Sriracha is a popular brand of spicy sauce. It was created by a man called David Tran from Vietnam, in California in the 1980s. Some of Sriracha’s ingredients include distilled vinegar, garlic, chili, sugar, sodium bisulfite, xanthan gum, and potassium sulfate. Since the sauce was originally formulated, its recipe has been changed: it now contains fresh red jalapeno chili peppers. The current recipe does not contain artificial colors.
Sriracha was originally meant to be used as only a dipping sauce. However, today many people use it in larger quantities as a condiment. It is sometimes used in food preparation, as well. But is Sriracha bad for you?
Is Sriracha Bad for You?
While Sriracha sauce can be consumed and enjoyed occasionally without any negative health effect, it is not something that you should be eating on a regular basis.
It is also important to stick to the recommended serving size (one teaspoon), as the sauce has a large amount of sodium. In fact, each teaspoon of Sriracha contains 100 milligrams of sodium and one gram of sugar.
It’s worth remembering that ketchup, a condiment not generally considered to be an especially healthy one, has half this amount of sodium and the same amount of sugar. As people generally eat more than the recommended serving of condiments, having a sauce such as Sriracha on a regular basis is likely to lead to problems.
Xanthan gum is an ingredient that can be derived from a variety of different sources, such as wheat, dairy, soy, or corn. One of the reasons why xanthan gum can be a problematic ingredient is because people who are allergic to whatever its source may be (wheat, dairy, soy, or corn), could be exposed without realizing it.
Sodium bisulfite is also referred to as sodium hydrogen sulfite. It is an odorless salt that is white in color. It is used as an additive in some processed foods. In people who are especially sensitive, sodium bisulfite can cause strong reactions.
Sodium bisulfite is used to help preserve the flavor and aroma of processed foods. Sodium bisulfite releases sodium dioxide gas. This is how it prevents deterioration, discoloration, and bacterial and fungal growth.
The Effects of Excessive Sodium
Excessive sodium puts you at higher risk of developing high blood pressure (hypertension), as well as experiencing problems such as headaches, an enlarged heart muscle, kidney stones, kidney disease, stomach cancer, osteoporosis, heart failure, and stroke.
Excessive sodium can also lead to symptoms such as bloating, puffiness, and weight gain.
While the American Heart Association recommends having 1,500 or fewer milligrams of sodium per day, the average American currently consumes 3,400 milligrams. It is therefore no surprise that 77.9 million adults in the United States currently have hypertension.
Benefits of Sriracha
It is true that Sriracha does contain some ingredients that can have beneficial health effects. These include garlic and chili peppers. Garlic is especially beneficial, and is believed to help prevent infections, heart disease, and cancer.
In many traditional cultures, garlic has been successfully used to treat a host of health conditions including, for example, yeast infections and colds.
Chili peppers contains capsaicin, a substance that is believed to help with certain mental processes and to boost metabolism. It should be noted, though, that chilli peppers (especially when consumed in excess) can cause significant irritation to body tissues.
It is believed that Sriracha, when consumed in moderation, might have some of the following benefits: healing properties (provided by garlic), the ability to fight colds, reduced blood pressure (although this is questionable, when you consider Sriracha’s high sodium content), reduced cholesterol levels, boosted memory, improved mood, and weight loss.
Potential Side Effects of Sriracha Consumption
The potential short-term side effects of Sriracha consumption include:
- Acid reflux/heart burn
- Unpleasant breath
- Impaired cognitive function
- Skin irritation upon contact
- Digestive discomfort
The potential long-term side effects of excessive consumption of Sriracha sauce include:
- Kidney stones
- Kidney disease
- Digestive damage
- Heart disease
Kidney stones are also referred to as renal lithiasis or nephrolithiasis. They are hard deposites comprised of salts and minerals that form within the kidneys.
There are number of different causes of kidney stones. Kidney stones are able to affect any part of the urinary tract, including the kidneys and bladder. It is often the case that stones are able to form when the urine is especially concentrated. This is because concentrated urine allows minerals to crystallize, as well as stick together.
Most of us have heard about how painful passing kidney stones tends to be. It is reassuring to know that as long as kidney stones are recognized and dealt with early on, they will usually not create any permanent damage.
Some of the symptoms of kidney stones can include:
- Urinating in small amounts
- Chills and fever (if there is an infection)
- More frequent urination
- A persistent need to urinate
- Vomiting and nausea
- Foul-smelling or cloudy urine
- Red, brown, or pink urine
- Painful urination
- Pain that fluctuates in intensity and comes in waves
- Pain that radiates to the groin and lower abdomen
- Severe pain below the ribs, in the back and side.
What Have We Learned?
It is clear that while some of the ingredients of Sriracha sauce (such as garlic) have real health benefits, others make the sauce something that you should enjoy only on a very occasional basis.
A high level of sodium and a surprisingly large amount of sugar (equal to that of ketchup) certainly mean that Sriracha could never be called a health food.
If you like Sriracha sauce, it is fine for you to enjoy it occasionally (although you will want to be careful if you have hypertension, because of the product’s sodium content). However, people who turn to Sriracha as a relatively healthy condiment should look elsewhere.
“Is Sriracha actually healthy?” https://www.wellandgood.com/good-food/is-sriracha-actually-healthy
“Sriracha is Way More Unhealthy than You Realized”, https://www.elitedaily.com/envision/food/sriracha-unhealthy-ketchup/1663826
“Is Sriracha Under Seige”, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/people-and-culture/food/the-plate/2016/06/is-sriracha-under-seige-
“Is Sodium Bisulfite Harmful to Your Health?” https://www.livestrong.com/article/480920-is-sodium-bisulfite-harmful-to-your-health
“Effects of Excess Sodium”, https://healthyforgood.heart.org/eat-smart/infographics/effects-of-excess-sodium-infographic