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As you break out in a sweat and your tongue screams for mercy, you may regret that extra dash of hot sauce— but your body will thank you later.
A growing body of research suggests that adding a little spice to your daily diet is one of the easiest things you can do to improve your health. The evidence of healthy heat from peppers is so powerful that researchers think they can help the body rid itself of toxins, reduce inflammation and even ward off cancer and heart disease.
Until recently, scientists’ belief that peppers had extraordinary health benefits were backed only by a sampling of animal and small-scale human studies. But research published over the summer which followed half a million Chinese adults for just under 10 years removed any uncertainty — revealing that people who regularly consume spicy foods were 14 percent less likely to die than those who ate a bland diet.
“The bottom line is that any kind of vegetable material you consume will improve your health,” David Popovich, a researcher who focuses on peppers told Time. “But hot peppers are really beneficial for you, if you can take the spice.”
The secret behind the extraordinary health benefits of peppers is capsaicin, the ingredient that gives them their hot flavor.
Scientists don’t know for sure what gives capsaicin its powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties but they believe the spice-inducing ingredient is responsible for causing unhealthy cells within the body to literally self-destruct, making way for healthier cells.
Capsaicin is found in cayenne, green or red chilli, tobasco and in sweet peppers in lesser amounts. Typically speaking, the hotter the pepper the greater amount of capsaicin it contains.
But the secret to really amplifying the health benefits of pepper consumption is combining the spicy health powerhouses with a little fat. Capsaicin is a fat-soluble molecule, meaning the body is best able to absorb it along with a little healthy oil.