Is Spicy Food Good Or Bad For You?

I love spicy food and so do my kids and everyone else in the family. It must be the unique flavors imparted from the herbs and spices used in Indian and Malay cuisine that give spicy food that kick in our palate. We have spicy food every other day. Just now I bought some spicy Thai noodles and then walked a few shops away to takeaway some Indian curries (fish curry and chickpea curry) for lunch. The girls will be so happy to see spicy food on the dining table later!

 

Today I had this sudden desire to know whether spicy food is good or bad for us? Especially for young kids. They have been indulging in quite a bit of spicy fare lately and I am starting to get worried whether spicy food will harm their stomach lining and would this cause stomach ulcers in future?

As usual, I did a bit of research online and from what I gathered, spicy food does not really get the bad rap. In fact, there are so many health benefits of adding chilies to your diet.

For years, experts believed it caused stomach problems and worsened ulcers. The truth is that spicy food might actually protect the stomach lining if eaten in moderation. Hot foods such as red peppers can actually help your stomach produce less gastric acid. You might feel a burning after eating them, but this is only because you need to build tolerance. Either start with a milder mix or eat smaller amounts and then increase the intensity as your body gets used to the heat.

Apart from spicing up our lives, here’s what spicy food can contribute to your health:

Weight Loss
The question of whether spicy food can help with your weight-loss efforts is no longer debated. An early 1998 study by Laval University established that red pepper can increase your metabolism, causing your body to burn energy faster and more effectively. Research since then has confirmed this. Red pepper eases hunger pangs too, so it might be a good tool if you’re trying to control your weight.

Cancer-fighting Properties
A 2007 study led by scientists from England’s Nottingham University showed that curry might have cancer-fighting properties. Curry contains curcumin, a pigment that has antioxidant and anti-cancer properties. The study showed the compound is especially useful in both fighting and preventing prostate cancer. The study also noted that prostate cancer is rare in India, where people eat curry regularly.

Congestion
Eating spicy, hot food can help ease sinus congestion and relieve clogged nasal passages. Because it increases body temperature, it can also be effective in fighting fever and relieving flu symptoms. Hot peppers can help with respiratory problems such as chronic bronchitis and asthma. It also acts as an expectorant.

Increases Life Span
A new study from the British Medical Journal says you could actually live longer than those who aren’t putting much “spice” in their life.

A half-million people in China took part in the study and in the end, researchers found those who ate spicy foods as little as twice a week reduced their risk of death by 10 percent.

Up the spicy intake to six times a week and that number increases to 14 percent. Sounds good, right?

Heart Helper
Spicy food acts as an antioxidant and blood thinner, which aids in heart disease by improving cardiac blood vessel strength. Talk about heart healthy!

Anti-inflammatory
Spicy food can help with pain and healing by increasing blood flow to an affected area. Capsaicin is the active ingredient in scotch bonnet peppers and it’s known to fight inflammation.

This can be also be good for people with auto immune diseases, Parkinson’s and even asthma sufferers. Finding spicy foods with the highest concentration of capsaicin is key. For example, raw chopped peppers would be very high in capsaicin and potentially the most beneficial.

Anti-bacterial
Who knew spicy food can actually kill stomach bacteria? Peppers help prevent further infections throughout the body.

Temperature Regulation
One of the most interesting things about spicy food is that it can heat up your body when it’s cold out and, surprisingly, can cool your body off when you are hot. Eating spicy food makes you sweat and sweating actually helps your body temperature regulate itself. So while it may seem strange, definitely put more heat on your food when the heat is on!

 

Now the bad side of the pepper and chili…

A Bad Burn
You may like the burning sensation spicy food has on your tongue, but the flipside to that is spicy food can also cause heartburn and/or reflux disease. The reason being: its acidic and irritant properties can cause a rather unwanted effect once it hits your insides.

If you experience any of these conditions after eating spicy food,  you should consider adding a side of cream or yogurt to your dish. This may help protect the digestive system by neutralizing the burning potential and temper the irritant properties that can cause harm.

Drinking milk can help to relieve the sting from your mouth. Casein, the protein in milk, according to the American Chemical Society, helps break the bonds capsaicin forms on nerve receptors. This may help explain why cultures that use a lot of spices in their food usually include dairy in their recipes to offset the effects of capsaicin, such as in Indian and Mexican cuisine.

You can also pair cooked or raw vegetable with your curry dishes, to lessen the burn.

Worsen Hemorrhoids
Spicy food can worsen hemorrhoids by causing further damage and irritation. It can also make IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) worse, and even potentially cause diarrhea. Not fun!

Stings Your Eyes
You should be careful not to touch your eyes if handling anything spicy and you may not realize it, but even after hand washing it may still be on your skin. To be safe you may want to wear gloves and take them off and discard them immediately after preparing the pepper.

I always try to ‘negate’ the spiciness and heatiness from hot and spicy food by downing cool coconut water, chilled fruit smoothies, Izumio hydrogen water and there is always some cool cucumbers or cherry tomatoes  to go with our curry meal 🙂

 

 

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2 Responses

  1. Chris says:

    My friend loves spicy food and suffers from Crohns. It doesn’t bother him but eating high fibre like kale really triggers his cramps. He has checked with the surgeon and the dietitian and they both agree spicey food, if desired, can be tolerated with IBS and Crohns.

    • admin says:

      I believe I have a mild case of IBS too. My tummy can tolerate mild curries but strong curries will cause it to burn with a bad case of tummy discomfort. So I avoid cili padi and strong curries.

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