Hot topic: Why my spicy food passion may be the secret sauce for good health!Nutrition
By Ed Moses and the pH health care professional team
I’m wondering if this Inferno Pizza Challenge will steal my last breath here on earth. An entire pizza, eight total slices, 12” in diameter, with jalapeños, habaneros and ghost peppers laced throughout, sits in front of me.
One tall glass of water, a stack of napkins and a timer that reads 20:00 have been set out nicely beside this fire pie. Finish the pizza in 20 minutes to get your name on the wall, a t-shirt and instant fame and fortune -- but not so much the latter, though the pizza is free if you finish it.
This is one of the many stupid, yet satisfying, “hot” challenges I have accepted. I will leave for a later time, the story of the habanero spaghetti sauce challenge that left me in a cold shower debating calling 911.
I don’t know what my fixation with hot, spicy food is, but I truly love it. I go in phases with hot sauces, sometimes using an entire bottle in a week, putting fiery sauce on everything from eggs to pizza to chips. You name it -- Tapatio, Cholula and Sriracha are all fixtures in my fridge.
Last week, I ordered myself an emulsifier and gave a run at making my own hot sauce. By no means am I any good in the kitchen, but I felt I could make a mean hot sauce, possibly bottle it and create a multi-million dollar hot sauce business. Just kidding, but I did make two sauces -- one orange and one green.
The first batch, the green, had a jalapeño flair to it. I used more than 20 jalapeños as the base. The second batch -- wowza! Let me tell you, all you need is a drop or two of this habanero-based concoction and it’ll knock you down! I used 10 habaneros as the base, which was a mistake, but of course, I had to push the threshold. So I am going to attempt a tamer, red sauce for my third go.
Sometimes my food is so hot I can barely breathe, but I continue to take bites until it is all gone. But I also noticed I gain energy and alertness after eating spicy food. I have read that spiciness boosts metabolism, and I can certainly attest that something happens as soon as my body tastes heat. People ask me all the time if I follow a specific diet, and I say yes. “Eat something super spicy every day!” They don't believe that’s how I maintain 7 percent body fat! Well, maybe 90 minutes a day at the gym helps, but I still think spicy stuff is the secret “sauce.”
I reached out to the healthcare professionals at pH to satisfy my curiosity. I asked the following questions, and I got some really good news.
What are some of the health benefits of spicy food?
- Longer lifespan. A large 4-year study found that frequently eating spicy meals may be linked to a lower risk of death. Individuals who reported eating spicy foods at least one or two times each week, had a 10 percent decreased risk of mortality versus their peers who said they ate spicy foods less than once per week. Fresh and dried chili peppers were the spices most commonly used. People who consumed fresh chili also had a reduced chance of dying from specific diseases such as diabetes, cancer and heart attack! Fresh chili is a very good source of capsaicin, vitamin E and vitamin A. Capsaicin is a potent nutrient that provides antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, helps with cancer prevention and promotes a healthy weight.
- Weight loss and metabolism. According to findings of a Canadian study, men who had an appetizer with hot sauce consumed 200 fewer calories than their peers. Eating a spicy food is believed to temporarily boost metabolism by as much as 8 percent!
- Heart health. Cayenne is extremely beneficial for the circulatory system by helping improve the elasticity of the walls of arteries and veins, maintaining normal blood platelet (clotting cells) function and maintaining normal blood pressure. According to results of one study presented in the American Chemical Society, the ingredient capsaicin, a component of jalapeños, cayenne pepper and red chili peppers, may actually lower the risk of cholesterol buildup.
- Anti-cancer. Additionally, there are some studies indicating that capsaicin, the "hot," active component in cayenne, may have the ability to kill cancer cells. A UCLA study reported in the March 2006 issue of Cancer Research, that capsaicin might also inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells.
- Diabetes prevention. Chili pepper may help reduce the risk of hyperinsulinemia, which is just medical terminology for high blood levels of insulin, which is associated with Type 2 diabetes. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that the amount of insulin required to lower blood sugar after a meal is reduced if the meal contains chili pepper. When chili-containing meals are a regular part of the diet, insulin requirements drop even lower!
The pH professionals did note that I don’t need to eat spices every day to gather some of these health benefits, and that cooking with them a few times a week may be enough to make a difference.
Can eating extremely spicy foods be dangerous?
There are few risks associated with eating spicy foods. People who suffer from heartburn, reflux disease, bowel disorders and ulcers should avoid spicy foods, as they can make these conditions worse.
If you are handling spicy peppers, you should take precautions to protect your eyes and skin. Even just touching them may cause contact dermatitis (inflammation of the skin), with pain, swelling and redness.
There may be side effects if you are sensitive to spicy foods, such as a running nose, sweating, diarrhea, gas or headaches. If you are allergic, you may experience hives, itching, wheezing or closing of the throat.
So the above info was a great start for me, and I’ll continue to read about all of the positive effects they can have on the body. I’m glad my new hobby and taste buds match up with some positive health effects.
Stay tuned for some of my new challenges and spicy foods I discover in 2017. If you don’t hear from me, I’m likely in Mexico hand-picking peppers for my new company. And by the way, I only finished three and a half slices of that Inferno Pizza Challenge, and let’s just say the half gallon of ice cream right after was a short-term band-aid for the next two days.
Enjoy Your Healthy Life!
Ed Moses is the co-founder and vice president of Mojo Marketing & Media, the first and only entertainment company whose mission is to create socially-responsible marketing vehicles that raise awareness for charities. Moses is an Olympic Champion, having won both gold and silver medals in swimming at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. For more information, click here.
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, health care attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. To learn more about the pH Health Care Team, click here.