If you like spicy food, there’s good reason to indulge your cravings, as the spicy chemical in peppers known as capsaicin can greatly improve your health.
Spicy foods get their “heat” from a compound called capsaicin, that can be found in any foods or vegetables with noticeable “heat.” Capsaicin is a compound that protects the peppers from fungal a attack. It’s colorless and odorless, but when you eat it, capsaicin tricks your brain into perceiving heat where it touches your body.
How Hot is Hot?
The amount of capsaicin in a pepper is measured using the Scoville index, where pure capsaicin is rated at 16,000,000. The hottest peppers in the world only measure up to 1.5-1.6 million Scovilles. Jalapenos and cayenne pepper come in at around 8,000 and 50,000, respectively. For beginners to spicy food, start small and add more heat as tolerance increases, you can always add more, and you don’t want to ruin a meal with too much.
Health Benefit’s of Capsaicin
New research into capsaicin’s effects on humans has uncovered many health benefits to enjoying spicy foods. Adding some spice to your favorite foods may not only make them taste better, but may also make you healthier.
Capsaicin has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and has even shown some promise for cancer treatment. Research has shown that capsaicin suppresses the growth of human prostate cancer cells while leaving normal cells unharmed.
Other studies have shown capsaicin intake caused Prostate cancer tumors to shrink by 80% when exposed to capsaicin. Another study found it to destroy lung cancer cells and pancreatic cancer cells without destroying nearby tissue. The capsaicin kills these cancer cells by triggering the cells to commit cell-suicide. It has also been shown to activate cell receptors in your intestinal lining, creating a reaction that lowers the risk of tumors.
Capsaicin’s chemical structure causes the excitation of pain-sensitive nerve endings. Although no actual burn is taking place, the excited neurons release a neurotransmitter called Substance P that transmits the feeling of pain to the brain. This principle of capsaicin has shown its worth as a natural pain reliever by depleting the amount of Substance P, therefore decreasing the number of pain signals sent to the brain.
Capsaicin also works by de-sensitizing sensory receptors in your skin, making capsaicin creams great for relieving arthritis, sore muscles, and even nerve pain. This is also why it’s used in topical pain-relieving creams and patches. It actually has the very intense burning sensation that, ironically, ultimately relieves pain.
Capsaicin has been studied for relieving pain associated with shingles, and HIV-associated neuropathy, although it’s shown promise for treating other types of pain as well. In one study, a man with persistent pain due to wounds from a bomb explosion experienced an 80% reduction in pain symptoms after using a capsaicin (8% is known as high concentration) patch.
Topical treatment with 0.025 percent (low concentration) capsaicin cream has also been found to relieve pain associated with osteoarthritis, with 80% of patients experiencing a reduction in pain after two weeks.
It’s also been shown to help reduce or eliminate burning, stinging, itching, and redness of skin associated with moderate to severe psoriasis.There is even a nasal spray containing capsaicin that significantly reduces nasal allergy symptoms in a 2009 study
Aids Weight Loss
Spicy foods are wonderful for those who want to lose weight because they decrease calorie intake, while they increase satiety, helping you feel full while eating less. Spicy foods help your body burn more calories, shrink fat tissue, lower blood fat levels, and fight fat buildup.
The consumption of capsaicin causes a temporary increase in body temperature, and has a heat potential that can temporarily increase thermogenesis. This is when the body burns fuel such as fat to create heat. providing a beneficial impact on your metabolism and fat-burning potential.
Research suggests that consuming thermogenic ingredients can boost your metabolism by up to 5%, and increase fat burning by up to 16%. It may even help counteract the decrease in metabolic rate that often occurs during weight loss.
If spicy foods agree with you and you enjoy them, they’re excellent to include in your diet, but you might want to limit them in the evening. Spicy foods before bedtime can give you indigestion, making it nearly impossible to get a good night’s sleep. Even if you can eat spicy foods without discomfort, they are still linked to affecting sleep via changes in your body temperature.
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