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Is Teriyaki Sauce Bad For You?



Short answer

Teriyaki sauce, for the most part, is bad for you. While a bit of sauce here and there is unlikely to cause any harm, real problems can arise when teriyaki sauce becomes a dominant part of your diet.



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Long answer

Teriyaki sauce is a bit difficult to define. First, there’s the fact that “teriyaki” has nothing to do with the sauce or its flavor.  Rather, it is a word referring to the process of grilling a food then coating it with a sauce several times.  The more proper term for the sauce we know as “teriyaki” would be “tare”.  In traditional Japanese cuisine, tare is made from soy sauce, sugar or honey, and sake or mirin (a sake-like rice wine with less alcohol and more sugar).  However, the teriyaki sauce most Americans are familiar with comes to us via some extra additions made in Hawaii and include garlic, brown sugar, and fruit juices (commonly pineapple), while leaving out the alcohol.

Overall, teriyaki sauce does not offer many health benefits.  It does contain very small amounts of B-vitamins, which are important in converting energy to food, as well as minerals such as iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.  The cost for a small amount of these nutrients (no more than 3% per tablespoon) is a very high amount of sugar and sodium. 

Just one tablespoon of teriyaki sauce contains around 690 milligrams of sodium.  Excessive amounts of sodium can lead to elevated blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. Too much sodium has also been found to cause damage to the kidneys and liver.  The same amount has around 2 grams of sugar.  Sugar increases the risk of obesity, type-2 diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers, as well as other diseases.  Furthermore, if you are using teriyaki sauce on something high in cholesterol, like steak, the lack of dietary fiber will do you no favors and cholesterol levels will skyrocket. 

Overall, a small amount of teriyaki sauce added to flavor a meal shouldn’t cause any problems, but overdoing it could lead to excessive amounts of sugar and sodium in the bloodstream while delivering very little in terms of nutrition. It should also be mentioned that store-bought varieties are often produced with large amounts of high fructose corn syrup (in many cases, this makes up the majority of the sauce). HFCS, especially over the long-term, can result in a wide array of side effects, including weight gain, type 2 diabetes, increased cholesterol, increased triglyceride levels, and metabolic syndrome.

Possible short-term side effects

  • increased blood pressure
  • increased blood sodium
  • increased blood sugar

Possible long-term side effects

  • kidney failure
  • liver damage
  • type-2 diabetes
  • cancer
  • heart disease

Ingredients to be aware of

Healthier alternatives

  • traditional japanese tare

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

Coconut Aminos Variety Pack

  • Soy-free alternative
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  • Gluten-free sauces
  • Versatile flavor enhancers
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Jeff Volling
Published on: 02-28-2016
Last updated: 12-15-2023

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Jeff Volling
Published on: 02-28-2016
Last updated: 12-15-2023

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