In large quantities, relish can be bad for you. It’s low in fat and calories, but many varieties are high in sugar and sodium. Plus, relish is generally added to hamburgers and hot dogs—food that’s not great for you in the first place.
Relish originated in India, and many different varieties can now be found all over the world. That’s because the word “relish” basically refers to any kind of chopped vegetable or fruit that’s been pickled and cooked.
Here in America, most of us know relish as the sweet yet simultaneously tart topping that gets added to our hot dogs and hamburgers at barbecues, ball games or food carts. That type of relish is frequently used to describe the green, pickle or dill kind that’s made from finely chopped pickled cucumbers. It’s most commonly used as a condiment, but it’s found in many variations of tartar sauce as well.
So if relish is made from vegetables, it can’t be all that bad for you... right?
One tablespoon of your average sweet pickle relish only contains 20 calories and less than one gram of fat, along with some vitamin C. However, it also includes over four grams of sugar and 122 milligrams of sodium. Those numbers might not seem that bad for one tiny tablespoon—but consider how quickly this adds up over time. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that the average adult limit themselves to 1500 milligrams of sodium per day. One tiny serving of relish already accounts for over 8 percent of your daily recommended value.
Over time, eating too much sodium can lead to serious health problems. That’s because sodium binds the water in our bodies and builds up in the bloodstream, gradually increasing blood pressure. As the pressure elevates, your heart is forced to work harder to circulate blood, placing a strain on your arteries and organs. Eventually, high blood pressure or hypertension lays the framework for illnesses like heart disease and stroke.
Of course, relish all on its own probably won’t give you hypertension. However, consider just what it is you’re putting relish on. As previously mentioned, relish is commonly added to hamburgers and hot dogs—foods that are already loaded with fat, calories and sodium.
The key to healthy living is a balanced diet. And while relish does have a couple of redeeming qualities (it’s a healthier choice than say, adding chili sauce to your hot dog), it’s generally not the best choice. You’re only adding more sugar and sodium to foods that aren’t good for you in the first place. You should skip relish entirely—or opt for fresh vegetables on your turkey burger instead.
Possible long-term side effects
- heart disease
- contains vitamin c
- low in calories