… 5 Top Benefits and 4 Must-See Risks
Do you douse every meal in hot sauce? Does the thought of chili pepper, cayenne pepper, habanero pepper or any hot pepper make your mouth water (in a good way)?
If you love all things hot and spicy, you may be wondering if all of that spicy food is good for you.
As it turns out, you’re in luck. This is one case where you can have your (spicy) cake and eat it too, with only a few (yet important) caveats …
5 Top Health Benefits of Spicy Food
5. It’s Good for Your Heart
Chili peppers contain potent compounds called capsaicinoids (capsaicin and related chemicals) — they’re what give hot peppers their “kick.” When hamsters fed a high-cholesterol diet were also fed food spiced up with capsaicinoids, their levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol declined, as did the plaque in their arteries.[i]
4. Fight Prostate Cancer
Capsaicin has been found to trigger “suicide,” or programmed cell death, in both human and animal prostate cancer cells. The compound caused 80 percent of prostate cancer cells in mice to die, leaving tumors reduced to about one-fifth the size compared to untreated mice.[ii] The mice were fed the human equivalent of three to eight fresh habanera peppers a week.
3. Reduce Inflammation and Pain
Spices such as chili peppers, chili powder and cayenne pepper are powerful natural anti-inflammatories. The capsaicin is once again responsible, working to inhibit Substance P, a neuropeptide that causes nerve fibers to swell and triggers inflammatory processes and pain in your body. Since chronic inflammation is at the root of numerous sources of pain and chronic disease, this is a very good thing.
2. Relieve Migraines and Sinus Infections
Substance P triggers pain and swelling in your trigeminal nerve, which impacts your head, temple and sinuses. Spicy foods that contain capsaicin suppress the production of Substance P, which means they also may provide help for headaches and sinus pain. Spicy foods may also help to clear out your sinuses.
1. Lose Weight
Capsaicin is a thermogenic substance, which means it increases thermogenesis in your body, boosting fat-burning and metabolism. Studies have shown capsaicin may help reduce body fat [iii] and body weight in rats fed a high-fat diet,[iv] and may even help suppress hunger and improve satiety in humans.[v]
There are Some Spicy Food Risks, Too
4. Before Bedtime
If you eat spicy foods too close to bedtime, then lay down, it can cause or exacerbate heartburn or acid reflux. It’s better to keep your spicy food binge to earlier in the day instead.
3. If You Have a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
Spicy foods may irritate your bladder and make symptoms of a UTI worse, so it’s best to lay off the spice until your bladder heals.
2. Geographic Tongue
This condition — a map-like pattern of red patches on parts of your tongue where the papillae are missing — is harmless but can cause burning or pain in some people. Often, these symptoms are triggered by spicy foods, which should be limited or avoided to provide relief.
Gastritis, an inflammation of your stomach lining, can often be caused by eating spicy foods. This can lead to symptoms like upset stomach, belching, hiccups, burning in your stomach or even nausea and vomiting.
If you experience gastritis symptoms after eating spicy foods, it’s best to avoid them.
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