Fifty-six percent of U.S. households keep hot sauce in their kitchens, which implies that the majority of Americans now enjoy spicy food. In an attempt to market to the chile-chasing millennial generation, as well as to the rest of fiery food-loving America, companies have been hard at work developing tongue-tingling dishes from Fiery Chicken Fries to jalapeño chicken sandwiches. Then, there are those braves souls who attempt eating the world’s spiciest peppers and hot sauces on camera.
The public’s chile addiction has left many wondering if there are any side effects of pounding down pepper after pepper. Some studies have reported that adding the extra spicy kick to your food can have adverse side effects on your colon and your heart.
But do these scorching-hot foods have any health benefits? According to CNN, spicy foods could potentially help you live a longer life. So keep on dabbing habanero hot sauce on your eggs, and adding Sriracha to everything. You might be rewarded later on down the line.
Here are nine positive side effects of chile chasing, including (but not limited to) increased longevity.
Put down that medicine ball and pick up that ghost pepper. Scientists at Daegu University in Korea found rats with a diet high in fat combined with capsaicin burned more fat than rats with a non-spicy high-fat diet. The researchers were able to prove that capsaicin, the active component in chile peppers that makes food spicy, helps reduce the size of fat cells by increasing protein production inside the cells. In a 2010 study, The Journal of Proteome Research also found that capsaicin can reduce the production of fat cells.
Reduce Risk of Tumors
A study from the Edwards School of Medicine in West Virginia suggests capsaicin has anti-proliferative properties that can protect the body from colorectal tumors and lung cancer. Capsaicin activates an ion channel called TRPV1, which can help protect that body against heat, acidity, and spicy chemicals. When TRPV1 interacts with an epidermal growth factor receptor, it lowers the risk of intestinal tumor development and other unwanted growths.
Lower Risk of Heart Attack or Stroke
Although there is no hard scientific proof that a diet heavy in spicy foods will prevent a heart attack or stroke, it’s rumored that an extra kick might be able to reduce your risk. Spicy foods are heavy in Vitamin A and C,which can contribute to stronger heart muscles. Stronger heart muscles mean an overall stronger cardiovascular system.
Herbalist Dr. John Christopher has found that a teaspoon of cayenne pepper can reap major benefits for patients suffering from heart attacks. He states, “In 35 years of practice I have never on house calls lost one heart-attack patient. The reason is that if they are still breathing, I pour 1 teaspoon of cayenne in a cup of hot water, and within minutes they are up and around.” Sounds kind of fun!
Longer Life Span
A study done by The British Medical Journal found that a diet rich in spicy foods may contribute to a longer life. The study followed a group of 500,000 Chinese residents who monitored their spicy-food intake. Researchers found that those who ate spicy foods daily had a 14% lower risk of a premature death. Additionally, consuming spicy foods frequently correlated with a lower risk of cancer and respiratory diseases.
Chile peppers are packed with more Vitamin A than carrots and more Vitamin C than a glass of orange juice. Chillies also contain a surplus of Vitamin D, a nutrient heavily relied upon by athletes in order to reduce their risk of injury before a workout.
Similar to capsaicin, ginger provides a kick of spice to any meal. A University of Miami study found that a diet rich in ginger could help relieve arthritis pain due to its anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic qualities. Additionally, ginger can help reduce nausea.
A study done by the Journal of Ethnopharmacology investigated the use of capsaicin in ancient Mayan medicine. Researchers found that capsaicin prevents five different types of bacteria and can fend off ear infections, fungal infections, and other bacterial issues. Livestrong reports that just like chile peppers, garlic can also help the immune system fend off infections.
Relieve Stuffy Noses
Cayenne peppers may become your go-to allergy remedy during the spring season. The Telegraph reports that the pepper can be used to open up the airways and reduce the pain contributed to stuffy noses. Pro tip: Mix cayenne pepper with a glass of lemonade to not only help with allergy relief, but also give your metabolism a quick boost.
Prevent and Heal Ulcers
While many believe that eating spicy food can cause inflammation and irritation as the meal makes its way out of your body, a study from The Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition found that this might not exactly be the case. The researchers state, “[C]apsaicin does not stimulate but inhibits acid secretion, stimulates alkali, mucus secretions and particularly gastric mucosal blood flow which help in prevention and healing of ulcers,” suggesting that you can continue to indulge in spicy foods without fearing for your bowels.