Spicy food, and adding spices in general to your food, may be beneficial to your heart.
“The number one thing we tell patients with heart trouble is they should have less salt in their diet,” said Dr. Shereif Rezkalla, a Marshfield Clinic Health System cardiologist. “Adding certain spices to your food in place of salt is a healthy way to lower salt intake.”
“The main benefit of spices is their antioxidants, which is a very important part of heart protection,” Rezkalla said.
Rezkalla cited a study on the effect of alcohol on rats as evidence of the potential health benefits of spices. Two groups of rats were given alcohol, but only one group also was given ginger, garlic and pepper. The group of rats that received spices fared much better than the other group, leading researchers to conclude that spices can protect against alcohol-related high cholesterol and liver damage.
Other research has shown that spices may help prevent and control a range of cardiovascular diseases.
“We need to do more research to show the exact benefit of spices in today’s heart care,” Rezkalla said. “I don’t think there is enough research, but there is enough to say there are signals that spices have some benefits for heart health.”
Spicy food may have heart benefits
Recent studies have shown some correlation between eating spicy foods, like hot chili peppers and living longer. It is thought that the capsaicin found in chili peppers reduces inflammation and may help improve vascular health. Capsaicin also may be used as a pain reliever and could even help with weight loss and symptoms from psoriasis, according to University of Maryland Medical Center.
“Again, there are many signals that capsaicin has heart benefits, but we need more controlled studies,” Rezkalla said. “But spices will never harm you, and they may benefit you. That’s the bottom line.”
Consult your medical provider on any dietary changes you are considering to promote heart health.