Spicy Foods Offer a “Kick” and Much More

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH; Justin Lam, ABAAHP, FMNM; Carrie Lam, MD


Spicy foods are widely known for the “kick” they offer to our meals. People love eating spicy foods, but they offer much more than just a “kick,” they also provide great health benefits. Hot spices can promote overall health and well-being; additionally, they can help fight cancer and can help increase weight loss. spicy foods are indeed full of hidden health benefits.

The Origins of Spicy Foods

Chicken curry, an example of spicy foodsPeople have eaten spicy food for thousands of years. Most recently, remnants of garlic mustard seeds were found carbonized as food deposits on prehistoric pottery that dates back to 5300 BCE- 3950 BCE. The pottery originates from the Ertebölle culture, a hunter-gatherer culture from the Mesolithic period.

Additionally, flavors that give a burning or tingling sensation can indicate that a particular food may healthy. Bitterness, however, often represents a signal of toxicity.

What is Considered a “Spicy” Food?

The Scoville Scale is used to determine how hot certain foods are. Although the scale is subjective, it is generally accepted worldwide. Common bell peppers, banana peppers, pimentos, and pepperoncinis, have almost no heat. Jalapeno and Tabasco peppers have between 3,500 and 8,000 Scoville units, where Habaneros, Scotch Bonnets, and Jamaican hot peppers have between 100,000-350,000 of Scoville heat units. Scoville heat units are a measure of the spiciness of foods. It is based on the concentration of capsaicin in the food.

Benefits of Eating Spicy Foods

Here are some of the many benefits that spicy food can provide:

  • Weight Loss. Eating spicy food can make your body burn more calories. The capsaicin found in spicy foods has been proven to increase your metabolism anywhere from 5 to 8%. It also increases the burning of brown fat up to 16%.

    Eating spicy foods has also been shown to decrease food cravings and appetite. This can help lower the number of calories a person intakes. A study conducted in Canada supplied a group of men with appetizers consisting of a spicy hot sauce and found that they consumed 200 calories less than those who did not use hot sauce. Also, using hot sauce or adding chopped jalapenos can make some bland diet foods even tastier. Tasty foods lead to fewer cravings which can help a person stick with their diet. Through thermogenesis food such as hot chilies can have you burning calories for 20 minutes after consumption.

  • Hearth Health: Cultures that eat spicier foods have been shown to have fewer occurrences of cardiovascular diseases such as strokes and heart attacks. Why? It is believed that the foods they primarily consume such as jalapenos, cayenne peppers, and red chili peppers lower cholesterol levels and fight inflammation. The accumulation of cholesterol in the body decreases as it gets broken down quickly.

    Capsaicin also blocks a gene that narrows the arteries thus increasing the blood flow in the vessels. With the blood vessels dilating, blood pressure can be lowered and help prevent blood clots. The heat the body produces from eating spicy foods also increases blood flow.

    Many spicy foods also include vitamins A and C, which strengthen the heart muscle walls. All of the above can equal a mighty strong cardiovascular system!

  • Capsaicin in spicy foods

  • Fighting Cancer: Capsaicin and turmeric, both found in hot spicy foods can help fight cancer in addition to slowing it’s spread and growth. They have even been proven to have the same effects as certain cancer drugs. Capsaicin was found to kill 80% of prostate cancer cells in mice, blocking cancer cells, and leaving normal cells unharmed.

    However, further studies are needed on humans. Eating spicy foods as a treatment for cancer is not recommended. However, the cancer blocking and fighting characteristics of turmeric and capsaicin can benefit your overall health and wellbeing in a significant way.

  • Pain Relief: If you suffer from pain from arthritis or headaches, creams with capsaicin as an active ingredient can help with the pain.
  • Immune Building: Spicy foods such as hot peppers and horseradish have high levels of Vitamin C which may help treat symptoms of the common cold and boost the immune system.
  • Longevity: A study conducted on the eating habits of 50,000 people ages 30-79 living in China, it was found that people who ate spicy foods almost every day had a 14% decrease in their risk of dying early.

Spicy foods can help with cancer prevention, weight loss, and cardiovascular health. additionally, vitamins and minerals in fresh peppers and chilies provide excellent health benefits.

How Many Spicy Foods Do You Need to Eat to Get the Benefits?

Spicy foods offer many benefits; it is recommended that you try to include hot peppers and turmeric in your diet at least 2 to 3 times a week.

Spicy foods aren’t for everyone. If you want the benefits they offer, but can’t tolerate the taste, you have a few options. You could try mixing the spice with yogurt or something that lines the stomach wall, or you may want to try taking a curcumin or capsaicin supplement. If eating them raw is a challenge, nutritionists have found that the spices still retain their health benefits if sauteed or cooked.

When to Avoid Spicy Foods

Spicy foods have amazing benefits. However, there is a period in people’s lives when they should be avoided. Sufferers of many ailments such as Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome, or various gastrointestinal diseases such as heartburn, ulcers, bowel disorders or hiatal hernias need to exert caution with certain spices. Although there is not a significant amount of data available for the harm that can be done, some people can experience severe stomach cramping of gastrointestinal burning when they eat spicy foods. People with chronic heartburn or ulcers are often more likely to experience symptoms of heartburn from spicy food. Refraining from eating them if your body reacts is usually wisest.

Avoid spicy foods when you have Adrenal Fatigue or gastrointestinal issuesIt is also highly recommended to avoid some spices during a period of cleansing or recovery as they can over stimulate the liver. When recovering from Adrenal Fatigue, or other organ or gland disruption you may want to avoid eating spicy foods. Instead it may be better to choose foods that provide a healthy stream of nutrients that your body can easily process.

Spicy foods also tend to heat the body. Although their benefits are being contributed to longevity in the parts of the world where they are a staple of people’s diet. It is important to understand that they can also cause harm those who are injured or not well adjusted to spices.. Acidity and heat are bad for the liver. Spicy foods tends to heat the body, it is very important to avoid these stressors when the body is under pressure.

Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome and Turmeric

There are some hot spices such as Turmeric that may not need to be avoided, and can actually make a world of difference for those with Adrenal Fatigue or health problems. Turmeric, known as the miracle spice, has a wide variety of health benefits. It can be a great part of a diet that can heal stress-induced damage, improve the immune system, decrease inflammation , and promote healthy liver function. With proper usage and guidance from a professional, turmeric can help a person reach their health and wellness goals.

If you have a craving or preference for spicy food, there are many countries that have hot spices as a staple of their diet. Spices can be found locally at grocery stores and restaurants. Unless you have medical reasons not to eat spicy foods, you may want to give them a try because of their amazing health benefits.

 
© Copyright 2018 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.


Dr. Lam’s Key Question

Eating spicy foods have an extreme amount of benefits. However, one must be certain that the spice they choose to eat does indeed correlate with their symptoms. A spice like turmeric has indeed shown to be beneficial for those suffering from AFS.

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