A Burning Topic: What are the Risks and Benefits of Spicy Food?
Spicy food is prevalent in Latin America. However, there are many doubts about how beneficial or harmful it is for health. We tell you what research and traditions say.
LatinAmerican Post | María Fernanda Ramírez Ramos
Listen to this article
Leer en español: Un tema ardiente: ¿Cuáles son los riesgos y beneficios de la comida picante?
If we think about spiciness, surely Mexico will come to mind with its famous chili peppers and jalapeños. This country is one of the countries that consume the spiciest food in the world, along with China, India, Ethiopia, and Thailand. However, you can find dishes throughout Latin America that burn or have a spicy touch. Chili accompanies many foods, and almost no flavor escapes being combined with this seasoning. We can find everything from drinks to desserts with spicy hints. However, beyond taste, the question is how much good spiciness does for our body or digestive system.
To begin with, the truth is that the key is in the quantities and the intensity of the spiciness. As in almost everything, excesses are harmful. However, many benefits of spicy food consumption have been discovered, and it is known that it has been used since ancient times, for example, in the Mayan culture. Chili originates in Latin America, although it is unknown which region. "Chili was primordial for the ancient Mexicans. For example, in Teotihuacán, Tula, and Monte Albán, relics of a wide consumption of chili have been found among their inhabitants. And the Aztecs had developed a chili culture, many of which continue today," reports information from the Mexican government.
We recommend you read: Why did the WHO intend to eliminate trans fats in the world by 2023?
Helps Metabolic Function
Hot spices like ginger, cayenne, turmeric, chili, or mustard can help boost metabolism function. Although it is a myth to say that spicy foods will make you lose weight, they can increase body temperature and speed up energy expenditure. That is, they can be an aid in weight loss. An investigation published in the Journal of Physiology and Behavior, which studied the consumption of red chili peppers in the United States, confirmed this.
Capsaicinoids are substances found in chili peppers, and research has also confirmed that they help with weight control. "Three main areas of potential benefit for weight control were found: (1) increased energy expenditure; (2) increased lipid oxidation, and (3) reduced appetite," notes a Manchester Food Research Center publication.
Spicy can be Good for Reducing Inflammation
Traditionally, Ayurvedic medicine has used turmeric, garlic, ginger, and other spices to treat various diseases. In the case of turmeric, it is curcumin that causes the anti-inflammatory effect.
One of the most uncomfortable sensations is being congested by the flu. However, spicy food can boost you when you want to eliminate mucus. Eating a spoonful of soup with chili is enough to start decongesting. Likewise, ginger is widely used to treat flu states.
Be Careful if you Already Have Gastric Diseases
Suppose you already have problems with an irritable colon, anal fissures, ulcers, hemorrhoids, or gastritis. In that case, it is necessary to avoid spicy food, as recommended by doctors. Research conducted in India, where a lot of red chilies are consumed, showed that eating this hot pepper could increase the discomfort caused by anal fissures. However, other findings have found that it is not spicy that causes these ailments.
Cook them with Caution
One of the damages that certain spicy foods can cause is associated with their handling. This occurs because they can irritate the mucous membranes. For this reason, when cooking with chilies or other spices, it is essential not to touch your eyes. Likewise, it is appropriate to use glasses or gloves for more substantial ones.