Ever go to a restaurant that offers particularly spicy food? Sure you have. And when you go, do you always see a guy sitting in the corner, sweat dripping down his face as he tries to recover from a chicken wing drenched in a scorching-hot ghost chili pepper sauce?
You might ask yourself, “why does he do it?,” or, “what’s the point of putting yourself through that kind of torture?” Lovers of spicy food will tell you that they’re addicted to the flavor and sensation, but I suspect that there’s something else drawing them to it: the fact that it’s incredibly healthy for you.
Indeed, that old saying “no pain, no gain” has never seemed more appropriate. Hold on tight and I’ll tell you all about the good things that fiery foods can do for you!
1. It helps you burn calories.
Turns out that all of that sweating you do while eating spicy foods serves a real purpose. According to a study in the New York Times, consuming a spicy plate of food increases the rate by which your body burns calories by up to 8%. Or in other words, dealing with all of that heat makes your metabolism work faster.
Other studies have found that folks who eat spicy appetizers consume fewer calories when their main course arrives. So, if you’re looking to shed a few pounds, you might want to consider adding spicy foods to your diet!
2. It protects your heart.
Numerous studies have shown that people in countries with spicier diets tend to have far fewer heart attacks than those in areas with a more mild selection of foods.
The reason? Consuming chili peppers seems to negate the effects of bad cholesterol (also known as LDL). Additionally, capsaicin, the chemical responsible for the burning effect that spicy foods create in your mouth, helps to fight inflammation (which is one of the things that can lead to a heart attack).
3. It can relieve your pain.
This one gets a bit complicated in terms of the scientific explanation, but to put it simply, capsaicin is able to inhibit certain signals sent from your nerve cells to your brain, deadening any sensation of pain you might be feeling.
This is why capsaicin is often used as an ingredient in pain-relief creams and patches – the burning sensation works to eliminate pain at its source.
4. It will keep you alive longer.
An immense study in China (involving nearly 500,000 people) found that those who eat spicy foods nearly every day may lower their likelihood of death by 14%.
The folks who ran the study say it’s too early to directly link spicy foods to an increased lifespan, but the results do look encouraging. Given all of the health benefits spicy foods have, it really doesn’t surprise me that consuming them frequently might add a year or two to your life.
5. It is chock full of nutrients.
Consuming chilies on a daily basis will make it far easier for you to meet your daily recommended intake of a number of nutrients. These include several vitamins, like A and C, as well as a handful of vital minerals.
6. It can make you happier.
Eating spicy foods causes your brain to produce ‘happy’ hormones, like serotonin, which makes you better equipped to deal with depression, anxiety, anger, and stress.
This might explain why folks eating super spicy foods always look so happy, even when they’re sweating buckets and crying from the pain!
7. It might stave off cancer.
According to some medical professionals, and the latest research, capsaicin has the same effect on certain cancer cells as powerful cancer-fighting drugs do. Apparently, the chemical is so powerful that it can potentially kill off leukemic cells and slow the growth of deadly tumors.
With that in mind, I say we all buy a bottle of the spiciest hot sauce we can find and use it on everything we eat!
8. It might make your stomachache feel better.
What!? Spicy foods can settle your stomach? That’s right. New research suggests that consuming spicy foods can lower the amount of gastric acid you produce, reduce any stomach bleeding you might have, and cut your risk of acquiring a peptic ulcer by 53%.
That’s not a bad deal for eating a few chili peppers!
Has this article changed your stance on spicy foods? Has it convinced you to power through the sweat and tears? Let me know in the comments below, and feel free to share any spicy food recipes while you’re at it!
Featured photo credit: 重庆辣子鸡 Chongqing Spicy Chicken/Alpha via flic.kr