Do Spicy Food Lovers Live Longer?

benefits of eating spicy foods

If you enjoy spicing up your meals, then you’re in for some good news. Studies suggest that eating spicy foods may help you live longer. Although research is still ongoing, some findings show that adding an extra kick to your food may provide you with extra health benefits.

In a study published in the British Medical Journal, Harvard researchers found that people who ate spicy foods every day had a 14 percent lower risk of premature death than people who ate them once per week.

The study observed approximately 500,000 healthy adults across China between 2004 and 2008, following up with them about seven years later. While the study didn’t conclude that spicy foods enable people to live longer, it did show that those who consumed spicy foods more often were less likely to have died during that seven year period than those who ate spicy foods less than once a week.

People who regularly consumed spicy foods, especially those flavored with fresh and dried chili peppers, also showed a reduced risk of death from cancer, ischemic heart disease, and respiratory disease. The study suggests that the bioactive ingredient, capsaicin, may be responsible. Capsaicin has been linked to several health benefits such as lowering cholesterol, alleviating inflammatory pain, and boosting metabolism. Studies suggest that it may also have a positive impact on gut bacteria and weight management.

However, additional research is necessary before making any conclusions as to whether or not eating spicy foods protects us from diseases and premature death. While researchers found that the participants who were still alive at the end of the study period ate spicy foods more often, the study did not take into account several factors, including lifestyle and eating habits, food preparation, and the specific spices used, and instead, relied on self-reports.

Still, research looks promising and can give us another reason to add an extra level of flavor to our food. Keep in mind that our spicy diets still need to be healthy ones, filled with many nutrient-rich ingredients. Experiment with spices by adding a kick to a varied, whole food diet with some of these and other recipe ideas:

  • Turkey chili with red pepper flakes
  • Lentil pilaf with spicy curry sauce
  • Homemade whole grain crust pizza with sliced hot peppers
  • Spicy power bowl (brown rice, beans, spinach, tomatoes, avocado with hot pepper sauce)
  • Spicy western omelet with green chili peppers
  • Mexican fajita wrap with hot salsa
  • Spicy fish tacos
  • Toasted whole grain tortillas with spicy guacamole

Remember to not go overboard with the chili peppers and hot sauces since spicy foods may cause heartburn and stomach problems for some people. In moderation, it can be a fun, creative, and cultural way to improve your health! There’s no conclusive evidence that eating spicy food helps you live longer, but it’s a promising study that can give us an extra reason to spice things up.

Registered Dietitian, Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, Triathlon Coach


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