Put a Little Spice in Your Life

Put a Little Spice in Your Life

Spicy foods boast a long list of healing and preventative health benefits.

Here’s some new ammunition for spicy food lovers who are constantly defending their excessive use of crushed red pepper on pasta or their relentless dig for jalapenos in the nacho bowl. While hot and spicy foods will definitely help clear up a stuffy nose, there are millions of other health benefits that come from adding a little extra kick to your diet.

Chilies, for instance, are the second most common spice (after salt) in the world, and many cultures celebrate the healing powers of chili peppers’ fiery components. Whether you love a five-alarm meal or just a mild hot sauce, here are some health benefits your body will be thanking you for.

Low Blood Pressure:
Many people think steam might be coming out of their ears after biting into a hot pepper or taking too much wasabi on their sushi. While you may think your blood pressure is rising, it’s actually lowered when you eat something spicy. Chili peppers in particular increase peripheral circulation and lower blood pressure. Packed with bioflavonoids (vital for healthy cell growth) and high amounts of vitamins A and C, peppers help strengthen blood vessel walls and make them more elastic. Because spicy foods tend to make us sweat, the loss of fluid reduces overall blood volume.

Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention:
In 2006, the American Journal of Epidemiology published a report that found that seniors who consumed curry “often” or “very often” were 49 percent less likely to have cognitive impairment compared to those who “never” or “rarely” ate curry. The New York Academy of Science similarly found that curcumin, which is present in the spice tumeric, was effective in reducing oxidative damage and cognitive deficits, as well as other markers of Alzheimer’s in humans.

Weight Control:
Forget the diet pills and grab a pepper. Hot peppers can speed up metabolism and help your body burn calories faster. The British Journal of Nutrition also reports that red pepper (capsaicin) is an appetite suppressant and helped subjects in a 1999 experiment lower their fat, protein and caloric intake. Capsaicin is also believed to reduce the number of fat cells in the body since it quickens the expiration of immature fat cells, thereby further preventing obesity.

Even though the heat from a hot pepper will trigger pain receptors in your mouth, it actually enables endorphins in your brain, which can alleviate feelings of stress or depression. As natural opiates, endorphins are the same mood-elevators that are released during exercise. Many people like to throw some jalapenos into their omelets to boost their mood in the morning. The capsaicin in chili peppers is also a pain reliever, which of course will reduce bodily or mental stress. Capsaicin candy is often prescribed to those suffering from cancer to ease mouth pain, and burn victims can use topical capsaicin cream to help with their injuries.

From your head to your waistline to your toes, spicy foods may help you eat, sleep and breathe better. Hot spices can be used for common problems like poison ivy and bothersome sore throats and often provide supplemental relief for those who suffer from arthritis and migraines. If you truly love hot foods, try exploring different cultural sauces and spices – every country has their own unique fire starters. With all the possible immediate and long-term health benefits, it pays to put a little spice in your life.


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