Next time you suggest Indian food for dinner and your friends vote for burgers, you can tell them that science says spicy food will save their lives. Well, at least it’ll help them live longer and healthier.
Of course, we’re not talking about Flamin’ Cheetos here, nor force-feeding yourself a double serving of nuclear-level spicy buffalo wings. This should not, by any means, be understood as the path to health and wellness.
But according to this much quoted study from the BMJ people who ate food spiced with dried or fresh chili peppers, specifically on a consistent basis, lived longer and with fewer ailments than those who did not.
What’s the connection?
Lower Cancer Risk and a Healthier Heart
There is a lot of research out there finding strong connections between capsaicin, a major bioactive ingredient in chili powder, and a lower cancer risk, decreased gastro-intestinal complications, and better cardiovascular health. These studies credit the far-reaching anti-inflammatory properties of capsaicin as one of the reasons behind the remarkable benefits spicy food can offer the body.
Balanced Gut and Blood Sugar Levels
These spices have a powerful affect on the microbiome and gut flora as well, and have been shown to lower the risk of metabolic syndrome and even diabetes, as they help to improve glucose homeostasis.
That is, it balances out your internal ecosystem in a way that helps your body to more readily deal with breaking down foods and distributing sugar at a normal level. It’s when you’re out of whack that you develop problems like insulin resistance or diabetes.
Prevents Weight Gain and Promotes Weight Loss
Another way spicy food could be linked to longevity is in the fact that it actually deceases appetite and can therefore lower the risk for obesity, and the many complications that can arise from obesity.
Spicy food has also been credited with helping weight loss in two ways:
- Pain relief – making exercise and recovery from injuries easier.
- Metabolism increase – kicking your fat-burning abilities up a notch.
So, overall, spicy food can help battle the numerous complications associated with obesity, both before it becomes a problem, and also afterwards.
Boosts The Immune System and Fights Infection
The BMJ study also noted that increased consumption of spicy foods like chili powder lowers the risk of death due to infections in women. This is backed by many other studies that associate the consumption of capsaicin with improved physical health; this also connects with its capacity to assist in halting bacterial growth.
The BMJ study, which received so much buzz, noted some of its own limitations. For example, it acknowledged that it didn’t delve into the other factors that could have affected longevity, such as the further lifestyle habits of participants, as noted in this article on the study by CNN.
Cooking methods and other possible variables which could change the composition and breakdown of the spices, also could have made a difference in the connections drawn between highly spiced foods and lower death rates.
Moreover, BMJ acknowledged that it was a controlled, observational study that took place within a single culture (China). Hence the results could vary if the study was transferred to another environment.
The Facts Remain
But all-in-all, there seem to be clear connections between foods spiced with chili powder and positive health benefits.This validation transforms these ideas from old wives tales into reputable facts.
People have enjoyed food spiced with these healing and balancing ingredients for ages- and for good reason! The benefits of these ancient herbs are profound. The scientific world has taken interest in these powerhouses of health and have taken on the task of monitoring and measuring their benefits.
Of course, there’s no reason to put yourself in pain to reap rewards. There’s no evidence to suggest that hotter necessarily equals healthier. Just a little extra spice can go a long way in boosting the flavor profile on your plate- and potentially, the vibrancy and length of your life.