Ever wonder what causes that heat sensation when you eat a pepper?
Well the compound responsible is called capsaicin, and it just so happens to have many health benefits.
Hot peppers and medicine have been intertwined and used back even in the ancient times.
Yes, that means hot peppers do more for you than just burning your mouth.
One of the most popular capsaicin packed peppers is the Cayenne pepper. This chili pepper is part of the nightshade family right next to jalapeños though Cayenne peppers pack more of a heat punch do to more capsaicin content.
Cayenne peppers are native to South America but were migrated to Europe by Christopher Columbus in the 15th century.
Here is a look at the nutrient profile of these tasty chili peppers:
5 grams of cayenne pepper contains
- Calories: 17
- Fat: 1 gram
- Carbs: 3 grams
- Fiber: 1.4 grams
- Protein: 0.6 grams
- Vitamin A: 44% of the RDI
- Vitamin E: 8% of the RDI
- Vitamin C: 7% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 6% of the RDI
- Vitamin K: 5% of the RDI
- Manganese: 5% of the RDI
- Potassium: 3% of the RDI
- Riboflavin: 3% of the RDI
Capsaicin is the major compound that not only determines the overall heat of a pepper, but also offers the main health benefits.
Let's get into the amazing health benefits of capsaicin.
1. Metabolism Boost
The heat you feel when you eat a capsaicin filled pepper is real, kind of...
Your body produces more heat when you eat capsaicin which takes energy and burns more calories. The scientific name for this is thermogenesis. capsaicin-health-benefits2
This extra calorie burning was found to be true in a study where subjects had capsaicin with their breakfast as well as a medium chain triglyceride oil source (coconut oil). These participants burned 51% more calories while eating breakfast than the placebo group that didn't have those ingredients in their meal. capsaicin-health-benefits3
A similar study found that over time your body will adapt to this peppers so it's important to note that the increase in metabolism is small and short lived. Though as listed below there are many more beneficial reasons to eat capsaicin sources. capsaicin-health-benefits4
2. Appetite Suppressant
On top of the small metabolism boost, a more important weight loss effect from capsaicin occurs. Capsaicin makes you feel fuller for a longer period than you normally would after eating. There are various studies that show this beneficial effect. Eating less will always be the number one factor to weight loss as it comes down to calories in versus calories out (how many you burn in a day). capsaicin-health-benefits5, capsaicin-health-benefits6
One method believed in the scientific community for causing this appetite suppressing phenomenon is the decrease in the hormone ghrelin. Ghrelin is the hormone responsible for making you feel hungry. capsaicin-health-benefits7
As study looking into the appetite suppressing potentials of capsaicin found that the participants who took capsaicin supplements ate 10% less calories throughout the day versus those who didn't take the capsaicin supplements.
Even more calorie reduction was noticed in the group that consumed a capsaicin beverage who ate 16% less calories through out the day. The participants who consumed the capsaicin sources stated that they felt fuller for longer. capsaicin-health-benefits8
3. Decrease High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is an increasing problem all over the world. Whether it's due to diet or genetics, capsaicin could be a beneficial aid.
Over 40% of adults who are older than 25 years have been diagnosed with high blood pressure. This increases future risks of stroke and heart attack. capsaicin-health-benefits9
In a study consisting of hypertensive mice, it was found that consuming capsaicin over time helped reduce blood pressure. capsaicin-health-benefits10
A similar study in pigs found similar results. The capsaicin aided in blood vessel dilation which allowed the blood pressure to decrease. capsaicin-health-benefits11
4. Promote Digestion
Capsaicin may be able to help you digest your meals more efficiently. The capsaicin filled Cayenne pepper has shown promise in aiding the stomach in defending off infections, increasing the production of digestive fluid, and aiding the enzymes in their journey to the stomach. capsaicin-health-benefits12
Even though spice food is associated with stomach ulcers, recent research has determined that this is actually the opposite of what''s true. The capsaicin in Cayenne peppers proved to help reduce stomach ulcers overall. capsaicin-health-benefits13
It was discovered that capsaicin stimulates the nerves responsible for sending a signal for injury protection. capsaicin-health-benefits14
5. Pain Reduction
Capsaicin proves as a great pain reducing agent when consumed or applied to the skin as a cream form. Capsaicin effectively decreases the level of substance P. Substance P is a neuropeptide which is responsible for the signaling of pain to the brain. Capsaicin is able to reduce this substance to a lower level undetected by the brain and therefor decreasing the feelings of pain. capsaicin-health-benefits15
This works as a cream applied to the skin or when consumed as capsaicin stimulates the production of endorphins in the brain which will ease pain overall.
Never apply capsaicin or capsaicin cream to open wounds.
Capsaicin cream can be applied to certain ailments like:
- Joint and muscle pain
- Lower back pain
- Pain after surgery
- Pain from nerve conditions like shingles
7. Decrease Cancer Risk
Capsaicin is determined as safe to eat. capsaicin-health-benefits22
Never eat capsaicin on an empty stomach as you will become nautous and will fell intense stomach pain. capsaicin-health-benefits23
Certain medications may interact with capsaicin or capsaicin cream. Medications like ACE inhibitors or blood thinners. Always consult your doctor first before trying anything new. capsaicin-health-benefits24, capsaicin-health-benefits25