The Health Benefits of Eating Spicy Foods

hot peppers

Great reasons to add more spicy foods to your diet.

There is a common misconception that eating spicy foods is unhealthy. Those of us that like a kick in our food will surely have heard all or any of the following statements: Spicy food is bad for you stomach and esophagus lining, spicy food will ruin your teeth and taste-buds, spicy food will always cause gastrointestinal problems. And perhaps the silliest of statements, “eating spicy food will give you cancer.” If this last statement was true then well, the population on Earth would be much, much, smaller. 

Sure, when our bodies aren’t used to the heat or perhaps we added a bit too much spiciness to the dish, some of us might experience unpleasant side-effects. But they are temporary and often times we can both prevent or tone down their severity. Of course when it comes to eating spicy food the most important thing is knowing our heat limits. I’d now like to share some facts about the health benefits of adding piquant flavors to our meals.

(Please notice that the following does not apply to eating large amounts of the world’s spiciest peppers.)

 

  • Spicy Food and Your Teeth: When we eat spicy food we don’t need to worry that it will damage our teeth. The only real concern is that the dish or spicy garlic or onion might give us unpleasant breath. According to this dentist’s website, “…Spicy foods such as wasabi have phytochemicals that inhibit the growth of germs.”  Additionally this dentist states the following oral health benefits of eating spicy foods: “…spicy foods in regulated amounts can actually be quite good for your teeth and the rest of your body. Spices that have a kick like an onion or chili actually encourage the saliva glands and can help with digestion. Chili spices actually contain their own chemicals that help fight bacteria. Onions also contain vitamin C, which helps keep the gums healthy and the teeth strong. In many cases spicy foods are far more beneficial to the overall health of the body, including the mouth”.
  • Make Your Mouth, Belly and Mind Happy: The first and most obvious benefit of adding spice to our food is the new flavours that you’ll be exposed to. From spicy ginger, garlic, and horseradish to an array of chile peppers, they all have a different taste for our taste buds to enjoy. These new flavours enhance a dish, affect the taste buds differently and it can truly be an amazing culinary experience. Additionally spicy foods are believed to “…boost production of serotonin…” and we all know that this in turn makes our minds feel happy and keep depression at bay. Most importantly, we all know that sitting down to eat good food always makes people happy. 
  • Gastric Protection: The main concern for many is that spicy food will damage your stomach lining. But unless you all ready have a severe gastric condition you shouldn’t need to worry too much. (If you are unsure consult your physician first.) Studies have shown again and again that the substance that gives chilies their heat, capsaicin, in fact repairs and not damages the stomach lining. Capsaicin can even help heal the damage caused by anti-inflammatory drugs (like aspirin) that do in fact cause ulcers and destroy the stomach lining. Additionally “Chili peppers…not only do they not cause ulcers, they can help prevent them by killing bacteria you may have ingested, while stimulating the cells lining the stomach to secrete protective buffering juices.”
  • Good for Your Heart: Spicy foods trigger an increase of blood flow, this in turn strengthens our cardiovascular system. Eating chili peppers has also been proven to reduce blood cholesterol and the formation of blood clots. All of these benefits lead to a lower risk of pulmonary embolism and heart attacks. The natural antioxidant properties of chili peppers also help keep our hearts healthy. 
  • Anti-Inflammatory Benefits and Pain Relief: Capsaicin has natural anti-inflammatory qualities that people with arthritis and heart problems can greatly benefit from. Apparantly, capsaicin is an ingredient commonly used in topical creams and gels that are used to fight pain caused by inflammation. In my family I have time and time again witnessed the amazing effects that spicy food has in fighting arthritic pain. I’ve seen loved ones go from severe joint pain to feeling nearly pain free after consuming spicy foods. 
  • Cancer: There is no evidence that eating spicy food in moderation causes cancer. In fact the Journal of The National Cancer Institute (Oxford Journals), wrote a very interesting article titled “Capsaicin in Hot Chili Peppers Makes Tumor Cells Commit Suicide.”  Other spicy foods (such as curry) not only contain capsaicin from the chilies used, but also other cancer fighting ingredients. Specifically turmeric contains curcumin which has been proven to have cancer fighting qualities. 
  • Weight Loss for a Healthier Body: Study after study has proven that adding spicy food to our diets increases our metabolism, this in turn helps us burn more energy or calories. (Of course this is all within reason, intaking too many calories for our bodies even after consuming spicy food will not help in weight loss.) According to WebMD “…capsaicin has been show to boost metabolism as well as suppress appetite, at least slightly…Piperine (found in dried black pepper) may prevent new fat cells from forming…” 
  • Keep Cooler in Hot Weather and Warm in Cold Weather: When we eat spicy food our body temperature rises. “…If you are living in a hot climate, the increase in body temperature can make you feel cooler by diminishing the difference between you and the surrounding air and by inducing sweating, which cools the body when the perspiration evaporates.” I live in the Tropics and can personally tell you that this is true, spicy food is a must for fighting off the heat. 

           Now that we know that spicy food raises our body temperatures, we can safely    deduct that this greatly helps during the cold winter months.

  • Eases Congestion: Winter is right around the corner, and so are stuffy noses. Whether they are brought on by a cold, flu, the dry winter air or the lack of humidity caused by the use of heating units; you don’t always need to reach for the medicine cabinet. Eating something spicy helps break up the congestion by making our noses run. You will instantly be able to blow your nose and find relief — even if only temporary. Try eating a spicy curry, salsa, horseradish, ginger, wasabi, spicy mustard or your favorite chile pepper. 
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