Have you ever wondered what makes your mouth burn in that sweet, delicious agony when you bite into a jalapeno pepper? There are special taste receptors on our tongue that can feel the “temperature.” For example, if you’ve ever used menthol toothpaste, you’re very familiar with the “cool breeze” sensation. And vice versa, the majority of Asian dishes will make you feel like a Charizard is using a flamethrower on your tongue, and it’s super effective. That’s the substance called capsaicin, which excites the taste buds and makes it possible to feel the spicy taste. However, aside from the fake temperature perception, this substance also causes a strong rush of blood to the spot where it was applied — whether it be the skin on your arm, tongue, or the lining of your stomach. Naturally, the latter has always been the cornerstone of many concerns and speculations about spicy food being harmful. But is it really bad for you?
Here are six unexpected effects your favorite spicy food has on your body.
1. Hot pepper helps against the common cold.
Capsaicin helps relieve spasm of the nasal mucosa, relieve congestion, and reduce discharge, so the spicier the food, the better. If you have a stuffy nose, add a pinch of chili flakes to a cup of hot tea, inhale the steam, and then take a sip. This remedy will clear your nasal passages and make breathing much easier. In addition to capsaicin, chili peppers are a great source of vitamin A, which helps to strengthen the mucous barrier that keeps germs and bacteria from entering the body.
2. A pepper a day keeps the oncologist away.
The curcumin in turmeric has properties that help prevent the development of certain cancers and malignant tumors. According to recent research, capsaicin can slow down the growth of malignant cells in prostate cancer patients. But the results are still inconclusive and require more research. In the meantime, you can still enjoy that extra spicy burrito, just in case.
3. Spicy foods can help you lose weight.
According to some scientists and diet specialists, hot peppers improve the body’s metabolism, reduces hunger, and burns a ton of calories. Spicy food also decreases cravings for fatty and sweet snacks, which is great for those of us trying to lose weight.
4. Spicy food helps prevent stomach ulcers.
You’ve probably heard stories that peppers can burn a hole in your stomach or cause ulcers. In fact, hot pepper can help you prevent ulcers. Studies have shown that capsaicin neutralizes the spiral bacteria that cause the disease. Those who eat a lot of Korean or Indian foods are three times less likely to suffer from stomach ulcers than those whose diets are based on traditional European and American cuisine.
5. The spice is good for the heart.
Spicy food minimizes the risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering the amount of bad cholesterol and boosting the good cholesterol in your blood. Recently, capsaicin has pulled researchers’ attention for its ability to strengthen the walls of blood vessels and stabilize the heart rate. Also, these peppers contain a huge amount of antioxidants, which prevent aging.
6. Hot peppers can help fight off depression.
And finally, the most important feature of spicy food is that it stimulates the body’s production of the “happiness hormones” — serotonin and endorphin, thus reducing the nervous system’s stress during tough situations. So go ahead and order some of that flaming-hot Korean food you’ve always wanted to try but were afraid it would burn through you like a candle. Bon appetit!