Research shows certain “hot” foods can help boost overall health.
Chili this, jalapeno that, pepper everything else -- the sheer number
of new spicy food offerings continue to crop up all around us. Even that
old standby, ketchup, now comes in poblano pepper and sriracha variations.
Clearly, Americans have a growing appetite for all things spicy. Happily,
this food craze turns out to offer good news for our health. Recent research
shows that a little touch of heat in your diet can
help prevent heart disease, lower blood pressure, and more. By including some spicy ingredients in
your meals, you’re not only adding great flavor, you’re doing
your body a favor.
5 positive health effects of adding heat to your meal
Heart Health: Chili peppers and turmeric offer a number of potential benefits to the
heart. Both contain powerful anti-inflammatory compounds that aid in circulation
and lower blood pressure. The dilating effect of the capsaicin in peppers
may even prevent blood clots and lower bad cholesterol. Studies have shown
that cultures that consume the most spicy food have a much lower incidence
of heart attack and stroke.
Weight Loss: While cutting back on calories and exercise are still the best ways to
control weight gain, adding spice to food can actually speed up weight
loss. Research suggests that eating hot peppers increases body heat and
boosts metabolism, and boosts “fat burning” processes significantly.
In addition, the flavor kick tends to make a person feel satisfied more
quickly, thereby eating less. And when food is very spicy, people tend
to eat more slowly, so the “full” feeling becomes more apparent
sooner. Most of all, that extra flavor helps satisfy general food cravings
– which is a good thing when people are trying to lose weight.
Pain Relief: The capsaicin in hot peppers is commonly used in over-the-counter creams
for people who have
arthritis, muscle pain,
shingles, or headaches. Its anti-inflammatory properties are thought to even help
with autoimmune conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis. And taken internally,
capsaicin has been shown to trigger the release of endorphins, the body’s
own “opioids.” Again, research shows that such illnesses are
less common in countries where a lot of spicy food is consumed.
Cancer Prevention: According to the American Association for Cancer Research, peppers and
turmeric both contain anti-cancer properties. The capsaicin in peppers
is thought to kill certain kinds of cancer cells, and the curcumin in
turmeric may slow the growth of tumors. A study from Cedars-Sinai Medical
Center in Los Angeles found that capsaicin was effective in blocking prostate
cancer cells in mice, similar to the way cancer drugs work. While research
into the effects of pepper and turmeric on cancer is ongoing, these findings
Longevity: The secret to long life might just lie in the humble hot pepper. In a
2015 longevity study, the Harvard School of Public Health found that the
people who ate spicy foods six or seven times a week were 14 percent less
likely to die prematurely. The data also showed that even eating hot foods
twice a week lowered the risk by 10 percent. The longevity effect of peppers
can be looked at another way: Since spicy food boosts immunity, heart
health and a healthy weight, the combined benefits all tend to promote
How much spicy food is enough to get the benefits?
To reap the most health benefits, add hot peppers and turmeric to meals
two to three times a week. Some raw peppers can be too hot to eat comfortably;
cooking or sautéeing can tone down the burn, while still retaining
their healthful qualities. If you don’t tolerate spicy foods well,
try blending them in yogurt or cream sauces. A slice of ginger in tea
is soothing and provides many of the same health-boosting benefits as
turmeric and peppers. And
salsa recipes can be made as mild as you need.
If you simply don’t like spicy food, ask your doctor about taking
a curcumin or capsaicin supplement.
How do you use spices to add zip to your meals? Leave a comment below.