If you're into consuming foods that induce serious mouth-burn, good news: There are loads of proven health benefits to eating spicy food. Even if you usually pass on the hot sauce, this research should whet your appetite — because who doesn't want to know if there's a secret ingredient that could help us live longer, right?
Jalapenos, chili, cayenne... there are endless ways to spice up your meals and reap some serious benefits for your body in the process. And it's even good news for those who don't like the burn. As nutritionist Dr. Peeke noted in an article from Grandparents.com reposted to the Huffington Post, cramming your foods with unbearable spice isn't necessary in order to reap the benefits. "You don’t have to dive into a habaneros tomorrow, but you do have to add a small amount of something like crushed red pepper or ground cayenne,” she said. Peeke explains this is due to the presence of capsaicin in things like chilis (but not in bell peppers or in black pepper). It's capsaicin which has been proven to have several long-term benefits on human health, such as numbing pain, increasing blood circulation, and even contributing to general longevity.
These four health benefits to eating spicy might be unexpected — but they're also delicious.
1Hot Peppers Can Help With Pain Relief
Capsaicin is the active ingredient in many over-the-counter pain relief medications — which means that, according to dietician Lisa Andrews, peppers such as cayenne can double as pain-relieving agents. "Cayenne pepper contains capsaicin, a compound found to help relieve pain. ... Typically used in topical creams, capsaicin reduces Substance P, a chemical that sends pain messages to your brain, so less pain is felt," she said. (However, spicy foods should never be applied to a open wound. Ouch!)
2Spicy Food Can Help You Live Longer
Recent news that firing up your dishes can help you live longer was welcomed by curry enthusiasts and spice fanatics around the world. A study of over 16,000 adults from 1988 to 1994 found that participants who consumed red chili peppers died at a rate of 12 percent less than those who didn't. Researchers believe this could support the idea of a diet of chili peppers lowering mortality rates from any cause of death, but that their findings were strongest for preventing diseases such as heart disease and stroke.
3Capsaicin Might Help Fight Cancer
A 2006 study from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center showed that capsaicin was effective in killing off cancer cells in mice. The research examined mice with prostate cancer cells and found that when they exposed these cells to capsaicin, it triggered 80 percent of the cancer cells to start the process leading to cell death. Of course, much more research is needed before we can definitively say capsaicin helps fight cancer; for one, the results would need to be replicated in humans. But the initial study is encouraging, no?
4Hot Peppers Can Help Your Heart
A 2012 report presented at the American Chemical Society on the effects of capsaicin found that it can help boost heart health in two ways: First, by lowering cholesterol levels in the body, and second by blocking the action of a gene that makes arteries contract and restricts the flow of blood to the heart and other organs.
Time to break out the Sriracha!