The Health Benefits of Hot Sauce?
I was referred a tweet on Twitter by my dear friend Ariane Griffiths, @fdnstudio: "RT @moeturner: @theresaalbert, Question for you... what are the health benefits of Hot Sauce? Asking for my DH" The response by Theresa Albert was essentially that hot sauce is good for you. See the blog here: Hot Sauce 101, Unique Benefits. In essence, the post insinuates that all hot sauces are good for you. But are they really? Come, let's explore... We know that capsaicin is good for you. Many universities have duplicated the 2000 studies done by University of Laval that show that capsaicin can help you lose weight and that in and of itself is proven "health benefit". Interestingly, there are two schools of thought when it comes to vinegar, the main ingredient in the vast majority of hot sauces: The first school is that vinegar is bad for you; it dries out the blood, it is caustic, being made of acetic acid and thus shouldn't be eaten in large quantities. Of course, the second school of thought says that vinegar is good for you; According to the Straight Dope, vinegar isn't so bad as one might think. It actually does have valuable health benefits, read the article on vinegar by clicking here: The Straight Dope: Is consuming vinegar to excess dangerous? As you can see, given the combination of capsaicin and vinegar, it's pretty hard to argue that hot sauce is bad for you. Of course, once you decide you're going to add hot sauce to your diet BECAUSE it is good for you, you should be asking the question: "Are all hot sauces created equally when it comes to health benefits?". And for us here at Brooks Pepperfire Foods, inc., the answer can only be a resounding; "NO!". Thanks to Bambi Blue's research and writing for Brooks Pepperfire Foods inc., @BambiBlue, I offer you the following text as reasons for choosing pure fresh pepper based hot sauces as opposed to those made with pure vinegar: Vitamin P Vitamin P is an alternative name for bioflavonoids. Bioflavonoids together with Vitamin C, maintain the health of the thin walls of the small blood vessels known as capillaries, preventing bruising and bleeding, including excessive menstrual loss. Together, they are also anti-viral and anti-inflammatory, and inhibit histamine release - perfect for treating flus, colds, sinus infections and more! They also act as antioxidants and greatly aid the body in iron absorption, according to the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents (26 (5): 343–356). CURRY: may help to prevent certain diseases, including colon cancer and Alzheimer's disease, according to researchers at the oncology department of Leicester University. BLACK PEPPER: Piperine, a substance present in black pepper, has been shown to dramatically increase absorption of selenium, vitamin B, beta-carotene and curcumin as well as other nutrients, according to the CRC Press (1993). CHILLI PEPPERS: Red chilli peppers contain high amounts of vitamin C and carotene (provitamin A) Yellow and especially green chilli. peppers (which are essentially unripe fruit) contain a considerably lower amount of both substances. They are a good source of most B vitamins, and vitamin B6 in particular. They are very high in potassium and high in magnesium and iron. Their high vitamin C content can also substantially increase the uptake of non-heme iron from other ingredients in a meal, such as beans and grains. Capsaicinoids, the collective phytochemicals found in all hot chilli peppers, are shown, in laboratory settings, to cause cancer cell death in rats. (Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun. 354 (1): 50–5) Capsaicin in chillies has been found to inhibit chemically induced carcinogenesis and mutagenesis in various animal models and cell culture systems. (Perry, L Science 315: 986-988) Recent research in mice shows that chili (capsaicin in particular) may offer some hope of weight loss for people suffering from obesity.(Hsu CL, Yen, 2007. J. Agric. Food Chem. 55 (5): 1730–6) Researchers found that the amount of insulin required to lower blood sugar after a meal is reduced if the meal contains chili pepper. (Gale, Cengage Learning, 2008) Capsaicin is a safe and effective analgesic agent in the management of arthritis pain, herpes zoster-related pain, diabetic neuropathy, postmastectomy pain, and headaches. (Purdue University Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture 2009) A study from Laval University in Quebec found that men who consumed coffee plus jalapeno, habanero, or cayenne pepper-packed snacks and meals were able to burn nearly 1000 more calories a day than a control group. So what is in the bottle in addition to the capsaicin and the vinegar can and will make a difference to the health benefits of the hot sauce. Add a little curcumin or black pepper and you've got an even healthier product, add fresh peppers, and replace most of the vinegar with fresh fruit juice and now you've really got a hot sauce that's good for you. There are companies such the ones we co-pack for at Brooks Pepperfire Foods, such as ChefJono.ca and Jake Albert's and other manufacturers perhaps more or less well-known, such as Ring of Fire and Denzel who also use fresh chillies in their sauces. Turning a fresh chilli into a fermented chilli changes the health benefits of the peppers themselves, so, a fermented pepper sauce, although very good for you on the basis of the capsaicin and the vinegar, isn't going to have the other benefits of a fresh pepper sauce. And if you take it one step further and find companies that are specifically growing their own peppers or who, like us, make a point of buying direct from the pepper farmer you are promoting the sustainability of the food industry, especially if the chillies are all naturally or organically grown. So, since fresh peppers are good for you, capsaicin is good for you and vinegar is good for you, then all hot sauce is good for you, right? Um, well, as nice a thought as that is, we know it is not quite true. See, there is this little thing called "natural pepper flavouring", "natural pepper extract", "capsaicin extract" etc. and it has several different names meaning mostly the same thing. Someone somewhere took some fresh peppers, soaked them in a ketone (nail polish is a ketone), and then evaporated the capsaicin out of the pepper and what they created is a dark oily sludge that tastes like chemical death. They add it and a few spices to a bottle of vinegar and call it hot sauce. Many hot sauce eaters swear by it, they like the intensity of the high heat that the capsaicin allows their hot sauce to have. I personally think it tastes horrific, but I also think green beans taste horrific, so what do I know? My great difficulty with these cap extracts, as they are commonly called by hot sauce eaters, is that the FDA allows 50 ppm of the ketone to be left in the capsaicin in order to be considered food grade. And, you don't have to be in the food industry to know that trusting the FDA to ensure that food grade cap extract is always less than 50 ppm ketone, is foolish to the extreme. There are some products that use a steam extracted capsaicin and it doesn't have the chemical taste that the others do, but it's still a chemically forced concentration of chilli peppers, solely designed to make them hotter than Mother Nature made them. Necessary? That seems to be a personal preference and really only works for about 1% of the population, the rest of us, we're really happy with hot peppers only as hot as they come naturally. The bottom line here is that if you read the label, look for good quality ingredients, avoid the chemical extracts at any cost, then you can eat all the hot sauce you want. And if you look for a Fair Trade Certified Stamp on the hot sauce at the same time, you can help change the world one pepper at a time.