The Health Benefits Of Spicy Food

October 1, 2023

For many individuals, spicy foods are a staple in their diets. Eating something spicy adds zest and excitement to a meal that might otherwise be lacking in flavor, or it can enhance an already delicious meal. However, even if you don't already enjoy spicy foods, it may be a good idea to start adding more spice. Recent research has found eating spicy foods actually helps the body function better in a number of ways. From helping individuals get in shape to staving off disease, foods rich in hearty spices can help boost health and improve quality of life. That burning sensation in your mouth might be worth tolerating when it means benefiting from these health benefits.

Burns Extra Calories

If you're trying to get in shape, adding chili peppers to your diet might be just the boost you need. A recent study divided a group of forty men and women in half. Twenty were given a placebo, while the other twenty were given a two-milligram capsule containing capsaicinoids, which are the compounds in chili peppers that give them spiciness. During testing, the researchers conducted metabolic testing on each participant ever hour over a three-hour time span. Participants who took the capsules filled with capsaicinoids burned 116 more calories than those who took the placebos.

Researchers concluded capsaicinoids in chili peppers produce a thermogenic effect on the human metabolism, meaning the heat generated by the spice causes the body to generate its own heat in response, compelling the body to burn more calories. A 2011 study conducted at Purdue University supports these findings. That study found individuals burned more calories and felt full for longer after eating a red pepper. These studies suggest adding spicy foods to a diet burns extra calories faster.

Prevents Cancer

Ingredients made from spicy peppers, such as turmeric, have been found to possess cancer-fighting properties. Researchers believe the antioxidants found in turmeric and other hot peppers play an integral part in fighting off cancer by attacking the free radicals in the body. In one study, researchers found curcumin, the aromatic compound in turmeric, inhibits the growth of cancer cells. The research found the effect of curcumin on cancer cells helped to prevent the occurrence of a broad range of cancers, including leukemia, as well as skin, brain, liver, and prostate cancer.

Once curcumin enters the body, it initiates a process called apoptosis, which is the body's natural defense against damaged cells. During apoptosis, the immune system attacks and kills any damaged cells it identifies and, through this process, curcumin prevents cancer and ensures the survival of healthy cells. Researchers have noted in places like India, where curcumin is ingested on a daily basis, incidences of cancer are much lower. A daily intake of one to two hundred milligrams (roughly one to two teaspoons) is common in these countries.

Natural Pain Relief

Turmeric makes this list a second time because it also possesses anti-inflammatory properties. Again, the curcumin is the beneficial compound in turmeric, which also happens to give the root its orange-yellow color. By acting to reduce inflammation in the body, curcumin helps reduce pain. Many individuals who have rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis take curcumin to help reduce their joint pain and improve mobility. As a provider of natural pain relief, curcumin allows chronic pain sufferers to treat their symptoms without subjecting themselves to adverse side effects.

As an added benefit, turmeric is significantly cheaper than other treatments. When adding turmeric to your meals, it's also recommended to add black pepper. The black pepper helps the body better absorb the curcumin in the turmeric, making the resulting pain relief much more efficient. Turmeric can also be blended in tea with black pepper, honey, and ginger to provide a daily dose without having to add it to every meal.

Heart Healthy

Eating spicy foods can also help you keep your heart healthy, because the compounds that give peppers their heat also help lower insulin and fat in the blood. In a study intended to discover if spicy meals really were heart-healthy, researchers served spicy dishes to healthy, obese male adults, while a similar group was served bland versions of the same dishes. Those eating the spiced-up meals exhibited lower triglyceride levels, which were cut by a third in comparison to the levels in the blood of the men from the other group.

Triglyceride is a specific type of fat, which is a common cause of heart disease. The spicy meals also lowered the levels of insulin in the blood by twenty percent, which suggests spicy meals can help control diabetes as well. While there have yet to be long-term studies evaluating the prolonged benefits of a diet rich in spicy foods, these early studies still indicate there is a benefit to heart health. Eating a spicy dish regularly may help keep triglycerides in check.

Releases Good Hormones

Have you ever wondered why you feel energized after eating a spicy meal? You can blame those helpful little capsaicinoids for that too. Your nervous system interprets the burning sensation you experience when you bite into a chili pepper as a real source of pain. As a result, the brain releases endorphins and dopamine to counteract the pain. When the brain floods you with endorphins, those neurotransmitters work to block the central nervous system's ability to carry pain signals.

At the same time, dopamine is released. Dopamine is a 'feel good hormone that produces a sensation of pleasure, which creates that energized feeling. In many individuals, eating spicy foods has the same effect athletes feel after they complete a difficult challenge. The brain releases good hormones to counteract the perceived pain and to help the body recover. This pleasurable sensation may contribute for the fascination some individuals feel with eating spicy foods.

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