Spicy foods: how they can affect your body

We take a look at the pros and cons of eating spicy foods.

woman in the kitchen holding chillis and onion

Many people have a love­–hate relationship with spicy foods. Whether you’re in the for or against camp, spicy foods can have both positive and negative effects on your body – sometimes simultaneously.

Let’s begin with the pros of eating spicy foods.

You’ll live longer and look younger

There have been studies that show spicy foods can help you live longer. One such study, involving 500,000 people surveyed by Harvard and Peking university researchers, found that people who eat spicy foods each day actually reduce their risk of premature death by 14 per cent compared with those who only eat spicy meals once per week.

New York gastroenterologist Dr Prem Chattoo believes that spicy foods can also help slow down the ageing process, because of the increased blood flow throughout the body. This means your skin will look and feel more youthful.

Reduces the risk of tumours

Capsaicin, a chemical compound found in chilli peppers, has excellent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and has also been known to help suppress the growth of human prostate cancer. It has also shown promise in fighting breast, pancreatic and bladder cancer, but you may need to eat eight habanero peppers per week to enjoy that benefit.

Promotes healing

Spicy foods, specifically those that contain chilli peppers, are packed with vitamins A and C amongst others, as well as antioxidants that help boost your immune system and fight off colds. The added heat from spicy food improves blood flow and increases circulation, which can assist in preventing heart disease by improving cardiac blood vessel strength, and its antibacterial properties can also help promote healing. The anti-inflammatory properties in chilli also ease the symptoms of arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

It’s good for your sex life

Chilli peppers relax your arteries and increases blood flow to your, ahem, downstairs region. Other spices such as ginseng and saffron are also great for improved sex life – they’re an aphrodisiac of sorts. Ginseng, especially, can help boost your performance between the sheets.

It’s a brilliant brain booster

The antioxidants in spicy foods may help to boost your brainpower. Herbs and spices such as ginger, cinnamon, basil, parsley and vanilla have also been the subject of many brain- and memory-related studies. A recent study by Swinburne University of Technology also found that the spice extract curcumin, which is found in turmeric, could be linked to remarkable improvements in levels of fatigue and memory.

Now let’s have a look at the cons of consuming spicy foods.

Makes you sweat

Okay, so this one isn’t all bad, but the capsaicin in spicy foods really heats up your body, which will most likely make you sweaty. Now, that may not look great in a meeting with friends, but if it’s hot outside, raising your body temperature to match the outside temperature (i.e. the weather) may actually make you feel cooler. Ever wondered why countries such as Mexico and India eat so much spicy food? Well, now you have the answer.

Not the best for heartburn

If you suffer from heartburn, reflux or stomach ulcers, you may want to lay off the chilli. But if you’re one to forego the short-term comfort of feeling like you can keep your food down for the long-term benefits of eating spicy foods, then you can offset your reflux with a side of cooked or raw vegetables, yoghurt or sour cream. That’s why the Indians drink lassi (a yoghurt-based drink) after their curry, and why sour cream goes so well with Mexican foods.

Curtails your tastebuds

If you eat spicy foods all the time, chances are that, after a while, you’ll keep wanting your food spicier and spicier with each meal. That’s because eating spicy foods deadens your tastebuds. And if you keep on making your food spicier just so you get that ‘deep burn’, you may find you do more harm than good, especially when you consider the next point.

Irritates your stomach

Capsaicin may sound as if it’s a wonder foodstuff, but it does have a downside too. The major factor against capsaicin is that it can be a brutal irritant if overeaten, or if the peppers you are eating are just too hot for your constitution. Spicy foods do have a tendency to do damage to the lining of your stomach, and can irritate ulcers, or even cause them. This irritation can also lead to gastritis or other intestinal disorders.

Things can get ‘a bit runny’

No one wants to talk about what comes out the other end, so we’ll go into very little detail, partly because most people will have had this ‘experience’ with hot foods. Yes, spicy foods can cause diarrhoea, they can also cause irritable bowel syndrome and they can even exacerbate haemorrhoids – or just make your back alley a bit ‘burn-y’. Let’s leave it there, shall we?

So, eaten responsibly, spicy foods have some far-reaching health benefits that should not be discounted. In fact, looking back over this piece, I’d say the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks, but that’s for you and your doctor, dietician or nutritionist to decide.

Read more at www.today.com
Read more at Women’s Health

Do you enjoy spicy foods? What’s your favourite spicy dish? Now that you know of the benefits of eating spicy foods, will you eat more?

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    COMMENTS

    To make a comment, please register or login
    MICK
    8th Mar 2016
    10:31am
    I read a long time ago that too many chillies (I love 'em and grow then too) can cause stomach cancer. Not sure if that is an old wive's tale. Any bites?
    Polly Esther
    8th Mar 2016
    2:12pm
    Believe that and you'll believe anything, and no, it's actually an old husbands tale. Now there's a bite for you mick. :-)
    Troubadour
    8th Mar 2016
    12:15pm
    I used to put capsicum in lots of recipes - but sadly 18 months ago I discovered (via my Dr)
    that this was most likely causing my oesophagitis to flare up and get worse - since not having
    capsicum or chillies, I have been much better. So have had to forego some of my more spicy favourites!!
    Lecheman
    8th Mar 2016
    3:01pm
    Alas due to the number of painkillers I take, spicy food is something I can only take occasionally. My biggest weaknesses are the Indian and Burmese/Thai foods and the temptation is a constant battle.
    Mick - not too sure about cancer and chillies but I do remember many years ago the science mob telling us how eggs and bacon could cause cancer too - did that stop people? Macka's and their kin are alive 'n' well!

    8th Mar 2016
    7:15pm
    Leon, your hint for increasing one's sexual prowess by eating chillies for increased blood flow, I take it, is for us males. So we (if need be) risk the side effects of reflux, hemorroids, and diarrhoea whilst the good lady sips ginseng or samples saffron. There has to be an easier way for a hard result. Yes?


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