Spicy food is either immensely loved or passionately hated – there’s rarely an in between. But whatever side you might be on, here are some facts about spicy food that are sure to strengthen your feelings toward it. With innumerable takers for hot food (time for a Carolina Reaper, anyone?), it’s important to know what it does to your body.
Pros Of Eating Spicy Food
1. Fights Cold
Remember grandma’s advice to eat spicy food whenever you have a bad cold? Turns out, this remedy is actually rooted in science. Small amounts of spicy food are known to stimulate lung function and provide energy to the body. They also make the mucus thinner and allow you to cough it up. To add to it, spicy peppers are also rich in antioxidants, which are useful in the treatment of coughs and colds.1 2 3
2. Boosts Metabolism
You’ve heard of this one before, but ever wondered if it’s true? Well, most researchers believe that spicy food can increase the metabolic rate by up to 8%. But it’s still unclear whether this effect of spicy food lasts for a substantial period of time.4 5
3. Makes You Break A Sweat
Neither is it summer nor are you hitting the gym but still sweating a lot lately? Perhaps, the hot Indian food you had the night before is to blame! Spicy food often contains capsaicin, a chemical that causes gustatory sweating. You might have noticed that spicy food is more popular in regions with a warm climate. This is because the evaporation of sweat actually induces a cooling response, explaining why people from a warmer climatic zone prefer spicy food.6
4. Turns Up The Heat In The Bedroom
Spicy food turns up the heat not only within your body but also in the bedroom. Believed to be a natural aphrodisiac, spicy food can make you want to get down and dirty with your partner. It can make you warm, increase your heart rate, stimulate nerve endings, and enhance blood flow. And since these responses resemble the physical responses encountered during sex, spicy food boosts your sex drive.7
5. Promotes Weight Loss
With reports stating that obesity can increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and blood pressure, it is important to maintain a healthy body weight. According to studies, spicy foods contain thermogenic elements (like capsaicin) that increase the heat generated by your body. These thermogenic ingredients can effectively promote weight loss and reduce obesity.8 9 If you’re aiming at a healthy weight-loss routine, adding some spicy food to your diet might actually help!
Cons Of Eating Spicy Food
Apart from these amazing health benefits, spicy foods can be a tad bit harmful to you too. This is more likely if you’re not used to eating spicy foods or if you’re allergic to them. Here are a few ways in which spicy foods can set fire to your health.
1. Causes Diarrhea
As amazing as the perks of spicy food might be, it also has certain downsides – one of them being diarrhea. Foods that burn your mouth can also irritate the lining of your intestine and stomach. This results in food passing through your gastrointestinal tract more quickly, causing you to run to the loo every few minutes (especially if you’re not accustomed to eating spicy food).
2. Kills Your Taste Buds
Have you realized that every time you eat large quantities of spicy food, your taste buds go numb? Although this effect is temporary, spicy food can make your taste buds insensitive. Capsaicin, the chemical in spicy foods that causes sweating, is also responsible for the numbness in your mouth.
3. Aggravates Sensitive Skin
Spicy food often causes your skin to break out into pimples or rashes. With such foods being responsible for over 2% of all food allergies, it’s no wonder that they can cause allergy-like reactions. If your skin is particularly sensitive, spicy food can also cause itching and inflammation.
Apart from these reactions, spicy foods are also believed to worsen heartburns and disrupt your sleep patterns. However, there is no scientific evidence to support these beliefs.
From the Bahamas to southern Peru, humans have had a taste bud for spicy food for over 6,000 years now.10 Spicy foods have been around even before the discovery of chili peppers by Christopher Columbus in 1493.11 And today, we have cultivated several hundred types of spices and have mastered the art of cooking hot, spicy food. In fact, Carolina Pepper, the hottest pepper in the world, is said to be 3200 times spicier than your average Jalapeno!
The pros of eating spicy food far outweigh its cons. So, don’t give up on any of your spicy dishes or grandma’s recipes. Just ensure that your body can actually take these yummy foods and digest it.
|↑1||Cardoza, Steven. Chinese Holistic Medicine in Your Daily Life: Combine Acupressure, Herbal Remedies & Qigong for Integrated Natural Healing. Llewellyn Worldwide, 2017.|
|↑2||Frazier, Karen. Nutrition Facts: The Truth About Food. Callisto Media Inc, 2015.|
|↑3||Gülçin, İlhami. “The antioxidant and radical scavenging activities of black pepper (Piper nigrum) seeds.” International journal of food sciences and nutrition 56, no. 7 (2005): 491-499.|
|↑4||Mahan, L. Kathleen, Sylvia Escott-Stump. Krause’s Food, Nutrition, & Diet Therapy. Saunders, 2004.|
|↑5, ↑9||Joo, Jeong In, Dong Hyun Kim, Jung-Won Choi, and Jong Won Yun. “Proteomic analysis for antiobesity potential of capsaicin on white adipose tissue in rats fed with a high fat diet.” Journal of proteome research 9, no. 6 (2010): 2977-2987.|
|↑6||Fattorusso, Ernesto. Orazio Taglialatela-Scafati. Modern Alkaloids: Structure, Isolation, Synthesis, and Biology. John Wiley & Sons, 2008.|
|↑7||Omondi, Ibrahim. Changing the Political Landscape of a Nation. Mvule Africa Publishers, 2011.|
|↑8||Hursel, R., and M. S. Westerterp-Plantenga. “Thermogenic ingredients and body weight regulation.” International journal of obesity 34, no. 4 (2010): 659.|
|↑10||Perry, Linda, Ruth Dickau, Sonia Zarrillo, Irene Holst, Deborah M. Pearsall, Dolores R. Piperno, Mary Jane Berman et al. “Starch fossils and the domestication and dispersal of chili peppers (Capsicum spp. L.) in the Americas.” Science 315, no. 5814 (2007): 986-988.|
|↑11||Chili: Small Fruit Sets Global Palettes on Fire. YaleGlobal, Yale University.|