Growing evidence suggests that spicy food is good for your health—great news for hot sauce lovers, and a reason for the more culinarily cautious among us to try amping things up.
Research shows that cultures known for their spicy cuisines report fewer heart attacks and strokes. Why? It's believed that capsaicin, an antioxidant found in the hot chili peppers used in many of their dishes, may reduce inflammation and the effects of damaging LDL cholesterol. Both are considered a risk factor in heart disease.
Not only that, capsaicin has also been found to cut cancer risk.
Hot peppers used to get a bad rap for potentially promoting ulcers, but studies now show that they can actually help regulate unhealthy gut bacteria that play a role in developing heart disease or diabetes.
Foods laced with jalapeno, poblano or other hot peppers have also been shown to:
- Improve metabolism
- Increase satiety and decrease caloric 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.
For example, 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.