At the risk of sounding stupid, hot sauce is, well, hot—it makes you cry, it burns your mouth, and touching a chili pepper and then your eye is big no-no. All that doesn’t sound very pleasant, but ultimately, people LOVE it.
And it turns out, your love of the burn is actually doing great things for your body. Capsaicin, the chemical responsible for all the burning mouths and teary eyes, is in fact a great health booster that can help with everything from losing weight to killing cancer cells. It does way more than just lighting up your taste buds.
Here are 10 reasons you should do your body a big favor by adding a splash of hot sauce to your meal:
1. It Adds Flavor, Not Calories
Slashing calories doesn’t necessarily mean cutting taste. If you’re watching your weight but still want to keep some flavor in your veggie salads, you can add a dash of your favorite hot sauce, as it comes with practically zero calories. A condiment that’s made from peppers and vinegar will inevitably have some calories. Depending on brand and flavor, the calorie count in one teaspoon of hot sauce may range from 6 than none—an insignificant amount in dietary terms. So, feel free to spread hot sauce all over your breakfast, lunch, dinner, and any snacks you may have in between. It won’t wreck your calorie-killing plan.
2. It Helps Burn Calories
Although hot sauces may not show up on your typical weight loss guideline found online, they can contribute to your weight loss effort. Capsaicin, which is found in peppers ranging from your basic red chili pepper to those at higher ranges on the Scoville scale, can give your metabolic rate a temporary boost, which means you body burns more calories in a shorter period of time. As a result, you actually lose weight by converting calories to energy more efficiently.
3. It Makes You Eat Less
Here’s another way hot sauce can help you lose weight. Hot sauce can prevent overeating by encouraging you to take small bites and eat more slowly. When you’re eating something spicy, you’re not going to take huge bites. Instead, you’re going to nibble a bit more slowly to avoid setting your whole mouth ablaze.
Eating more slowly helps you savor your food, and you’ll find that you feel less hungry and more satisfied while consuming less.
4. It Keeps Your Blood Pressure in Check
If you have trouble managing high blood pressure, you will probably hear diet advice such as eating less bacon, which is indeed helpful (but also super lame). Now, here’s one blood pressure remedy that doesn’t suck: hot sauce.
El Yucateco may set your lips and tongue on fire, but your blood vessels actually get more comfortable and healthier because of it. Recent studies have shown that capsaicin lowers blood pressure by causing blood vessels to relax, so they’re less likely to suffer from inflammation and dysfunction.
5. It Clears Up Your Stuffy Nose
If you’re going through a cold and feel stuffy, add a dash of Tabasco to your meal to clear that nose right up. A lot of people spend dollars on those costly bottles of nasal spray for some sinus relief because they don’t realize that the small, red bottle in their cabinet does the same job. Actually, it shouldn’t be so surprising that hot sauces, or spicy foods in general, make your nose run. That’s exactly what you need when you have a head cold or sinus congestion. Just make sure you keep your napkins stocked.
6. It Improves Digestion
That old wives’ tale says that you should avoid hot sauce if you have have problems with upset stomach, the idea being that spicy or even very flavorful foods may irritate your guts. But the fact is that hot sauce calms your gut down instead of riling it up. The spiciness in a hot sauce or a salsa stimulates stomach secretions, leading more blood flow to the stomach, boosting its functionality and helping you break down food and absorb nutrients faster and more effectively.
7. It Soothes Joint Pain
Believe it or not, capsaicin cream is actually a thing that exists. It’s a quite popular pain reliever that you can either buy at the store or make at home. In fact, hot sauce will do the same same trick as the cream version. Capsaicn is considered effective even for deep joint pains, such as in the back, hips, and shoulders. The spicier the sauce, the better it is at relieving arthritis. Habanero peppers are one of the hottest varieties out there, meaning they contain plenty of capsaicin in their seeds to help with creaky joints.
8. Cancer Hates It
Another reason capsaicin gets so much love is the cancer-fighting benefits it offers. Capsaicin has shown to cause human breast cancer cells to undergo a process called apoptosis, or programmed cell death. In other words, capsaicin tells cancer cells to destroy themselves, and that’s exactly what they do.
There is still so much to learn about capsaicin’s anti-cancer superpowers. We don’t know how much of the capsaicin we eat actually enters the blood stream or how long it remains there. But there are indeed some interesting facts that may convince you of how eating spicy helps you fend off cancer. For example, residents in the state of New Mexico, who are known for eating a lot of New Mexico chilies, have a lower overall cancer rate compared to those living in other states.
9. It Elevates Your Mood
If you’ve ever noticed that a happy feeling accompanies you when you’re eating spicy food, you’re not just imagining things. Capsaicin transmits pain signals to the brain, which responds by releasing endorphins—a feelgood hormone. Endorphins are the body’s natural way of relieving pain by blocking the nerves’ ability to transmit pain signals. In addition, dopamine, reward hormones responsible for pleasure, is also released. That’s why digging into a plate of spicy nachos feels so great.
10. It Helps You Deal with Health Challenges of Aging
Ever wonder why peppers are so colorful? The reason is that when peppers grow, they all go through a process called anthocyanin biosynthesis, which loads them with nutrients and antioxidants which are great for both the pepper plants and your pepper-loving body. Each bold color comes with its own mix of antioxidants and nutrients unique to that hue.
Red chilies get most of their color from capsanthin, the powerful antioxidant that basically tells cancer cells to die. Smoked jalapeños are high in lutein and zeaxanthin, which improves your eyesight by protecting against macular degeneration. Yellow peppers are especially high in vitamin C, the great metabolism booster. You should definitely do yourself a favor and take advantage of these amazing health benefits.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a dietician before making any changes to your diet.