At Chula’s Cantina, we love cooking and eating all kinds of spicy Mexican food. We have often wondered why it is that we enjoy spicy food as much as we do. For some, the rush of heat is exciting while bold flavors attract others. No matter if you love or hate it, eating spicy food provides certain health benefits that you might be surprised to learn about. We are able to ignore our instinct to avoid these foods because we know they won’t actually kill us. Here are four health benefits of spicy food.
Capsaicin, the compound that makes spicy peppers such as jalapenos, cayenne peppers and other chili peppers spicy, can lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. According to a study by the American Chemical Society, capsaicin lowers cholesterol by reducing the accumulation of cholesterol in the body and by increasing its breakdown. It also contributes to a healthier heart by blocking the action of a gene that makes arteries contract, resulting in better blood flow to the heart.
Help Prevent Cancer
The American Association for Cancer Research suggests that capsaicin has the ability to inhibit the growth of certain cancer and leukemic cells. Additionally, studies show that the spice turmeric — which is sometimes used in Mexican cuisine for its rich, yellow color — can slow the spread of cancer and tumor growth because it contains curcumin, Curcumin has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Reduce Cravings, Boost Metabolism
It is believed that eating spicy foods helps curb your appetite and make you feel more satisfied. Studies show that consuming hot peppers, such as cayenne, can help reduce cravings for fatty, sweet, and salty foods. It is also suggested that consuming foods that contain capsaicin may also increase your metabolism. Because eating spicy foods results in an increase in your body temperature, you expend more energy and thus burn more calories.
Feel Better and Live Longer
Studies show that people who eat spicy foods several times a week have a 14 percent lower risk of dying prematurely. This could be due to the combined beneficial factors of capsaicin such as helping to prevent cancer, promoting a healthier heart and assisting in weight loss. Eating spicy foods also helps your body produce serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for maintaining mood balance and helps regulate anxiety and happiness. So it seems that the more spicy food you eat, the happier and longer you may live.
Next time you’re at Chula’s Mexican Restaurant, be sure to add some extra spice to your favorite plate — it’s good for your health!