Are Spicy Foods Good for you? Part 2

Life with Spice

spicy foods, capsaicin

As someone who detests spicy foods and is surrounded by friends and family members who adore them, an inquisitive part of me wonders why people eat spicy foods in the first place. Last week we covered what made food spicy in the first place and what sort of scales are being used to determine how spicy a pepper is.  These are a good starting point, but it still leaves two more questions unanswered. “Is spicy food good for you?” and “Can spicy foods be dangerous?” Let’s dive in and figure it out.


Is there a Benefit to Spicy Foods?

While a rush of endorphins come after the feeling of pain, most people don’t go out of their way to seek it out, simulated or otherwise. So, does this mean that spicy foods benefit people in other ways? Is there a reason people try to endure the hottest sauces known to man outside of thrill-seeking? Are spicy foods integral to a balanced diet? The short answer is yes. Spicy foods, specifically the capsaicin does have benefits to your health. These benefits include but are not limited to:


  • Weight Loss –  

“Research suggests that when you eat hot peppers, it increases your body heat, which boosts metabolism up to five percent, and increases fat burning up to 16 percent,” says nutritionist Pamela Peeke, M.D., author of The Hunger Fix: The Three-Stage Detox and Recovery Plan for Overeating and Food Addiction. When your body temperature goes higher, your autonomous processes go faster, such as your circulatory system or your digestive tract. When your autonomous processes start running faster, it needs more energy to burn, hence, you lose a little bit of weight when adding spicy foods to your regular diet.

  • Heart Disease Prevention –

Peppers and Tumeric are both greatly beneficial when it comes to lowering your bad cholesterol and increasing your good cholesterol. Hot peppers also contain antioxidants which are great for people who are worried about aging.  According to Dr. Miller, a professor of cardiovascular medicine, “it can help to reverse damage to blood vessels, and research by my colleagues at the University of Maryland shows that it may help lower cholesterol and prevent bad cholesterol from building up.”

  • Chronic Pain Relief –

Chronic pain is no laughing matter. Whether you have arthritis, or shingles constant pain from autoimmune issues can be problematic for your daily life. However, capsaicin in concentrated amounts have been proven and utilized for pain relief. If you are in a pinch, you could rub any area where you are hurting with a hot pepper. However, over the counter pain creams tend to have a more concentrated amount of capsaicin in them, so doctors recommend them instead.

  • Cancer Prevention – 

Various medical institutions have been conducting various studies to see what sort of elements can possibly prevent the growth of cancer cells. According to one of their contributors the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, 80 percent of prostate cancer cells were killed in mice after they were dosed with concentrated amounts of capsaicin. The normal cells were not disturbed. There has also been evidence of concentrated amounts of capsaicin have been able to kill breast cancer, cervical cancer, and stomach cancer cells.


too spicy, hot
Copyright Fox and Matt Groening

Can You Have Too Much Spice?

Alas, no one can have a perfectly balanced diet with one food group alone, and that includes spice.  Too many hot peppers can at best give you a loss of appetite and at the worst, destroy your gut. Acid reflux is also a consequence of too many peppers. Your small intestine would also have a rough time with gastritis.  Symptoms of gastritis involve vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, fever, and blood in your stool.  While too many peppers could cause death, according to Dr. Bosland, the scenario would most likely not play out. Your body would get sick first before it got fatal. If you want the benefits of spice without too much risk, it is recommended to eat peppers or other spicy foods from 2-3 times a week.