Most people don’t think about more than their tastebuds when eating their favorite curry or chili. But guess what? Those spicy delights could help extend your life or serve as a valuable anti-aging tool. So if you were looking for an excuse to eat a hot bowl of chili a little more often this fall, you might have found it.
New research is showing chili peppers could help reduce the risk of death from heart disease and several other causes. Researchers from the Cleveland Clinic reviewed health and dietary records from more than 500,000 participants in four extensive studies that took place in the United States, Italy, China, and Iran.
They learned that people who ate chili peppers were healthier than those who didn’t.
How did chili pepper intake influence health? Those who ate the most experienced a 26 percent reduction in death from heart-related death and a 25 percent reduction in overall mortality over the study period.
Frankly, chili eaters were found to live longer than those who ate them rarely or never.
Other studies have found similar effects.
What makes this study particularly unique is that trends were consistent across the continents despite dietary and cultural differences.
While association doesn’t equate to causation, there could be a biochemical explanation. Chili’s benefits could come from a bioactive compound called capsaicin. Capsaicin causes the peppers’ spiciness, and it may possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capabilities.
The peppers are also a good source of heart-healthy nutrients such as potassium, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin B6, and vitamin E. They may also help heart health by serving as a flavorful alternative to salt in a number of recipes.
Of course, how you eat chili can play a role. If you’re using it to add flavor to a bread or chip dip, it might lose some of its benefits. Instead, use it to enhance the flavor of already healthy meals.
So, what might some healthy chili-pepper meals look like? It really varies. The good thing is no matter what kind of food you like, chili can fit in easily. Some great dishes include:
- Pineapple chicken curry (Thai)
- Chicken mole (Mexican)
- Chili (North American)
- Beef vindaloo (Indian)
- Gnocchi in spicy arrabbiata sauce (Italian)
Devon Andre holds a bachelor’s degree in forensic science from the University of Windsor in Canada and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Pittsburgh. Andre is a journalist for BelMarraHealth, which first published this article.