Can you handle the heat? They say that variety is the spice of life, and that couldn’t
be more true when you look at, well, spice: in addition to the super-hot taste we associate
with chili peppers, other types of spice include garlic, turmeric, cumin, ginger and even cinnamon.
If you’re a big fan of spicy food, then we just might have some good news for you:
in addition to kicking your cooking skills up a notch, many different types of spices
also contain a wealth of health benefits to boot.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways eating spicy food can have a positive impact on our health.
1. Spicy Food Can Help You Lose Weight
According to data collected from a number
of different studies, certain types of spicy food may be able to give your metabolism a
temporary boost, which can in turn assist you with weight loss by burning through calories at a faster rate.
According to nutritionist and author Pamela Peeke, the consumption of spicy foods that
are rich in capsaicin such as red peppers increases your body’s temperature and stimulate
your body’s stores of brown fat; as a result, you can expect to experience your metabolism
to be boosted by as much as 5 percent, and an increase in fat burning by as much as 16 percent.
In addition to helping you burn calories and fat at a faster rate, spicy foods can also
help with weight loss by slowing down your appetite: research from Purdue University
indicates that eating spicy foods can reduce your appetite and lessen food cravings, reducing
the chance of overeating and snacking on additional calories you don’t need.
However, it’s worth mentioning that the calorie-burning effects of spicy foods like
red peppers seems to be especially strong in people who don’t eat spicy foods on a
regular basis, which seems to imply that your body can potentially build up a “tolerance”
to spicy food as well as well as the benefits it provides.
It’s also worth mentioning that the weight loss benefits of red peppers and other spicy
foods are not a substitute for a proper diet and exercise, so don’t go cancelling your
gym membership just yet.
2. Spicy Food Helps Your Heart
In addition to helping you towards a healthier weight, spicy food may also be able to improve your health by preventing the risk of developing heart disease.
According to a study published in 2017, certain types of spicy foods such as chili peppers
were found to greatly reduce the risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease, heart attack and stroke.
Other researchers, such as professor of cardiovascular medicine Michael Miller, suggest that certain
types of spices such as red pepper and turmeric can help improve your body’s circulation
by causing your blood vessels to dilate and reduce blood pressure.
Additionally, it is also possible that turmeric might be beneficial to your heart’s health
by lowering your body’s levels of LDL cholesterol, otherwise known as “bad” cholesterol.
On a more basic level, research has also indicated that people who enjoy the taste of spicy foods
are likely to consume less salt in their daily diet, which can also lead to lower blood pressure
as a result.
Sounds like this is one type of “heartburn” we can certainly get behind.
3. Spicy Food Can Relieve Pain
To anyone who hates the taste of spicy food,
this one might sound a little hard to swallow.
However, the potential for spicy food to relieve certain sources of pain is actually fairly
well-documented: it’s theorized that foods rich in capsaicin can potentially target a
chemical within the brain known as “substance P” which plays a role in the pain your body
feels from injuries.
By targeting this substance, capsaicin is believed to help dull or lessen the pain that
these injuries cause.
Other studies have also suggested that capsaicin may also be effective at protecting your body
against ulcers by eliminating a type of harmful bacteria known as H. pylori.
Because of its supposed effectiveness at treating pain, some doctors may even prescribe over-the-counter
creams for pain relief that use capsaicin as an active ingredient.
Other types of spices such as ginger and garlic are also noteworthy for their anti-inflammatory
properties, and throughout history have been used for medicinal purposes such as treating
everything from headaches to joint pain from arthritis.
4. Spicy Food Can Prevent Cancer
In addition to all of the other benefits we’ve
already mentioned so far, the capsaicin found in chili peppers and other types of spicy
food may also be effective at fighting off certain varieties of cancer.
According to senior healthcare consultant Gregory A. Plotnikoff, this is because capsaicin
contains many of the same properties as certain types of drugs used to treat cancer, and as
a result they affect our bodies in a similar way.
A UCLA study has also determined that capsaicin was able to successfully limit the growth
of cancer cells in mice while preventing any damage to healthy cells.
Data collected from studies by Cancer Research UK also demonstrated promising results from
the spice turmeric, which in early clinical trials was also found to help reduce the rate
at which cancer cells grow.
However, despite the body of evidence that seems to support certain spices being effective
anti-cancer agents, much of these findings are still inconclusive due to contradictory
sources, and as such, the actual effectiveness of capsaicin and other spicy foods still remains
up for debate in the scientific community.
5. Spicy Food Can Help Improve Your Life
According to a study published in 2015 by
Harvard and China National Center For Disease Control And Prevention, eating spicy food
as part of your regular diet may actually be able to help you live a longer and healthier life.
Based on the results of the study, it seems that eating spicy food as often as once per
day over six or seven days every week is enough to reduce mortality rates by as much as 14 percent!
If that wasn’t enough, spicy food might not only extend your life, but also improve
your quality of life as well: the consumption of spicy food also boost your brain’s production
of certain hormones associated with positive feelings and emotions, such as serotonin.
As a result, spicy food may in fact be able to help lessen the negative emotions that
come as symptoms of certain mental health afflictions, such as depression and high levels of stress.
In other words, integrating spicy food into your everyday meal plan will help you to live
longer as well as live better!
Perhaps more than any other variety of food, it seems like spicy food causes the widest
divides in terms of people who wither can’t stand it or can’t get enough.
However, for those of you who always opt for the “mild” salsa at the grocery store,
perhaps these health benefits associated with spicy food will make you feel a little more
adventurous in the future, and might even encourage you to “spice things up” in your everyday diet.
After all, no pain, no gain.
What’s your take on spicy food?
Do you always order the spiciest hot wings on the menu, or are you a little more mild-mannered
in your daily diet?
We’d love to hear your feedback on this topic, so as always, be sure to let us know
what you think in the comments section below and help us keep the conversation going.