Surprising Health Benefits Of Spicy Hot Foods

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Did you know that hot, spicy foods don’t just taste good and make you sweat? They also provide an impressive range of health benefits. One in particular is a kicker. It turns out that cranking up the spicy heat of your foods may actually help you live longer. It’s true. A recent Chinese study showed that people who regularly eat spicy foods actually live longer than those who don’t.

Although living longer is one excellent benefit, it’s not the only one provided by this tasty diet. In today’s article I’ll share with you some of the ways spicy foods can significantly improve your health.

Spicing Up Your Longevity

Chinese researchers studied the eating habits of almost 500,000 people, focusing on how often they ate spicy foods. Participants ranged in age from 30 to 79 when the study began, and they were followed for seven years. During that time about 20,000 of them died.

Surprisingly, they found that people who ate hot, spicy foods more than once a week were less likely to die, compared to those who ate them less often. Not only that, but the more often the subjects ate hot foods, the better their mortality rates.

The researchers aren’t sure why the consumption of spicy foods is linked to lower death rates. But other studies show that eating these foods lowers inflammation, a marker for cardiovascular disease. It also assists with the breakdown of fats in your body and improves the makeup of bacteria in your gut.

Here’s an interesting side note. Researchers in the Chinese study asked subjects to name which spices they used most often. They could choose between chili sauce, chili oil, dried chili pepper, and fresh chili pepper. Dried and fresh chili peppers were chosen most often among the people who lived longer. The jury is still out on whether it’s the chili pepper itself that provides the longevity benefit or something else, but it’s an interesting observation.

Weight Loss Spices

It turns out the sweat you produce from eating spicy foods actually means you are burning calories. Capsaicin is the compound that gives chilies their kick. Studies show that eating a spicy dish with lots of capsaicin can boost your metabolism by as much as 8-10 percent.

It seems that spicy foods can also leave you feeling more satiated sooner. A recent Canadian study showed that subjects who ate an appetizer with hot sauce consumed 200 fewer calories than those who didn’t.

Between boosting your metabolism and causing you to eat slightly less, the weight loss benefits of hot chilies are hard to beat.

Heart Healthy Capsaicin

The active ingredient in cayenne, red chili, jalapeno, and many other hot peppers, is capsaicin. In addition to helping you lose weight as noted above, capsaicin may help lower bad cholesterol, resulting in improved heart and cardiovascular health.

A recent study by the American Chemical Society found that capsaicin reduces the buildup of cholesterol by increasing its breakdown rate. Researchers found that capsaicin also blocks a gene that causes narrowing of arteries. Meaning blood flow is increased, thus improving cardiovascular health.

Cancer Fighting Spices

New studies have found solid anti-cancer potential in some spicy foods. Turmeric, a spice found in many Indian dishes, contains curcumin, an antioxidant. Curcumin has been found in lab studies to have anti-cancer benefits.

Capsaicin, besides the benefits noted above, may help lower the risk of tumors. A recent experiment showed that mice prone to develop tumors had extended life spans and reduced tumor growth when they were fed capsaicin. Researchers believe capsaicin switches off a receptor that triggers tumor growth.

Capsaicin has also been found to suppress the growth of prostate cancer cells while it leaves normal cells unchanged. A study showed that capsaicin killed nearly 80 percent of prostate cancer cells in mice. Existing tumors treated with capsaicin shrank to only 20 percent the size of untreated tumors.

Capsaicin Aids Pain Relief

Applying capsaicin directly to a burn or other external part of the body has been shown to ease pain. It works by depleting a chemical in nerve cells that transmits pain signals to the brain. It also desensitizes pain receptors in the skin.

Capsaicin is most often studied as a pain reliever for shingles. It has shown promise for treating other kinds of pain as well. In fact, topical treatment with a low concentration of capsaicin balm has been shown to relieve osteoarthritis pain. Patients reported feeling less pain after two weeks of treatment with the balm.

Nutritional Benefits

Fresh chilies and other spicy foods can help you get your recommended daily dose of vitamins and minerals. The USDA National Nutrient Database claims that red and green peppers provide a range of important minerals. They also have high levels of vitamin C, which has been found to fight the common cold and might help prevent heart disease and cancer.

Other Helpful Spices

Besides red chili and capsaicin, here are some other beneficial spices. These have potent health properties and also provide a great kick to daily meals.

  • Ginger. Has good anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Cardamom. Helps boost metabolism and your body’s fat burning ability.
  • Cinnamon. Helps to regulate blood sugar and boost your metabolism.
  • Ginseng. Boosts energy and metabolism levels.
  • Mustard. Significantly kicks up your metabolic rate.

People have been eating and enjoying spicy foods for thousands of years. And, as we’ve seen, spicy foods benefit more than just your palate. They provide significant advantages like longer lifespan, improved heart health, and cancer-fighting benefits. 

I suggest you start incorporating hot spices into your weekly menu planning. Eating hot, spicy foods at least once or twice a week has been shown to provide powerful health benefits.

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