For people looking to spice up the boring food in their lives, hot sauce is a low-cal lifesaver. There’s nothing hotter than a condiment that can kick up flavor without adding any fat — and since it’s so inexpensive, hot sauce gets poured on everything from eggs to tacos to skimpy spinach salads. It’s even rumored to ramp up your metabolism.
But the “healthy” replacement for fatty dressings and guacamole isn’t as innocent as it seems. Overdoing it could cause some very real complications with your digestion, your hydration, and even your heart health.
So how much hot sauce is too much? For the spice addicts out there, we broke down what the risks really are and a few things to consider before you turn up the heat.
Risks for Your HeartIf not from fat or carbs, where do you think hot sauce gets its risk factor from? Sodium. Just one teaspoon of Frank’s Red Hot traditional cayenne hot sauce has 190 milligrams.
Of course, some sodium is necessary to balance your gut and keep your body hydrated — if you want to know why salt is actually really good for you, click here to browse its many benefits. Many Americans overdo it though, largely thanks to the extra sodium in processed foods.
The American Heart Association recommends limiting your sodium intake to under 1,500 milligrams per day. That’s less than eight teaspoons of Frank’s Red Hot.
That might seem like a lot, but if you’re pouring hot sauce on your plate for multiple meals per day, it adds up quickly. And if you’re adding the condiment to an already sodium-rich dish, like a taco or burrito bowl for example, you could be in trouble.
Risks for Your StomachHello, heartburn! Spicy foods can end up causing flare-ups of fiery acid reflux if you’re not careful. So you’re risking pain for more than just your tongue with each additional serving.
Acid reflux occurs when your stomach has some sort of imbalance or disruption, causing stomach acid to travel back up your esophagus.
“If you suffer from reflux, spicy foods can cause more acid, making symptoms worse,” Vanessa Rissetto MS, RD, CDN confirmed to The Daily Meal.
Spicy peppers, like the kinds used to make hot sauce, can increase your stomach’s acidity and encourage inflammation in your stomach lining. For people who are already prone to heartburn, eating hot sauce can increase your risk.
“If you have any gastritis or stomach bug and you eat any spicy foods,” Risetto warned, “that is definitely going to make matters worse.”
As for the population living heartburn-free, there could be some less immediate digestive consequences. When your stomach lining becomes inflamed, food moves more quickly through your system. This, along with your habit of chugging water to cool down your mouth, could cause diarrhea.
Plus, you should know drinking water after eating a spicy food is a really bad idea anyway.
So How Much Is Too Much?Well, that really depends on you and your body. Every person’s tolerance is different — while one person might immediately flare up in a fit of stomach pain, another might feel perfectly fine. We expect the woman who holds the world record for consuming the most hot wings, for example, likely has a higher tolerance than the average eater.
However, everyone should be somewhat mindful of the sodium they’re eating. Hot sauce might seem super healthy, but there is such thing as too much. If you’re concerned about sodium, you might also want to take a look at these other foods that could send your blood pressure through the roof.