Is Spicy Food Good For You? 5 Surprising Benefits of Spicy Food

Article posted in: Diet & Nutrition

The days when black pepper was considered spicy are long gone in the United States, where surveys show that more than half of all homes now have at least one bottle of hot sauce in the cupboard. We’ve come a long way from the days when Tabasco Sauce was a regional food and chiles didn’t make it north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

But there are more reasons to eat spicy food—particularly the most common active ingredient, Vitamin A-rich capsaicin—than just a burst of flavor or the fun of feeling your scalp tingle from a bite of food. A study conducted in China recently found that people who regularly eat spicy food had a 14% lower risk of death than those who don’t eat it. In women, spicy food seems to help ward off cancers; in both genders, the protective effects are more pronounced in those who abstain from alcohol. Here are four more ways spicy food is good for your health:

1. It Can Help You Lose Weight.

A study at Purdue University found that cayenne pepper can increase people’s metabolisms, thus helping them burn more calories. But the researchers who conducted the study found a bonus benefit: participants who said they ate the hot stuff even infrequently reported that their appetites were smaller, particularly for sweet, salty and fatty foods.

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2. It Clears Out Your Sinuses.

Anybody who’s ever bit into the business end of a Scotch Bonnet pepper knows that spicy food can make your nose flow like a runaway train, an effect you may not want when at the dinner table. But if you have a cold or even a stuffy nose, a little bit of the hot stuff can help clear congestion. In fact, capsaicin and derivatives are regular ingredients in some cold medicines.

3. It May Protect Against Ulcers.

You may recall being told that too much spicy food would give you ulcers or burn a hole in the wall of your stomach. But the truth is that capsaicin is especially effective at destroying the bacteria that cause ulcers. Studies have found that people from cultures with cuisines high in spice have a lower rate of stomach ulcers than people who consume non-spicy diets.

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4. It’s Good for Your Heart.

Spicy food contains heart-healthy antioxidants, which have been shown to do everything from fighting off the ravages of aging to sharpening eyesight and mental clarity. It also has been shown to increase good cholesterol while decreasing bad cholesterol while fighting hardening of the arteries.