If you’re a spicy food junkie, you’re not alone. According to one report, approximately 54 percent of people say that they enjoy hot or spicy foods, which is up from 46 percent in 2009. The spicy food trend is popular among people of all ages, too. One report found that 56 percent of all households in the United States keep some kind of hot sauce in their kitchens. You could even get crazy and enjoy a roasted jalapeno KIND bar as a snack or a bowl of ghost pepper ice cream for dessert.
If you’re not a fan of spicy food, then it might be time to hop on the bandwagon. Why, you ask? Well, for starters, spicy foods contain some of the healthiest properties on the planet. Research shows they may even be able to help you live longer! Not to mention they give your foods a bit of a kick, and everyone could use some spice in their life once and awhile. Here’s why you should turn up the heat on your food at least a few times a week.
1. Live Longer
They might be hot, but spicy foods are full of protective properties. One study even found that they can help you live longer. Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences evaluated the diets of approximately half a million adults over the course of seven years. They found that people who ate spicy foods regularly (almost daily) reduced their risk of death by 14 percent when compared to people who only ate spicy foods less than once a week. The protective effect of spicy foods was universal across the board, meaning that it was suitable for both men and women. Results were stronger among the adults who did not drink alcohol. Among the women participants, eating spicy foods was linked to a reduced risk of developing cancer, respiratory diseases, and heart conditions. So eat up!
2. Lose Weight
If the spicy taste of hot foods is any indication of what it’s doing inside your body, then you can expect your metabolism to heat up. That’s right. Research shows that spicy foods might be able to help you lose weight. A 2011 study conducted by researchers at Purdue University found that spicy foods (especially red pepper) heat up your metabolism. Previous studies have shown that taking red pepper in tablet form helps burn calories and reduce appetite, but the researchers of this study wanted to see what the effects were if you added normal amounts to your food. Half of the 25 participants used in the survey liked the taste of spicy foods while the other half did not. The researchers then asked the subjects to eat either no red pepper, a half of a teaspoon of the stuff, or their desired amount. Results showed that the subjects who ate the red pepper burned more calories than those who did not. Additionally, the pepper lovers reported having fewer cravings for sweet, salty or fatty foods. They also felt less hungry. So, if you want to lose weight naturally, add some spice to your food. No one really wants to take a red pepper tablet, anyway.
3. Assists with Digestion
Not only do spicy foods heat up your metabolism, but they also jump-start the digestive process. Spicy foods such as cayenne pepper help stimulate the production of saliva, which is the first step in digestion. Saliva production also helps reduce bad breath! Cayenne pepper has also been shown to stimulate enzyme production and gastric juices, which are needed to help you break down food. Be wary if you have a digestive condition as spicy foods are sometimes off-limits for people with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. If you don’t mind a little heat, then try adding some hot pepper to hard-to-digest foods. It might just make them a little bit easier to enjoy. You might also reduce symptoms of digestive discomforts, such as bloating, intestinal pain, and gas.
4. Relieves Headaches and Migraines
Pain reduction is one of the best attributes of cayenne pepper. Research shows that spicy foods play a trick on your brain by stimulating a pain response in a different part of your body. So, if you have a headache and you eat spicy foods, then you’ll forget all about your head pain! How does it work? It sounds a little fishy, but studies show that cayenne pepper stimulates a pain chemical in the body known as substance P. After your initial pain reaction to the pepper, your nerve fibers have depleted amounts of pain chemicals. This means that you’re basically tricking your brain to feel pain somewhere else in the body so that your attention is no longer focused on how bad your migraine hurts.
Speaking of pain relief, you can use cayenne pepper topically to reduce nerve, muscle and joint pain. Research shows that you can use cayenne pepper to relieve pain after surgery, such as an amputation or a mastectomy. You can also use it to reduce nerve damage pain in your feet or legs, such as in the case of diabetic nerve pain. It reduces pain associated with back injuries, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, general joint and muscle pain, and osteoarthritis. Just be sure not to apply cayenne pepper to an open wound or cut. Don’t believe it works? Give it a try the next time you have a headache or joint pain and see for yourself!
5. Detox Relief
Did you eat or drink and drink too many of the wrong foods and alcoholic beverages this weekend and need a quick way to get back to your usual self? Spicy foods can help. They contain naturally detoxing antioxidant properties that help remove free radical toxins from the body. Antioxidants bind to unstable molecules in the body that otherwise float around and invade healthy cells in search of an electron. When you have too many of them in your body, they accumulate in your tissues and organs, which leads to fatigue, weight gain, headaches, bad breath, digestive disorders, and other chronic diseases. Cayenne pepper is a good example of a spicy food that has lots of antioxidants. It also promotes blood flow and circulation, which helps move the bad stuff out of your system.
