Sambal oelek is a simple paste made from chili peppers. In comparison to other chil pepper preparations like sriracha, sambal oelek may offer more heat and a broader array of health benefits. Some of those health benefits come from the fact that it contains nutrients like those listed below. Note that there are different brands of sambal oelek (and you can make it yourself) – expect nutritional content to vary from brand to brand and recipe to recipe.
The chili peppers used to make sambal oelek are a great source of carotenoids. Carotenoids show up in various colorful vegetables including dark, leafy greens and carrots. Your body converts carotenoids into vitamin A. Your body uses vitamin A for vision as well as for maintaining vital organs including the heart, lung and kidneys.
A quick look at the ingredients label on some sambal oelek jars will also show you that this chili paste contains vitamin C. Your body uses vitamin C to synthesize protein and to make collagen, which is essential for wound healing and skin elasticity. Also, you need vitamin C to have a functioning immune system.
On top of all that, vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and may delay cancer development. A lack of vitamin C in the diet results in scurvy, the symptoms of which include a lack of energy along with weak connective tissues throughout the body.
As with other chili pepper products, some brands of sambal oelek may also contain vitamin K, which is essential for bone health.
Two minerals that you can get from sambal oelek are sodium and potassium. The sodium comes mostly from the salt used in the paste. While the salt is added mainly for flavoring purposes, it is actually an important nutrient that helps with the maintenance of your blood pressure. Your muscles also need it to function correctly.
Potassium has a strong relationship with sodium, and together they work to maintain the fluid volume in your body’s cells. You also need potassium for your nerves to transmit signals properly and for your muscles to contract as they should.
Sambal oelek’s primary application is as a hot sauce. The source of its heat is the compound capsaicin, but there is more to it than just flavor. Capsaicin offers a variety of health benefits that include the fact that it can fight the cells of certain cancers. Studies have shown that capsaicin may be valuable for combating prostate and breast cancer, for example. It may even be effective against come lung tumors.
According to other research, capsaicin also lowers cholesterol levels while blocking a gene that causes arteries to contract. By preventing artery contractions, capsaicin may make blockages of blood flow less likely and thus reduce your risk of heart attack and strokes.
Along with the healthy compounds in it, sambal oelek also has nutritional benefits such as:
- No added sugar: While recipes for sambal oelek do differ, most — if not all — are sugar-free. The lack of sugar makes it a healthier option when compared to popular hot sauces like sriracha. As a sugar-free option sambal oelek is not only a low-calorie condiment, it also lowers your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- No cholesterol: Sambal oelek contains no cholesterol, which means that it will not increase your risk of clogged arteries and the health issues — like strokes and heart attacks — that can result from them.