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The Top 10 Health Benefits of Spicy Foods

Did you know that spicy foods not only taste delicious, they have health benefits too?

Spicy foods have become increasingly more popular over the years. In fact, more than 62 percent of people say they enjoy spicy food. But sizzling hot fare can do so much more than just turn up the heat on some of your favorite foods and make them more scrumptious. It turns out that spicy foods actually confer a number of health benefits.

Weight Loss

A study out of Purdue University found that participants who ate spicy food burned more calories than the control group, which consumed non-spicy foods. The group that ate the spicy food also expressed that they felt less hunger and fewer cravings for sweet, salty, or high-fat foods afterwards. A study out of Canada found that when participants put hot sauce on their appetizers, they actually took in 200 fewer calories when they got their entrée than their hot-sauce-fearing peers. Capsinoids, compounds in chile peppers that provide heat, also helps stimulate production of brown fat, which boosts your metabolism.

Previous studies have found spicy food can suppress your appetite. Researchers believe the capsaicin found in chiles are responsible for the thermogenic effect on your body post-meal. A study published in the New York Times has shown that eating spicy foods can bolster your metabolism in the short term by about 8 percent, and ups fat burning by nearly 16 percent — not too shabby, or flabby!

A Healthy Heart

In cultures where spicy food is most commonly eaten, people have fewer heart attacks and strokes. Scientists believe the capsaicin in hot peppers and sauces made from them helps reduce chronic inflammation, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Capsaicin also helps prevent cholesterol accumulation in your body by multiplying its breakdown rate. Cutting up a chile pepper into your dishes can also help cut your risk of heart disease by reducing the damage that LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) does to your body. Additionally, capsaicin blocks a specific gene that is responsible for narrowing your arteries, thereby upping flow to your blood vessels.

Cancer Killer

The American Association for Cancer Research mentions that the capsaicin that gives chile peppers their signature heat can kill off some cancer cells, particularly leukemia cells. Additionally, the spice turmeric, which is found in certain mustards and curry powder and is responsible for their vibrant color, can hinder the growth rate of cancerous tumors. Studies attribute this to the bioactive compound curcumin, found in turmeric. You increase these powerful health benefits by pairing turmeric with freshly ground black pepper, which increases its bioavailability.

A Longer Life

While there are many factors that contribute to just how long you’ll live, you can jump for joy over jalapenos because they may help add years to your life. Research between Harvard School of Public Health and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences studied the diets of more than 500,00 participants over a 5-year time period and discovered that those who consumed spicy foods six to seven times per week had a whopping 14 percent lower chance of dying early.

Reduces Your Blood Pressure

Hot peppers have dual blood-pressure lowering effects: the heat boosts blood flow throughout your body, and the vitamin A and vitamin C helps to increase the strength of your heart’s wall muscles.

Memory & Mood Booster

Research from the University of California at Los Angeles found that curcumin (found in turmeric, which gives curry powder its color) improved both mood and memory function. A component of black pepper also acts as a diuretic, which helps get rid of bloat that can dampen your mood.

Stress Buster

When you eat spicy foods, your body increases production of feel-good hormones, including serotonin, in an effort to block the pain experienced from the heat. This helps relieve stress.

Congestion Relief

Do you notice your nose dripping after you eat spicy stuff? The capsaicin in hot peppers is very similar to a chemical compound you find in decongestant medicines.

Derail Diabetes

Research has found that eating hot chilies on a regular basis reduces your body’s insulin requirements, thereby reducing your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Pauses Pain

Capsaicin in chiles can help reduce inflammation and pain by draining your body's quantity of substance P, a neuropeptide in nerve cells that carries pain signals to the brain. It also desensitizes your skin’s sensory receptors, which is why it’s a main ingredient in pain-relieving creams.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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