Good news for hot sauce lovers: According to new research published in the journal BMJ, eating spicy food might help you live longer. “We know something about the beneficial effect of spicy foods basically from animal studies and very small-sized human studies,” said Lu Qi, study author and associate professor at Harvard's School of Public Health, according to TIME; more research was definitely required, though, a void which the current study attempted to fill. Looks like my sriracha habit might actually be paying off!
The researchers examined questionnaire data from approximately 490,000 participants who took part in the China Kadoorie Biobank study during the years 2004 to 2008. The questionnaire included information about each participant's general health, their alcohol consumption, and their food consumption, including how much spicy food they tended to eat and what their main source of chili intake was (fresh, dried, in a sauce, etc.).
Then, seven years later, the researchers checked in with the participants to see where they were at — and here, of course, is where it starts to get interesting: People who ate spicy food at least once or twice a week had reduced their risk of death by 10 percent in comparison with those who ate it only rarely. I say “at least” because there wasn't a notable difference between people who ate spicy food one to two times and week and those who ate it more; for those who noshed on something spicy three to seven times a week, the reduced risk of death was 14 percent, which isn't terribly statistically significant, according to Medical Daily.
There was also evidence to support previous findings about the health benefits of chilis: Eating spicy food rich in chilis also correlated with a reduced risk of death from a number of diseases, like cancer, ischemic heart diseases, and respiratory diseases. Fresh chilis were found to have more benefits than dried ones, which makes sense when you think about it; that's typically the case for most fruits and veggies, and in the case of chilis in particular, there's more capsaicin and vitamin C in fresh ones than in dried ones.
But as always, let's bear in mind that correlation does not equal causation. As Qi carefully pointed out, we're looking at observational research; we don't definitively know whether eating spicy food in general or chili-rich food in particular actually guards against certain health risks. But, said Qi according to TIME, the research is still valuable: “It appears that increasing your intake moderately, just to one to two or three to five times a week, shows very similar protective effect. Just increase moderately. That's maybe enough.”
While we're waiting for more research, here are a few tasty ways you can get some spice into your life — literally:
2. Sriracha Honey Lime Chicken
Not sure what to do with that fabulous sriracha you just made? Try this dinner pick from I Am A Food Blog. Bonus: It's actually quite easy to make.
OK, so maybe gummy candies packed full of sugar might not be the healthiest way to get your spice fix — but as long as they're only a sometimes treat and you eat them in moderation, they're probably not going to kill you. Each pack comes with three different flavors — jalapeno, habanero, and ghost pepper — so if you're big on hot peppers, you've got all your major bases covered.
While sriracha will always be number one in my heart, Cholula is a more than acceptable runner up, as well as my pick for Mexican food. Made with chile de arbol and pequin peppers, it's got a nice kick to it that's also super flavorful. Heck yes.
5. Salted Mexican Chocolate Chili Caramels
I've never tried to make my own caramels before, but thanks to Brown Eyed Baker, I might just have found a recipe worth making the attempt for.