If you are a hot sauce lover, you most likely smother anything you eat in the stuff. Stir-fry, vegetables, soup, sushi, potatoes, burritos, salads, the list goes on. People like to drip that Sriracha red chili sauce on almost everything other than ice-cream (or maybe some even do that!). Getting the right balance of sweet and hot is an expertise for some, but while you eat your food dripping in the red juice that burns your mouth, you may not stop to think whether it comes with a health warning.
The traditional bottles are made up of sun-ripened chilis, sugar, salt, vinegar, and some additives and preservatives. It does not contain macronutrients, only infinitesimal carbohydrates, and is therefore not particularly important in our everyday diet, making it simply just worthwhile for the taste.
So it must get its salty-sweet taste from somewhere. A one-teaspoon serving size contains 80 milligrams of sodium and 1 gram of sugar. “To put that into perspective, ketchup contains about the same amount of sugar and a little more than half the sodium of sriracha,” says Tracy Lockwood, a registered dietitian in New York City.
If you think about this, we have to consider that realistically we usually indulge in around two tablespoons of sriracha, meaning we are amounting to 400mg of added sodium each time we dribble that sauce over our food. Although not loads, this mounts up in a lifetime. If you were to squirt two-tablespoons of sriracha on your eggs in the morning, you’d already have eaten 2% of the recommended daily allowance and adding it to most meals, that could hurt you long term!
Lockwood says that a diet high in sodium results in an increase in blood pressure, and therefore an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. So if you are consuming sriracha on a daily basis, it is time to think again. Although the red sweet sauce may not kill you, it is not ideal for your health. The garlic and chilis, as well as not being ideal during a date, can trigger heartburn or gastrointestinal problems.
Despite the health issues, Lockwood is not all against the sauce. She says it helps mask the taste of these ‘healthy’ foods for those who don’t have an intrinsic taste for healthier foods. Additionally, research suggests that when you eat foods that you like, your body absorbs the nutrients better. We think this is a valid enough excuse to continue smothering your meals with the stuff!