TIME Diet/Nutrition

3 Reasons You Should Eat More Spicy Food

Spicy chili, Salento, Apulia, Italy in March 2014.
Spicy chili, Salento, Apulia, Italy in March 2014. DeAgostini—Getty Images

They have more health perks than you know

Hot peppers add a lot of flavor to our food, but they may be doing much more than just making our eyes water. New research shows they might have tumor-fighting benefits, as well. Here are a few reasons you should consider adding some spice into your diet.

It may reduce risk for tumors

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 tumors. The researchers suggest that capsaicin, which is also used as a analgesic by exhausting nerves so they cannot report pain, could help turn off an over-reactive receptor that might spur tumor growth. They fed capsaicin to mice genetically prone to develop more tumors and found that the capsaicin reduced tumors and extended the lives of those mice, especially when they were also given an anti-inflammatory drug. The findings are very new and haven’t be replicated, but it could be another win for spicy food lovers down the line.

It improves your sex life

Now, there’s some debate over how effective natural aphrodisiacs really are, but hey, if you’re not interested in trying pharmaceutical libido boosters, why not give more flavorful food a try. A review of research published in the journal Food Research International in 2011 found ginseng and saffron booth boosted sexual performance. What’s unknown are what the most effective doses are, and how it’s best to consume them. But adding a pinch here or there won’t hurt.

It helps with weight loss

Research has shown that spicy food can increase satiety, but researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, Center for Human Nutrition have also shown that peppers might actually encourage your body to burn more calories. In a small study of men and women, those who were taking pills with pepper components over one month were shown to burn more fat than those taking a placebo. Other researchers at Purdue University found that eating less than a teaspoon of dried cayenne red pepper lowered appetite and increased calorie burn.

While the science isn’t bulletproof, it’s growing, and provides a simple way for eaters to give themselves an edge. Not to mention the numbers show that consumers are eating more spicy food anyway. A 2014 food industry report found that 54% of consumers say hot or spicy foods are appealing compared to 46% in 2009. And, younger diners between ages 18 and 34 are the most likely to order something spicy off the menu.

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