Is Spicy Food Good for You?

… 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.

1. Gastritis

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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[i] Study presented at the American Chemical Society, San Diego, California, March 27, 2012

[ii] Cancer Res. 2006 Mar 15;66(6):3222-9.

[iii] AJP – Regu Physiol January 2007 vol. 292 no. 1 R77-R85

[iv] J Proteome Res. 2010 Jun 4;9(6):2977-87.

[v] Clin Nutr. 2009 Jun;28(3):260-5. Epub 2009 Apr 3.

Filed Under: Healthy Eating
Written By:  Updated:
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Jesse Cannone, CFT, CPRS, MFT

Jesse is the co-founder and visionary CEO of The Healthy Back Institute®, the world-leading source of natural back pain solutions. His mission as a former back pain sufferer is to help others live pain free without surgery and pharmaceuticals.

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2 thoughts on “Is Spicy Food Good for You?”

  1. Sandy McKay says:

    I have been clicking on Secrets of Effective Weight Loss. It doesn’t seem to ever come up. What should I do?

  2. Admin says:

    Hi Sandy,

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