Most of us like a good curry or some hot sauce at Nandos. But it seems there’s more to spicy food than just making our eyes water and the occasional coughing fit. Spicy ingredients have a number of health benefits, from aiding weight loss to cancer prevention, but what’s the connection?

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1. It helps to burn off calories faster
In terms of losing weight, eating spicy foods can help speed up your metabolism, which means you will burn off the food you eat quicker. Studies show that the main compound in chillies, called capsaicin, has a thermogenic effect and may cause the body to burn bonus calories for 20 minutes post chow-down. Also, a chilli can help give extra flavour to even the blandest diet food, meaning you will hopefully stick to your plan easier.

2. It may reduce your risk of tumour growth
Meanwhile, a new study in mice published in the journal The Journal of Clinical Investigation found that the spicy chemical in peppers, capsaicin, can activate cell receptors in the intestinal lining, thereby creating a reaction that reduces the risk of developing tumours. The researchers could help turn off an over-reactive receptor that might spur tumour growth. The findings are new and haven’t be replicated, but it could be another plus point for spicy food.

3. It’s good for your heart
Spices not only have the potential to help prevent cancer, they are also good for a healthy heart too. Studies have shown that people from cultures that eat the most spicy food have much lower incidence of heart attack and stroke. This could be for a number of reasons, for instance chilli peppers can reduce the damaging effects of LDL (bad cholesterol) or that capsaicin may fight inflammation, which has been flagged as a risk factor for heart issues. In addition, Vitamins A and C strengthen the heart muscle walls, and the heat of the pepper increases blood flow throughout your body. All of this equals a stronger cardiovascular system.

If however, you aren’t great with spices, you can still reap some benefits by incorporating milder spices such as cumin, ginger and coriander into your meals to give them a bit of zing without frying your taste buds. © Cover Media