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Food Myth Friday: Eating Spicy Food Could be Harmful


I remember the first time I ever had a genuinely spicy dish. My ill-fated 14-year-old self ordered the Chili Colorado from El Meson in Chattanooga, TN. The waitress warned me that it's pretty hot. My parents tried to talk me out of it. However, knowing everything at that tender age, I charged ahead with the order. My dad smiled and promised me I'd eat the whole thing no matter what happened. "Of course," I replied with the stupid smirk of youth!

Oh, I ate the whole thing, but the smiles belonged to my parents. Sweat and tears wet my face, and my nose ran freely. I can literally still feel the shocking pain that the capsaicin-loaded dish delivered to my unprepared soul. Though this sounds like an event that would turn me off for life, this was my gateway dish to a love of all things spicy! Good thing too, because spicy food has all sorts of health benefits!

 

Metabolism: All Hail!

That's right! Spicy foods have been shown to speed up your metabolism. If you're new around this neck of the woods, metabolism is the chemical processes that occur within a living organism to maintain life. AKA, the rate at which your body burns calories to stay alive.


Now, when we're talking about spicy food, we're talking about a rise in resting metabolic rate. Resting metabolic rate is the caloric burn your body produces when in a state of rest. Admittedly, the increase is a mild one at best (get it... mild?). Anyhow, eating a flaming butt-ton of spicy food isn't going to just melt the fat off you. However, if you've plateaued, go ahead and give spicy food a go in order to burn a few more calories. The best results seemed to be among those who ate at least one spicy meal five to seven times a week!

 

You Could Live Longer!

That's right! In a joint study between Harvard and The China National Center for Disease Control and Prevention, consuming spicy foods actually decreased your chances of kicking the bucket by 14%.


Spicy foods reportedly decreased the chances of certain cancers, ischemic heart diseases, and even respiratory diseases. Wahoo! Throw some jalapenos on those street tacos por favor! Sad news, though... you'll want to skip the margaritas to harness the full 14% protection that the fuego brings!

 

Natural Anti-Depressant

Ok, if you're legitimately depressed. Seek some help. Jalapenos won't exactly help you here. However, if you've just got a case of the doldrums, then head down to your local Thai restaurant and order it native hot! (Seriously though, be careful if you actually do that... I was a dragon the night I ate it and a rocket ship the next morning if you catch my meaning).

Anyhow the capsaicin (the chemical responsible for the feeling of "heat" in our pie hole) has been shown to work as an endorphin on our bodies. It helps our bodies release natural endorphins, such as serotonin, in response to the pain. This makes us feel naturally better and decreases the "blue" feeling or stress.

 

Aids in Digestion

Now, when we think about eating spicy food, we usually conjure negative images of our digestive tract in the coming hours. However, the opposite can be true. Capsaicin may improve your digestion by increasing the output of digestive fluids in the stomach. Increased digestive juices speed up the digestion process and can actually alleviate diarrhea.

However, make sure you're getting plenty of fiber in the first place. That way, you can avoid the bubble gut issue. HOWEVER, if you have an ulcer or other known preexisting digestive issues, spicy food may aggravate your condition. If you notice any unusual discomfort (outside the normal burn), then reach out to your healthcare provider. Also, always consult with them before taking on any crazy spicy foods if you have even a shred of doubt.

 

This list is the tip of the iceberg but covers the most studied of the beneficial aspects of spicy foods. Imagine it! A plant's natural defense became its most desirable trait. However, maybe the joke's on us! Look at how prolific the humble chili has been thanks to its near mind control of us chile-heads! They've taken over my back flower bed and most of the world.


Who cares!? These things pack a punch of heat and a plethora of perks! Even if you're a bit of a wimp when it comes to heat, go out and try exploring some on the spicy side. I promise that you'll be hooked in no time! Happy heating! I mean, eating!

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