“No pain, no gain” is a mantra frequently heard at the gym, but it may apply in the kitchen too. Although hot sauces come with names like “Satan’s Blood”, “Crazy Jerry’s Brain Damage”, and “Ass Blaster” (all real), they may actually be good for you.
A variety of studies have been conducted on the health benefits of spicy food. Below are five surprising perks of a fiery diet.
#1 Increased Metabolism
It’s no coincidence that you sweat while working out and while eating spicy foods. Multiple studies have linked consumption of capsaicin – the compound that gives hot peppers their kick – with a metabolism boost that can burn extra calories for a short period after you’ve eaten. Researchers at Purdue University also discovered that capsaicin lessened cravings for salty, fatty, and sweet foods, and reduced feelings of hunger overall.
#2 A Stronger Heart
Studies have found that people in countries with spicier diets tend to have fewer heart attacks than those who subsist on milder foods. Hot peppers have been shown to lower heart disease risk by decreasing levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and increasing its “good” counterpart, HDL. There’s also evidence spicy foods can improve circulation and fight inflammation.
#3 Boosted Mood
Spicy foods may make your eyes water, but they’re not tears of sadness. In fact, hot dishes can trigger the production of “happy” hormones in your brain, like serotonin, which makes you better equipped to deal with depression, anxiety, anger, and stress.
#4 Better Brain Function
A naturally-occurring flavonoid called apigenin, found in red pepper, encourages nerve formation and connections between brain cells. Researchers in Brazil found that apigenin shows potency in treating mental health problems like schizophrenia, depression, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. An earlier study found it may also be effective in the prevention of cancer.
A mammoth study in China (involving nearly 500,000 people) concluded that eating spicy foods six to seven times a week may lower your likelihood of death by 14%. Braving the heat once or twice a week resulted in a 10% reduced risk of death. Rates of ischemic heart disease, respiratory diseases, and cancers were all lower in hot-food eaters.