Should You Eat More or Less Spicy Food?

There are countless theories floating around about the health benefits and risks of eating a lot of spicy food. There are ideas that eating spicy food is great for warming the body in cold weather and to help when you have a cold. Many know from personal experience that as delicious as a spicy dinner might be, there might be bathroom issues later. Many people frequently eat spicy meals because of cultural cuisine norms and taste preferences. This article looks at the science behind these kinds of food and what studies and research have found to be the pros and cons of such a diet.

The Pros

A lot can be said about the benefits of eating spicy food and the good news is that this is fully backed by science. There are several health benefits that have been linked to capsaicin, a chemical compound found in different peppers and especially chili peppers. It is an antioxidant and has anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. Capsaicin has been linked to reducing the risk of tumors. In a study in the American Institute for Cancer Research, it was found the capsaicin killed as much as 80% of prostate cancer cells in mice. This could explain why people in regions which enjoy a lot of spicy food regularly show lower rates of some kinds of cancer.

Spicy foods have also been found to aid in weight loss and in the fight against obesity. Eating spicy foods can help you feel more satisfied by what you eat which can translate to eating less. Capsaicin has also been found to increase metabolism and fat burning in the body by as much as five percent and 15 percent respectively. So with spicy foods, you can take in fewer calories and burn more calories.

In addition to capsaicin in chili peppers which has been the subject of many studies, other spices have also shown great benefits. For example, black pepper contains a compound called piperine and has been shown to decrease the growth of new fats cells and promote the burning of calories, and mustard seeds increase the rate of metabolism.

The Cons

As with everything, moderation is key. Eating too much spicy food late at night has been linked with indigestion and difficulties getting a good night’s rest. Also, if you are already prone to heartburn and ulcers, a spicy diet can make these worse. Capsaicin is classed as an irritant and can act as a laxative for many. Many people are more sensitive to spicy foods such as those with conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and Crohn’s disease as shown by a British Medical Journal study.

So, if you are someone who has stayed clear of spicy foods because of myths about how bad it is for your stomach, it may be time to reevaluate the facts. Taken in moderation, studies have shown that they are many great benefits you can enjoy that far outweigh the cons. Naturally, you should also pay attention to other factors such as other health conditions and medications that you may have that could be interfered with by consuming spicy foods.

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