10 Surprising Health Benefits of Spicy Foods


Spicing things up in the kitchen can certainly add some sizzle to your dinnertime routine. However, many people are surprised to discover that spicy foods can also deliver a few exciting health benefits, too:

1. Hot peppers have anti-inflammatory properties.

Although it may add some heat to your salsa, capsaicin — an ingredient found in hot peppers as well as jalapenos and cayenne pepper — acts as an anti-inflammatory agent, according to a study published in the National Library of Medicine. This revelation has sparked hope that capsaicin can be used to create valuable medications for treating inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis, and for treating certain types of cancer.

2. Red chili peppers reduce your desire for salty, sweet and fatty foods.

Purdue University researchers discovered that capsaicinoids, the ingredients in red chili peppers that are responsible for the burning sensation, reduce the cravings for foods that are fatty, sweet and salty. The initial boost of heat may be enough to help people establish healthier eating habits.

3. Spicy foods can help you breathe easier.

Curcumin, the primary curcuminoid found in turmeric, provides protection from chronic lung diseases. But this isn’t the only way spicy foods help people breathe easier. The capsaicin in spicy peppers can cause runny noses, which relieves nasal congestion. Hot peppers also aid in relieving respiratory problems like asthma and chronic bronchitis. They act as expectorants to help make coughs more productive, too.  An added benefit is that eating hot peppers when you’re sick can also raise the body temperature to help fight fevers and relieve flu symptoms.

4. A tri-pepper blend can increase metabolism to aid in weight loss.

Anyone interested in weight loss will be happy to learn about the findings from the University of Oklahoma. Researchers found that a tri-pepper blend of black pepper, caffeine and concentrated capsaicin provides a statistically significant increase in energy expenditures. It was enough to validate weight loss claims of the supplement containing the ingredients.

Could spicy foods also suppress your appetite? A Canadian study suggests that men who consumed hot sauce on appetizers before eating a meal consumed 200 fewer calories during lunch and later meals than men who did not.

5. Capsaicin and turmeric may have anti-cancer properties.

One study determined that capsaicin, when fed to mice with a genetic predisposition for developing multiple gastrointestinal tumors, resulted in fewer tumors and in a 30 percent increase in lifespan for the mice.

A separate study discovered that combining turmeric with thalidomide (an anti-nausea drug) creates hybrid molecules that are effective at killing myeloma cells.

6. Hot peppers may drop cholesterol levels.

Capsaicin, the ingredient that gives peppers their kick, may be able to help you reduce your bad cholesterol levels, according to the American Chemical Society (ACS). Further assistance for the heart comes in the fact that capsaicin blocks a specific gene that causes the narrowing of arteries. The result is an increase in blood flow through the blood vessels.

7. Chili peppers may boost heart health.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, and research indicates that chili peppers may offer a noteworthy amount of protection against this disease. It’s capsaicin to the rescue again, as it offers a wide range of heart benefits — from lowering blood pressure to reducing blood cholesterol and reducing risks of forming blood clots.

8. Curry and cinnamon could delay onset or decrease symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology observed the effects of curcumin, which is found in the curry spice turmeric, on cognitive function among the elderly. It discovered that aging adults who consumed curry on an occasional, often or very often basis had higher scores on the Mini-Mental State Examination than individuals who rarely or never consumed curry.

A separate study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that certain chemicals that occur naturally in cinnamon (cinnamaldehyde and epicatechin) prevented the neural tangling that is common within the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

9. Peppers help you meet your recommended daily nutritional needs.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) indicates that hot peppers, chili peppers and red peppers offer a large amount of nutritional value. One half cup of raw chopped peppers, for instance, offers 1.1 grams of fiber, 10 mg of calcium, 17 mg of magnesium, 32 mg of phosphorous and 242 mg of potassium. The real value, though, appears with the vitamins —peppers offer 107.8 mg of vitamin C, and 714 IU of Vitamin A, along with folate and vitamin K.

10. Topical application of capsaicin decreases symptoms of moderate to severe psoriasis.

One study indicates that topical applications of capsaicin on moderate to severe psoriasis flare ups provided significant improvements in three to six weeks of treatment. There were also notable changes in scaling and erythema compared to areas that had not received treatment. Capsaicin, the colorless plant compound that gives heat to hot peppers, can be used for its analgesic properties to relieve symptoms of burning, itching, stinging and reddening of skin.

Boost Your Health with Spicy Foods

You don’t need to put fire on your tongue or wipe puddles of sweat off your brow in order to enjoy some of the health benefits of spicy foods. Although habanero peppers, Scotch bonnet chili peppers and jalapenos offer the most heat and capsaicin content, their milder cousins, Spanish pimentos and Anaheim and Hungarian cherry peppers, are also good choices. Novices to hot peppers can remove the seeds and fleshy white inner membranes to reduce the heat.

So now that you know the health benefits of eating spicy foods, what new, exciting ways are you going to find to spice up your diet for the sake of good health?

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