Spicy foods. Some people love them, some people hate them, but could there be a benefit beyond that sweet sweet tingle that comes from eating spicy foods? Could hot sauce actually make you healthier?
For centuries, peppers and spice have been through to be helpful in treating disease. But can they really help you live longer? The answer might just be YES. Let’s investigate:
Eating Spicy Foods May Help You Live longer
A 2015 study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that people who made a habit of eating spicy foods almost every day had a 14% lower risk of death than people who ate spicy foods once a week. 14%! When you’re talking about a long, healthy life, that’s a big deal!
This particular study was just observational, which means they only observed people based on their life span + spicy eating habits, so it didn’t show specifically that spicy foods will make you live longer. But it does show us that people with a serious taste for spicy food—especially food with fresh and dried chili peppers—were less likely to have died during the study period than those who ate spicy food less frequently.
Though it’s not entirely certain spicy foods an make you live longer, the evidence is stacking up! And scientists have some really good ideas about how this works. And it all comes down to capsaicin.
What is capsaicin?
An active component of chili peppers, Capsaicin is produced in chili peppers, probably as deterrents against eating them, because this spicy chemical is what gives peppers their bite! That bite is what gives certain spices, like chili powder and paprika, their potent flavor and spicy aftertaste.
How Does Spicy Food Help You Live Longer?
So how does capsaicin work to help you live longer? Well, one theory is that capsaicin has anti-tumor effects, as well as anti-inflammatory effects, both incredibly important for a long, healthy life. Capsaicin may also have an anti-microbial effect, which may make it helpful to your gut and harmful to certain disease microbes. Your favorite pepper might also help with cellular and molecular mechanisms that help prevent obesity and promote healthy blood flow. What’s not to love?
So basically, eating spicy foods is good for your lifespan. BUT if that isn’t enough for you to reach for that bottle of hot sauce – there are even more benefits for picking peppers as a regular part of your diet.
1. Weight loss.
Spicy foods have been shown to help with weight loss. Let me say that again for those of you in the back, afraid to bite into that jalapeno…SPICY FOODS CAN HELP YOU LOSE WEIGHT!
Capsaicin helps increase your core temperature, helps increase metabolism AND helps burn calories faster. Research has shown that spicy foods could increase your metabolism by up to 5 percent. Plus, as if that wasn’t enough, one recent study showed that people consume around 75 fewer calories after eating spicy foods (and not just because they can’t feel their tongue).
Capsaicin might also work as an endorphin, like exercise. The body produces endorphins, like serotonin, in response to the heat, which it mistakes for pain. This makes you feel better and decreases the risk for depression or stress – so pass me the peppers instead of the ice cream next time I’m dealing with a breakup!
3. Cancer Prevention:
Capsaicin works as an antioxidant, protecting cells from harmful molecules called free radicals that can cause cancer.
4. Heart Disease.
Chili peppers can help reduce the damaging effects of bad cholesterol. Plus capsaicin helps fight inflammation, which has been proven as a risk factor for heart issues.
The vitamin A and C found in these “spicy” plants might also help strengthen your heart muscle walls, and the heat of the peppers helps increase bloodflow through your body. These benefits working together may help lower blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health.
Capsaicin may help your digestion by increasing the digestive fluids in the stomach – probably due to the extra spice it provides. An increase in these digestive fluids can help speed up the digestion process and relieve diarrhea – helping your digestion to stay healthy.
What if you don’t like spicy foods?
But…what if you don’t actually like spicy foods? What then?
Well, if you don’t love spicy foods but still want to get some of those holistic benefits, I suggest starting small. Use just a tiny amounts of cayenne pepper – it actually goes great in almost everything – eggs, soups, stir-frys, you name it. We even add a pinch of cayenne to our hot cocoa for a little kick! The flavor of cayenne isn’t intrusive, and it gives just about everything a little bit extra flavor.
From there, try adding diced jalapenos to guacamole. Put some crushed red pepper flakes to stir fry. Try a pinch of cayenne in your green superfood smoothie. Season your veggies with a pinch of cayenne + black pepper. Or add some hot sauce to boring meals! It’s all about finding the spice that YOU like!
What’s your take on spicy foods? Love them? Hate them? Have any good ideas for adding some spice to your life? Leave your comments below! Be sure to come follow Blendtopia on Facebook to stay connected, and follow us on Pinterest to get even more ideas for maintaining our mental, physical, and emotional wellness.