Sunday, October 26, 2014

Turn up the heat: The benefits of spicy food

When it comes to spicy foods, most people run for the hills. The mere idea of eating anything with a jalapeno, chili pepper or even some of that extra hot sauce at Taco Bell makes their tongue tingle and eyes water. However, these spicy foods have some great health benefits that make the heat worth the handle.

For starters, that kick of extra fire in your mouth can help you shed some extra pounds. According to an article by Jenny Everett on Self magazine’s website titled “5 Hidden Health Benefits to Spicy Foods,” spicy food can speed up your metabolism. Capsaicin, an active ingredient in chili peppers and sweet red peppers, increases internal heat production, allowing the body to burn extra calories up to 20 minutes after eating. People who eat spicier foods also tend to eat smaller portions, which reduces their caloric intake.

Not only can they help you lose weight, but eating spicy foods can help relieve congestion by stimulating secretions in the nose and chest. According to The George Mateljan Foundation, a nonprofit organization that discovers and promotes healthy eating, chili peppers can also be a great source of vitamin A.

“Often called the anti-infection vitamin, vitamin A is essential for healthy mucous membranes, which line the nasal passages, lungs, intestinal tract and urinary tract and serve as the body’s first line of defense against invading pathogens,” the George Mateljan Foundation website stated.

The vitamin A in spicy foods can also help promote heart health and lower blood pressure.

“Vitamins A and C strengthen the heart muscle walls, and the heat of the pepper increases blood flow throughout your body. All of this equals a stronger cardiovascular system,” Everett stated on the Self magazine website.

Not only can spicy foods keep you physically healthy, they can provide mental health as well. Chili peppers boost the level of two chemicals endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers, and serotonin, which works to fight depression and lift mood.

So, how can you get these spicy foods so you can start reaping these numerous health benefits? Start by adding spice to your food—be it pepper flakes to your pizza, jalapenos to your sandwich or hot sauce to just about anything. Also, try foods from Southeast Asia, such as India or Malaysia, which often use many spices such as turmeric, chili powder or curry powder.

Not feeling bold enough to try exotic cuisine? Try taking baby steps. Next time you’re at Buffalo Wild Wings and are choosing which sauce to get on your wings, feel free to go up to the next level of heat. Just make sure to have a pitcher of water close by.

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