Turning Up the Heat: The Health Benefits of Spicy Food

Turning Up the Heat: The Health Benefits of Spicy Food

Though going on an all-spicy-food diet probably isn’t going to be the catalyst of your epic health journey, there are a number of ways that eating spicier foods can benefit your body. On top of well-balanced meals and regular exercise, adding some spice can give you that extra little push you may need. When you find yourself ready to turn up the heat, take a look at the health benefits of spicy food.

Boosts Metabolism

Spicy foods, especially peppers, are great ways to kick-start your metabolism. When you eat something with a lot of heat to it, it causes a reaction in your body that includes raising the body’s temperature. This process burns energy stored in your body and, over time, can assist in weight loss. A common trick for people looking to lose weight is eating hot peppers with breakfast—the heat here can keep you from getting hungry again as quickly as you might usually. If you’re eating on a restricted diet, the addition of a good hot sauce or spice can go a long way toward making your food more enjoyable.

Stops Cravings

Have you ever brushed your teeth and immediately thought, “I could really use a big glass of orange juice?” Probably not, because these two flavors are not compatible and aren’t pleasant when consumed together. The same idea goes for spicy foods and sweets. If you’re craving something sweet, an easy way to get rid of that craving is to eat something spicy. When the spice hits your palette, your brain will no longer want the sweet food because it knows that it would be not a pleasant taste with the spice. This is one of the least known health benefits of spicy food, as it is more about the psychological effect it has than anything about the spice itself.

Reduces Inflammation

There’s a compound found in turmeric called curcumin. Curcumin has long been used as a holistic alternative to over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication and, when using the right dosage, it’s possible that it may be even more effective. This property allows curcumin to be used as a treatment for pancreatitis and inflammatory bowel disease.

Fights Infections

Hot peppers are absolutely loaded with antioxidants that aid your immune system in combating common infections like the flu. If you’ve ever eaten something spicy and had your nose begin to run, this is because of the capsaicin found in the peppers. This is an incredibly effective method of fighting congestion, and capsaicin is even a primary ingredient in many nasal decongestive sprays. The capsaicin in the peppers also directly attacks over a dozen different fungal strains by counteracting the pathogens that can lead to infection.

Provides Joint Pain Relief

Another strong side effect of capsaicin’s anti-inflammatory properties is that it is also extremely effective at reducing joint pain. It’s so effective, in fact, that scientists have created capsaicin patches that can be applied directly to problem areas in order to reduce the pain of arthritis and other painful chronic illnesses. Much like the feeling of consuming capsaicin-filled foods, the patches also cause a warm (and sometimes uncomfortable) tingling sensation. This reaction causes your brain to release pain-reducing endorphins throughout the body and provide temporary relief. Though just eating hot peppers may not be an effective long-term strategy if you deal with chronic pain, patches and even creams can be found over-the-counter at low dosages, ranging from .025 percent capsaicin all the way up to 8 percent capsaicin for prescription-strength needs.

Aids Digestion

Add another W to capsaicin’s record because it has been popping up on this list with regularity. Speaking of regularity, the capsaicin found in peppers is a great digestive aid—but perhaps not for the reason you think. While it is true that capsaicin can fight off fungal infections in the stomach, capsaicin itself doesn’t really do much to aid digestion. What does help, however, is the increase of fluids being taken in when trying to calm the heat in your mouth. Water and hydration, in general, are extremely important in maintaining a healthy digestive tract. Although water isn’t quite as quick to cool your tongue off, drinking a lot of it is the healthiest choice.

Improves Heart Health

While capsaicin is most widely known for its anti-inflammatory properties—and it does also apply to your heart—another effect the chemical can have is breaking down your cholesterol at a much more rapid rate. While the reduction of inflammation is a great side effect, breaking down that buildup of cholesterol isn’t bad either. Lowering your cholesterol reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Capsaicin can also block a gene that results in arteries becoming narrower, which in turn allows blood to flow more easily through your body, preventing clots.

Fights Cancer

Perhaps one of the more surprising things to learn about spicy foods is that they can also slow the growth of cancerous tumors. Capsaicin is actually able to induce apoptosis or cell death in adult T-cell leukemia cells, and turmeric has been shown to slow the growth of various cancer cells in mice. Scientists have largely attributed this to curcumin, which, like capsaicin, is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. By pairing turmeric with black pepper, you can also increase the bioavailability of curcumin. If you aren’t familiar, bioavailability is the ability of a chemical or compound to have an active effect on the body. To increase the bioavailability of curcumin, you can experience even greater effects simply by adding a small amount of black pepper.

Hopefully, by reading this, you’ve picked up a few things about the health benefits of spicy foods, specifically those featuring peppers and turmeric. Capsaicin and curcumin are the undeniable MVPs of the spicy food game when it comes to the wide range of positive side effects each can have. If this massive information dump has got you thinking you should pick up something with some kick to it, then you’re correct! You can buy Don Emilio’s extra hot salsa, which is packed with red peppers full of capsaicin and turmeric for your dose of curcumin.

Turning Up the Heat: The Health Benefits of Spicy Food