As a fan of all things spicy, I don’t really need an excuse to add more heat to my meals. I already carry a bottle of hot sauce with me everywhere I go in case of bland food emergencies. If you also like your dishes to deliciously sizzle your palate while you eat like me, we have some great news for you: All of those extra dashes of chili-based condiments have also been helping to keep your heart healthy.
A recently published study observed the diet of nearly 23,000 residents of a town in Italy where chili peppers are often included in their cuisine. Researchers tracked their health and causes of death throughout an eight year timespan. The results for those who consumed chili peppers at least four times a week were undeniably impressive: Their risk of cardiovascular disease shrank by 40 percent, plus a more than 50 percent decrease in strokes.
It gets even better: The results were the same whether the participants ate super healthy or not. “In other words, someone can follow the healthy Mediterranean diet, someone else can eat less healthily, but for all of them chili pepper has a protective effect,” study lead author Marialaura Bonaccio explained in a press release.
Despite noticing this heart health of spicy-food fans, the researchers aren’t sure exactly why it happens. They’re already planning on more studies to help pinpoint that information, but one dietician thinks it has more to do with what people typically eat with the chilis rather than the peppers themselves. Duane Mellor, a registered dietitian and senior teaching fellow at Aston Medical School in the United Kingdom, told CNN, “Although chillies can be a tasty addition to our recipes and meals, any direct effect is likely to be small and it is more likely that it makes eating other healthy foods more pleasurable.”
Either way, people who love adding heat to their meals can definitely feel good about their spicy meals. Other studies have also shown that chili-based hot sauces can help maintain a healthy weight and ward off cancer cell growth.
I didn’t really need another reason to continue slathering my food with my favorite hot sauces, but I’m glad to know it’s keeping me healthy while I happily chow down!