Mild, medium, hot, or on fire – how do you take your food?
Those who opt for the spicier options may be onto something when it comes to their health.
Some proponents of naturopathic medicine say that eating spicy foods has health benefits that many people don’t realize.
So what makes food taste spicy?
Why do some people LOVE to spice things up when they eat?
And what are the benefits of “kicking it up a notch” when it comes to spice?
Keep reading to find out.
What Makes Food Spicy?
Have you ever wondered why spicy food, such as a pepper, that may feel normal when you touch it with your hands, will feel so spicy when it hits your tongue?
Why such an innocuous looking veggie can make your eyes water?
It all has to do with how capsaicin – the active ingredient in spicy food – binds to the receptors on your tongue.
There are special receptors in our mouth called VR1 Receptors that are meant to detect heat – to warn us against consuming foods that will burn us.
But these special receptors also bind to capsaicin – and as a result, when they’re activated, the sensation is similar to that of consuming food that is hot in temperature.
There is nothing really “hot” about hot foods – it’s all an illusion caused by confused receptors.
Why Do We Love Spicy Food?
Despite the burning sensation left in our mouths by spice, some people just cannot get enough.
Do you ever wonder why it is that some people look at a plate full of “suicide wings” as a challenge to be conquered?
A 2012 study in the journal Psychiatry Investigation showed that the main component of red peppers – capsaicin – causes the brain to release endorphins, which causes analgesic (pain-relieving) effect in humans.
So, after the initial burning sensation, it could actually cause reduction of pain.
Researchers have even developed creams with capsaicin in them to help treat arthritis pain.
This explains why some people just can’t get enough spice in their life.
On a side note, if you happen to over-do it, reach for milk or peanut butter – these will help dissolve capsaicin better than water.
Health Benefits Of Eating Spicy Food
So we like spicy food and it can make us feel good.
But is there a reason beyond just “feeling good” to break out the peppers?
Some benefits of spicy food may include assisting with weight loss, helping to prevent cancer and keeping your heart healthy.
Let’s take a closer look:
1. Weight Loss
Although there is no “magic-bullet” for weight loss, if shedding some pounds is your goal spicy foods might help.
Some studies suggest that capsaicin, a key compound in chili, can help warm up the body and assist in burning excess calories.
If you’re looking for a natural solution for weight loss contact the Mindful Healing Clinic to discuss your options.
2. Anti-Cancer Properties
Capsaicin may also help you reduce your cancer risk.
Research from the American Association for Cancer Research in combination with Harvard University found that capsaicin can kill certain types of cancerous and leukemic cells.
Turmeric in particular may also slow the growth of cancer cells and tumours.
For the most benefit, pair turmeric with black pepper to help increase absorption.
3. Heart Health
Eating spicy food can be great for your heart.
The effects of LDL (“bad cholesterol”) are lowered by chili peppers, and capsaicin may help with inflammation.
Additionally, red peppers are a great source of vitamins A and C which strengthens the walls of the heart muscles.
The heat of spicy foods can also increase blood flow.
Contact The Mindful Healing Clinic
Want to learn more about how adding some spice to your diet can help you?
Contact me, Dr. Maria Cavallazzi at the Mindful Healing Clinic.
You’ll get a chance to sit down with me and talk about your diet, your health concerns, and any other questions you may have about naturopathic medicine.
From there, we can build a plan to help you reap the benefits of adding some spice to your life.
There are some drawbacks to eating spicy food as well, though – hot peppers certainly aren’t for everyone.
We’ll talk about that more in our next article.
Until next time,
Dr. Maria Cavallazzi is a medical doctor from Colombia where she practiced as a family physician for 8 years until she moved to Canada 16 years ago and became a naturopathic doctor in Mississauga.