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The health benefits of spicy foods

Chili peppers are the perfect way to spice up even the blandest of dishes. But did you know these fiery little vegetables can also be beneficial to your health?

Chili peppers contain a compound called capsaicin, which causes the burning sensation you feel after eating them. But capsaicin also can also help to alleviate pain by depleting the body's supply of Substance P, a neurotransmitter that sends pain signals to the brain. 

Haley Robinson, a clinical dietitian at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, shares six ways capsaicin can improve your health.

1. Weight loss. Spicy foods have been shown to help with weight loss.

“Capsaicin helps increase your core temperature, increase metabolism and helps burn calories faster,” Robinson says. “Research has shown that it could increase your metabolism by up to 5 percent.”

A recent study also showed that people consume about 75 fewer calories after eating food with red chili peppers compared to eating bland food.

2. Depression. “Capsaicin has been shown to work as an endorphin,” Robinson says. “The body produces endorphins, like serotonin, in response to the heat, which it mistakes for pain. This makes you feel better and decreases the risk for depression or stress.”

3. Cancer Prevention: Capsaicin works as an antioxidant, protecting cells from harmful molecules called free radicals that can cause cancer.

4. Heart Disease. Chili peppers reduce the damaging effects of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which is your bad cholesterol. And capsaicin helps fight inflammation, which has been proven as a risk factor for heart issues.

“The vitamin A and C found in these plants may help strengthen the heart muscle walls, and the heat of the peppers increases blood flow through your body,” Robinson says. “All of these factors working together may help lower blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health.”

5. Digestion. “Capsaicin may improve digestion by increasing the digestive fluids in the stomach,” Robinson says.

An increase in digestive fluids can help speed up the digestion process and relieve diarrhea.

6. Pain. Topical creams with capsaicin work as an analgesic and can be used to help with arthritic or neuropathic pain.

For more helpful, healthful tips, click here.

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