Spicy foods are not everyone’s cup of tea. The burn that chileheads seek, can often be what many people are running away from. The growing interest in international foods from Thai to Mexican to Indian and African, has made spicy foods more prominent in restaurants and home cooked meals. You may think the burn your mouth feels from spicy foods is telling you it’s not good for you. On the contrary, however, capsaicin, the active ingredient in all chile peppers can have some phenomenal health benefits. Here are 5 benefits of capsaicin and spicy foods that may have you looking to feel the burn.
1) Its a pain reliever — Capsaicin, the ingredient in hot peppers that makes your mouth burn, can actually be used against pain. It is an active ingredient in many topical arthritis creams and has been proven to have positive effects against:
- Pain disorders, including pain after surgery.
- Nervous system problems such as diabetic neuropathy, trigeminal neuralgia, and postherpetic neuralgia (shingles).
- Cluster headaches.
- Joint problems such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Skin conditions such as psoriasis.
- Mouth sores due to chemotherapy or radiation.
2) It can help you lose weight — A 2010 study by the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition shows that “heat generated by peppers can actually cause your body to burn more calories and “oxidize” layers of fat.” This is not a novel concept however. For years Capsaicin has been thought to increase the digestive fluids in your stomach and aid in digestion.
3) It makes you feel good — And I’m not just talking to those people that like spicy food. It has been shown that eating spicy foods (the spicier the better) increases serotonin levels in your brain and releases endorphins. In effect eating spicy food can put you in a better mood!
4) It has antioxidant effects — Although not as thoroughly studied as some of the other benefits of capsaicin, the antioxidant effects found in the compound have been shown to reduce the oxidation of LDL (bad cholesterol) and therefore reduce the risk of heart disease. Capsaicin is even considered to be able to decrease the risk of some cancers based on the lower rate of cancer in countries like India and Mexico where capsaicin is found in significantly higher levels in peoples’ diets.
5) It helps your ulcers — Despite the myth that ulcers are caused by spicy foods, capsaicin may actually be able to kill bacteria that ulcers are caused by in effect preventing or curing ulcers altogether. This fact does not negate that many people do get indigestion or heartburn from spicy food and should still take precautions when eating foods they know to upset their digestion.