Do you avoid spicy foods? If so, you might want to reconsider. Growing evidence suggests it’s good for you.
Research shows that cultures known for their spicy food report fewer heart attacks and strokes. It is believed that the capsaicin in the hot chili peppers used in many dishes may reduce inflammation and the effects of damaging LDL cholesterol. Both are considered a risk factor in heart disease.
Capsaicin, an antioxidant, has also been found to cut cancer risk.
There’s a fair amount of evidence that the capsaicin in many spicy foods offers antioxidant benefits, decreases cholesterol and helps people live longer.
They used to think that hot peppers might promote ulcers, but studies now show that instead they can help regulate unhealthy gut bacteria that play a role in developing heart disease or diabetes.
Foods laced with jalapeno, poblano or other hot peppers also have been shown to:
- Improve metabolism
- Increase satiety and decrease calorie intake
- Relieve migraine pain
- Improve circulation
- Decrease irregular heart rhythms
- Relieve arthritis
As research continues, we may find that other hot or spicy compounds have similar health benefits.
We know that turmeric is a strong antioxidant. Spices like ginseng, black pepper, cinnamon, mustard seeds and ginger may also prove to be beneficial.
It's like anything else. You should eat hot peppers as part of a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, excercise, getting enough sleep and managing stress.
So if you’re game, go ahead and dice that fresh chili pepper and sprinkle it over tacos, curry, scrambled eggs or an otherwise unassuming casserole. It’ll enhance the flavor, and maybe your health.
This article was reviewed by Carilion Clinic's Registered Dietitians.