Salt is a very desired flavor and spice in our diet. It has a versatile use and is very difficult to get away from because it is so prevalent in many processed foods. Salt can be used to enhance foods during preparation and also as a finish to heighten the flavors of certain foods.
A salt-free hot sauce can have less than 5 milligrams of sodium per serving of hot sauce and still be considered sodium-free. To be labeled “very low sodium” a hot sauce will need to have less than 35 milligrams of sodium per serving or 1 teaspoon.
Understanding the difference between salt and sodium
Although these two terms are used interchangeably used to describe the salt and sodium levels of food, they do not mean the same thing. These terms may often be used as substitutes on product labels as well but both indicating the sodium contents.
Salt is a crystalline mineral that is made of two elements sodium and chloride. These two compounds are found naturally bound together to form a salt. It comes in many different forms from evaporating seawater to mining salt deposits. Some of the more common salts found in the hot sauce are granulated table salt and sea salt. It is also used in the fermentation or aging process to help slowly break down bacteria before making hot sauce. Read more on The Positive and Negative Affects of Salt in a Hot Sauce.
Sodium is a mineral that the human body needs to some extent. Some levels of sodium can be found naturally in foods but according to the FDA, about 70% of sodium consumed is from packaged foods. Avoiding the consumption of these high levels of sodium can be done by reading and understanding the product labels. Many brands of hot sauce don’t always blatantly label their products so read the nutritional label on the back to be certain.
Hot sauces and other products contain nutritional information per FDA regulations. There can also be additional terms applied to labels to describe the contents such as low sodium or salt-free. There are specific measurements of quantities to be determined eligible to label a hot sauce with these terms.
0 mg sodium hot sauce
There are some hot sauces available with zero milligrams of sodium. Because of the bold spiciness of a hot sauce you can still get a satisfying mouthful of excitement with increasing the sodium content of your diet. Some of these zero sodium hot sauces have veered from the tradition red cayenne pepper and vinegar combination to use fruits and honey.
Here’s a rundown of hot sauces with no sodium, low sodium content, or reduced sodium without any indication of their label.
Salt / sodium-free
Even though a hot sauce is labeled as “Salt-Free” there is still a trace amount of sodium. This means there should be less than 5 milligrams of salt per serving of one teaspoon. There are other labeling terms similarly used such as no sodium or zero sodium to mean the same level of no more than 5 milligrams of sodium per serving, usually a teaspoon. In addition to understanding that sodium-free means less than 5 milligrams per serving, not many consumers stick to the recommended serving.
Very low sodium
A hot sauce labeled with very low sodium will have 35 milligrams or less per serving. There are many more varieties of hot sauce labeled very low sodium to choose from. Sauce Bae Skinny Habanero hot sauce has less than 20 milligrams of sodium per serving and could be labeled very low in sodium.
Low sodium means 140 milligrams or less per serving. With a hot sauce that is labeled low sodium there will be more of a variety to select from. There will be more of a variety of hot sauces labeled low sodium giving a greater depth of heat experience. Check out these low sodium hot sauces from pepperpalace.com.
A product that is labeled less sodium is usually in comparison to another “regular” product. This would mean 25% less sodium than the regular product line has. Labels such as these can often be a marketing tactic but there is some effort to reduce the amount of sodium.
Light in sodium or lightly salted
Light in sodium or lightly salted will be 50% less sodium than the regular product. Similar to reduced-sodium this label is often used for marketing purposes. Sauces with this label are getting further away from no sodium or low salt content.
No salt added or unsalted
A hot sauce labeled no salt added or unsalted does not mean they are sodium-free unless otherwise notes. This label means there was no salt added during production. Because sodium occurs naturally in foods there can still be a trace to moderate amount of sodium in the content.
The ingredients of hot sauce
Hot sauce is often a simple combination of hot peppers and vinegar. However, this is often enhanced with added salt for flavoring. Many fruits and vegetables contain some level of naturally occurring sodium, including hot peppers. According to the USDA, half a cup (75 g) of red chili peppers contains 7 milligrams of sodium.
The amount of peppers in a bottle of hot sauce varies greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer but as a general rule, a bottle of hot sauce will contain about 3 to 4 peppers (half a cup). Before adding any other ingredients or salt a bottle of hot sauce could have some level of sodium in the sauce, however, trace it may be. There are many ways to reduce sodium and salt from your diet but it cannot be removed from foods where it occurs naturally.
Without any additives, a distilled white vinegar is sodium-free. However, a less acidic vinegar like apple cider vinegar will have about 1 milligram of sodium per teaspoon. Therefore, the addition of apple cider vinegar in a hot sauce could increase the sodium content to about 25 milligrams per bottle. Rich flavored and concentrated vinegar such as balsamic can have much greater levels of sodium, but these are not common to hot sauce.
Garlic is another common ingredient found in hot sauce in one form or another and it will also have a trace amount of sodium in it. Each clove of garlic can contain as much as 1 gram of sodium. There are hundreds of hot sauces that contain garlic but fortunately, it is usually in small amounts per serving.