• 29/05/2024 13:44

What are the benefits of spicy food: is it really better than regular food?

You've probably heard that a diet rich in spices has health benefits. Some claim they can have a positive effect on the gut microbiome, while hot peppers such as cayenne pepper contain capsaicin, a compound known to reduce inflammation in the body. But is this true? What are the benefits of spicy food?

ContentWhat are the health benefits of spicy food? How to eat spicy food? Who should avoid spicy food?

WomanEL is happy to share with you the opinion of Aneka Godart, a functional nutrition therapist from the London longevity clinic HUM2N.

What are the health benefits of spicy food

In addition to feeding healthy bacteria in your gut, adding spices to your food can provide additional nutrients that you can't get anywhere else. “Adding a little spice to food isn't just great for flavor,” explains Godart. “Some spices, such as turmeric, have anti-inflammatory effects. While others have antimicrobial properties, such as cinnamon and cloves. This makes them beneficial for overall immunity.”

And the benefits don’t end there. The capsaicin found in chili peppers (the component that gives them their spicy flavor) has been found to act as an antioxidant, reducing the number of harmful free radicals in the body. Why is it important? They contribute to the development of diseases such as cancer, heart disease and autoimmune diseases.

“Spices can also promote heart health by helping to lower blood pressure and cholesterol,” says Godart. Spices that have this effect include ginger, which studies have shown can potentially lower blood pressure and improve risk factors associated with heart disease, along with anti-nausea effects.

Used in cuisines around the world, cumin has also been shown to help lower levels of bad LDL cholesterol in the blood, aid digestion, and act as a rich source of iron.

Godart adds that capsaicin in spices like chili pepper and cayenne pepper has thermogenic properties that provide additional benefits. This compound tricks our nervous system into thinking we are overheating, which triggers the body's cooling system. While this system is not inherently good or bad for us, it does cause an increase in blood flow and heart rate. Which has been proven to be beneficial in the short term.

How to eat correctly spicy food

How to add spices to dishes to improve health, Source: freepik.com

So, we know that adding spices to your food can bring a lot of benefits. But do these benefits increase as you add more spices, or can there be too much of a good thing? Godart believes that this is the last case.

“As a nutritionist, I would say that when it comes to spices, more is not always better,” she says. “There is a sweet spot where the health benefits of spices like capsaicin in chili peppers are optimized. Eating very spicy foods does not necessarily enhance these benefits and may lead to discomfort or digestive problems in some people.”

As for capsaicin, most studies looking at its benefits have used a dose of 2 to 6 mg. capsaicin per day. But this is when the compound is taken as a supplement rather than through food. It's best not to think about things so precisely; just know thatadding a tablespoon or two of chili pepper to your food can be beneficial.

Indeed, what works best is likely to vary from person to person—it's not a matter of “one size fits all.” Adding spices can add nutritional value to your food, but it's best to use taste to determine how much you need.

“It's about balance and using spices in moderation to improve both the taste of your food and your health,” adds Godart. “Remember that “too spicy” is subjective and varies from person to person, so it’s important to listen to your body’s signals. If you experience pain or discomfort, this is a sign that it is time to reduce your dose.”

Who should avoid spicy food?

People with certain diseases should avoid it. If you are unsure, consult your doctor.

  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.
  • Celiac disease.
  • Stomach ulcers (though spicy foods don't actually cause ulcers).
  • Gall bladder problems.
  • Acid reflux/gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
  • Anal fissures.

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