies natural reaction to cool itself off. This is very common consuming hot sauces and other spicy foods. If it makes you feel uncomfortable to sweat from eating hot sauce you should dine alone.
Why do we continue eating hot sauce? Are hot chili peppers addictive?
Chili peppers contain capsaicin which is not addictive and does not have any addictive qualities according to Scientific American. Pop culture and social media have exploded the theory of hot sauce addiction based on several true factors and a few amusing ones.
- People continue to eat hot sauce even though adverse effects due to the level of heat. This is both long term and immediate. People will continue with their meal, almost suffering from the level of heat, and continue eating those tasty meals for years to come.
- Hot peppers release chemicals in the brain similar to a runners high but not a physical addition.
Although there are not any addictive chemicals in hot peppers, they do release chemicals dopamine, responsible for the reward of pleasure. Quite possibly the reward is that the burning has finally dissipated, and you are feeling some relief. The burn from capsaicin is a “pain” in sensations of the mouth and other area of the body so your body is reacting similarly to receiving pain.
Do you carry hot sauce with you when you are invited to someone’s house? Then you may have a problem. Do you put hot sauce on everything? Then you may have a problem. Do you hide your hot sauce from your house mate? Then you may have a problem. Do you make small batches of your own and “push” it onto your friends and relatives?
Why do I continue eating hot sauce even though it is so spicy? For me it is the flavor and I almost never overindulge, especially if I’m in a public place. I am not much of a heat guy although I can tolerate or know how to deal with some of the hotter peppers. Although terms like food addiction have been used to describe a compulsiveness to eat food it is generally referring to high fat or high carbohydrate foods and is considered behavioral. Hot sauces do not contain any fats or carbohydrates but there is certainly a behavior that is associated with consuming hot sauce. The Yale Food Addiction Scale (link) lists food such as chips, chocolate and ice cream as having close links to food addiction.
Of the symptoms listed by Medical News Today only the last one, “Eating to the point physical discomfort or pain” would parallel someone’s desire to consume hot sauce. There are no associated withdrawal symptoms when someone stops consuming hot sauce.
Can I get addicted to hot sauce?
I have read many rumors about the release of chemicals throughout the body similar to effects of hard drugs and alcohol but have not come across any hard evidence and I have never seen a clinic set up where someone can dry out from there over use of hot sauce.
It seams the adverse effects of hiccups, sweats and a runny nose are worth the health benefits a hot sauce can provide to your body. There is one research study that declares if you eat 3 pounds of powder form chilies it could kill a 150 lbs. person. While it may be very difficult to consume enough hot sauce to kill you, everything in moderation is a great motto.