Earlier this month, the health journal BMJ released what could be a secret to living a longer, healthier life. The key: Eat spicy food. According to the large study, which analyzed the diets of more than 485,000 Chinese people for an average of at least seven years, those who frequently ate spicy foods, like chili peppers, sizably reduced their death risk.
Here's what the research found: Eating hot food one or two times a week reduced risk of death by 10 percent when compared with consuming spicy foods less than once a week. Those who ate hot food six or seven times weekly reduced their risk of death by 14 percent.
What's more is that participants who ate such cuisine had lower rates of cancers, respiratory diseases and ischemic heart disease. Though this particular study did not discuss possible explanations for the positive results, it did note that previous studies have found capsaicin, which gives chili peppers their kick, to have anti-inflammatory effects.
What does it all mean? It's certifiable scientific cause to spice up your diet! Here are four simple and healthy ways to kick it up a notch.
- Sprinkle red pepper flakes on pasta or pizza or mix into omelettes. Add curry, cumin or chili powder to soups. If you're making turkey burgers, add a dash of hot sauce to the ground meat before forming it into patties. A good friend of mine swears by sautéing broccoli and serving it with a drizzle of buffalo sauce. Bottom line: Experiment, and eat up!
- Buy (or make) a different flavor of hummus. Try swapping out your regular garlic or roasted red pepper hummus for Sabra's Supremely Spicy flavor, which includes chili pepper, red pepper and a blend of spices, or the Spicy Three Pepper variety from Athenos, with jalepenos and red and green peppers. Cucumbers and carrots just became more appealing.
- Eat you way around the world. Mexican, Indian, Thai, Korean, Japanese, Chinese and Ethiopian cuisines (just to name a few) all feature dishes that bring the heat. When eating out, be adventurous. Staying in? Shop the corner bodega or your local farmers' markets for peppers, spices and sauces that conjure up global flavors.
- If you can't take the heat, that doesn't mean you have to shy away from spicy foods altogether. Just have a glass of milk on hand—not water. Dairy helps neutralize the intensity of capsaicin. You can also add a sprinkle of shredded cheese or a dollop or cottage cheese or Greek yogurt. It's a sneaky way to boost your calcium intake while making your favorite spicy dishes more tolerable.