Did you know that eating spicy foods had numerous health benefits? Well, you do now.
The common misconceptions are that spicy food is bad for your stomach and oesophagus lining, and that spicy food will ruin your teeth and tastebuds, and will always cause gastrointestinal problems. Of course, if our bodies aren’t used to the heat – or perhaps we added a bit too much spiciness to the dish – some of us might experience unpleasant side-effects. But they are just temporary. Let us outline why getting in some spice can boost your training, not just by strengthening your immune system, but by reducing inflammation, bolstering your cardiovascular system, lowering your blood sugar and reducing symptoms of PMS.
Many people mistakenly think that spicy food will damage your stomach lining. But unless you all ready have a severe gastric condition you shouldn’t worry. Studies have in fact shown that the substance that gives chillies their heat, capsaicin, does in fact repair – and not damage – the stomach lining. Capsaicin can even help heal the damage caused by anti-inflammatory drugs (like aspirin) that cause ulcers. Furthermore, not only do they not cause ulcers, they can help prevent them by killing bacteria you may have ingested, while stimulating the stomach to secrete protective buffering juices.
Spicy foods trigger an increase of blood flow, this in turn strengthens our cardiovascular system. Eating hot peppers has also been proven to reduce blood cholesterol and the formation of blood clots. All of these benefits lead to a lower risk of pulmonary embolism and heart attacks. The natural antioxidant properties of peppers also help keep our hearts healthy.
Cayenne pepper should be your go-to spice to help relieve those aches and pains. Did you know the heat factor in cayenne pepper is brought on by capsaicin, which is the substance that makes peppers hot? It is highly therapeutic as it helps combat soreness. Research also suggests that cayenne pepper helps improve circulation, and helps to fight prostrate cancer and ulcers.
Cinnamon is the sweeter and gentler of spices which comes from the bark of a tropical evergreen tree. It has one of the highest antioxidant values of any spice. Cinnamon has been shown to reduce inflammation, lower blood sugar and blood triglyceride levels, alleviate nausea and increase sensitivity to insulin as an aid in fat burning. It also helps keep your blood sugar in check which helps prevent reaching for those sugary cakes in the afternoon... It’s also a good source of manganese, iron and calcium. But, branch out from the most common uses, such as in coffee, cookies, muffins and desserts. Try it not only in curries, but pour it over oatmeal, yogurt or cottage cheese, stir it into peanut butter or protein shakes and sprinkle it on sweet potatoes or carrots. Cinnamon also kills bacteria, so the next time you get a cut, you can actually sprinkle the spice on the wound. Learnt something new there, right?
Here's a fun fact for you: turmeric is what gives common mustard, butters and cheeses their yellow colour. Many claim that this bright orange-yellow spice provides pain relief equal or better to over-the-counter remedies such as ibuprofen. Turmeric is also being investigated for its potential benefits for those with Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis and cancer. An incredibly powerful antioxidant, turmeric contains anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties while helping to digest fats quickly. Add pinches of it to a variety of foods, including meats and salads. Curries and sauces are also great bases for turmeric. For those who don’t care for the taste there are also turmeric capsules on the market.
Not just for shoving on your pizzas. Oregano also has, like many of the spices discussed in this article, antiviral, antibacterial, anticancer, antioxidant and antibiotic properties. Its oil and leaves are used medicinally in treating coughs, fevers, congestion, body-aches and other illnesses. Use it as a seasoning in stews, pizzas and tomato-based sauces. Whenever possible, opt for fresh oregano leaves, which can enhance the flavour of salads and soups.
This is more for the ladies. Research shows that fennel seeds can help reduce symptoms of PMS as they are packed with essential oils that work to relax muscle spasms and a range of cramps, from digestive to muscular. Fennel tea is also surprisingly tasty, or you can easily make your own by crushing some seeds and adding hot water.
Last but certainly not the least. Ginger can go in pretty much anything. Delicious grated into stir fries (with soy sauce, yummy), and into soups and porridge. It helps hangovers and calms nausea with its compounds gingerols and shogoals. For a quick hangover fix, chuck a chunk of the root into a mug and add hot water, this will stop you puking.