Spicy chili, salsas, and sauces get their heat from fresh or dried chili peppers such as jalapenos, habaneros, and shishito peppers.
Capsaicin is the compound found in chili peppers that causes the burning sensation you feel when you eat something spicy. Research credits capsaicin for the health benefits of spicy food.
If you need a reason to experiment with more spice, here are 4 proven health benefits of eating spicy food.
Supports Weight Loss
Eating spicy food could help you shed unwanted pounds by:
1. Boosting metabolism.
Capsaicin raises resting energy expenditure (REE), or the baseline amount of calories your body burns before factoring in physical activity. Weight loss occurs when you burn more energy than you eat, so an increase in metabolic rate increases the likelihood of losing weight.
Capsaicin actually stimulates your body to produce more heat. It does this by targeting brown adipose tissue, which is a type of fat responsible for producing heat to maintain your body’s core temperature and protect your organs from cold. This process uses energy, which may explain how spicy foods bump up metabolism.
2. Decreasing hunger.
If you find yourself still hungry after a meal, adding spice can help counter your appetite. For starters, it’s hard to over indulge on spicy food since a little heat goes a long way.
Besides the burning sensation your tastebuds experience, spicy foods can help you eat less by increasing satiety. Researchers believe capsaicin may act on the hypothalamus, the part of your brain responsible for sending you hunger and fullness signals.
3. Triggering fat burn.
There’s evidence that capsaicin reduces the creation of new fat cells and increases the breakdown of existing fat cells. Less fat being stored in your body equals a decrease in your overall weight.
Supports Healthy Digestion
It may seem counterintuitive that spicy foods benefit digestion, since many people associate heartburn with spicy food. However, research suggests that capsaicin improves the bacteria in your digestive system—aka your gut microbiome. Having a healthy microbiome is linked to improved digestion, decreased inflammation, enhanced immunity, and weight loss.
Supports Overall Health
Capsaicin works as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant in the body, which means spicy foods may offer some protection against serious health concerns and chronic disease. Research has found individuals who regularly eat spicy food are less likely to develop or die from chronic illness, like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.
Many heat-seekers say spicy food triggers an endorphin rush. The answer lies in the nervous system. The spicy burning sensation prompts a pain response and the brain releases feel-good compounds to counteract that pain, which may raise your spirits.
How to Include More Spicy Foods
If spicy food makes you think of buffalo wings and jalapeno poppers, you might be wondering: is spicy food healthy?
Fried foods like these are high in fat and calories and best enjoyed in moderation. Cooking with a variety of fresh or dried chili peppers or spices like red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper can be a healthy way to up your spice intake.
If you’re not used to eating or cooking with chili peppers, it can be intimidating to know where to start. Too much spice can overpower a dish, set your mouth on fire to the point of being uncomfortable, and cause digestive upset, like heartburn and diarrhea.
Try adding a mild pepper, like poblano, jalapeno, or a pinch of red pepper flakes, to chili, soups, and stir frys. If you’re cooking for others who don’t like spice, snacks are a great opportunity to sneak in some extra spice.
Chomps meat sticks are a healthy protein-packed snack. Each flavor has a 3-point spice rating so it’s easy to choose a meat stick with the right amount of spice for your tastes.
For a subtle spicy snack that’s not too hot, try Chomps Jalapeno Beef or Jalapeno Turkey meat sticks. Both of these flavors are made with jalapenos, black pepper, and red pepper and are rated a 2 out of 3 on the spice scale.
If you’re looking for maximum spice, Chomps Cranberry Habanero Beef is rated as a 3 on the spice scale.
Not everyone loves the heat of spicy food, but adding a bit of spice to your food can actually support your health. The health benefits of spicy foods are maximized when capsaicin-containing foods are routinely eaten. Don’t worry—you don’t have to start pouring copious amounts of hot sauce on your meals or ordering the 5-alarm chili.
Try adding chili peppers to recipes made with lean protein, vegetables, and whole grains.
Chomps meat snacks made with chili peppers are another healthy way to spice up your life. They can be eaten by themselves or added to other dishes, like tacos and salads, for a touch of spice. Stock up on spicy meat at the Chomps store.