6. Reduces Blood Clots
Blood clots are dangerous because they reduce blood flow to parts of your body. Typically, when you get hurt, your body forms a blood clot to stop the bleeding and start the healing process. But when you have too many clots, it can prevent blood flow to critical areas of your body, such as the heart, brain, or lungs, which increases your risk of stroke and heart attack. Spicy foods such as cayenne pepper contain an active ingredient known as capsaicin that prevents blood clots by encouraging fibrinolytic activity to remove blockages in your blood vessels and arteries. This results in increased blood flow and reduces your risk of heart attack. Blood flow is also necessary because it carries oxygen and nutrients all over your body. So if you feel cold all the time or a little light-headed, it could be due to low blood flow. The capsaicin in cayenne pepper dilates arteries and blood vessels and clears away lipid deposits that cause arteries to narrow.
7. Contains Anti-Irritant Properties
It seems unlikely that a hot spice would contain properties that soothe irritants in the body, but that’s precisely what happens. Cayenne pepper is a perfect example. Research shows that it inhibits acid secretion, stimulates mucus and alkali secretions (especially gastric mucosal blood flow), which prevents and heals stomach ulcers. This is all thanks to its active ingredient, capsaicin. While most people with ulcers are advised to stay away from spicy foods, you might find that it works well for you. Be cautious if you have ulcerative colitis, which is a condition that causes bleeding ulcers. You might want to experiment with small amounts of spicy foods to see how it works for your condition.
8. Heals Psoriasis
Psoriasis is a skin condition that occurs when your skin cells multiply too quickly. This results in swollen, red and often itchy patches of skin cells that pile up on top of each other and form white scales on top. At its core, psoriasis is an inflammatory condition combined with excessive skin cell production. Two studies show that capsaicin, the active ingredient in cayenne pepper, can be used topically to treat psoriasis. The cream you use must contain 0.025 percent capsaicin. One study found that capsaicin cream reduced the redness and scaling of 44 patients with moderate and severe psoriasis when they used it for six weeks. A double-blind study of 197 patients with psoriasis found relief when they treated their skin condition with capsaicin cream four times a day for six weeks. Subjects reported having a decrease in itching, the thickness of skin patches, scaling, and redness associated with the condition.
It’s best to see your doctor before you start using capsaicin cream to treat your psoriasis, especially if you’re already taking a medication for it. Your doctor may prescribe a capsaicin cream, or they can tell you where to get it. You can also make your own cream by using coconut oil as a base and usually a small amount of capsaicin, such as the amount from one cayenne pepper capsule that has been pulled apart. Make sure the scales are healed and are not exposed when you apply the cream as this may cause pain!
9. Boosts Immunity
Did you know that hot spices such as cayenne pepper contain antioxidants and a good amount of vitamin C? In addition to being high in vitamin C, cayenne pepper is also high in vitamins A and E, which both act as antioxidants in the body. They help you fight a cold by moving toxins and gets you back to feeling healthy in no time. All of these fantastic nutrients can help keep you healthy by boosting the immune system and fighting off the common cold and flu. The capsaicin in cayenne pepper assists with breaking up congestion (mucus) and moving it around to help you reduce the symptoms of a cold sooner. Cayenne is especially beneficial if you have an upper respiratory infection as it gets your sinuses back in tip-top shape. It also helps raise your body temperature so that you can activate your immune system and kick it into high gear when you first feel a cold coming on.
10. Reduces the Risk of Cancer
Studies show that you can use capsaicin to help reduce your risk of cancer. It can also be used as part of a natural remedy when treating cancer. A study conducted by researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine determined that capsaicin found in cayenne pepper inhibits the growth of cancer cells. It also prevents new ones from forming. Additional research shows that cayenne pepper can be used to avoid lung cancer in people who smoke. This is because capsaicin has been shown to stop the formation of tobacco-induced tumors in the lungs. Similar results have been identified when cayenne pepper was used on liver tumors. While spicy foods alone can’t treat or heal cancer, it’s a great way to add more protective properties in your diet.
11. Contains Anti-Fungal Properties
You can use cayenne pepper to kill fungus and prevent the formation of new fungal infections from occurring in the first place. Candida infections might be the most well known fungal infections around. If you’ve never had one before, then consider yourself lucky. Candida is a type of fungus that is naturally present in the digestive tract in small amounts. It even helps aid in proper digestion and nutrient absorption. But an infection occurs when the fungus overgrows and starts taking over. It accumulates in the digestive system and may affect other areas of your body, which results in joint pain, hormonal imbalance, and a compromised immune system. Luckily, cayenne pepper contains antimicrobial properties that can fight candida and keep your levels under control.
12. Promotes Heart Health
A little spice on your foods can help protect your heart. Research shows that populations who eat spicy foods often have lower risks of stroke and heart attack. This is likely because capsaicin helps lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and fight inflammation, which is both considered a risk factor for heart disease. Cayenne peppers also contain vitamins A and C to strengthen your heart muscle walls. This helps improve your hearts functioning so that it doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood.
Additionally, the capsaicin in cayenne helps improve blood flow, which also gives your heart a bit of a break. There is also research to show that spicy foods can help regulate your blood sugar levels. This is an important part of keeping your heart healthy as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease are all intertwined. Diabetes can cause high blood sugar, which damages the blood vessels connected to the heart. It also damages the nerves that control your heart. Finally, capsaicin assists with the production of serotonin to help you feel good and reduce the effects of stress. Chronic stress increases your risk of several diseases, including heart problems. So eat your spicy foods and be happy!