The heat that spicy food provide come from an active alkaloid compound called capsaicin. These spicy food are not limited to hot peppers, but are also present in some food or vegetable with any tangible heat. Adding a little bit of spice to the dishes are not only satisfying to our taste buds but also to our health.
The hotter the better. Capsaicin is mostly found in the hot peppers stated earlier. Pure capsaicin would be rated at 16,000,000 Scoville Heat Units. The hottest peppers in the world measure up to 1.5 million to 1.6 million Scoville Heat Units while the common kitchen spice, the jalapeno come in at around 8,000. For those with low tolerance to spice and heat, starting with the jalapeno is a good option and as your tolerance increases, you can start adding more heat.
Warning: Having too much might ruin your meal, leaving no flavor to be tasted.
Initially, capsaicin excites the pain sensitive nerve endings, causing the pain or burning sensation when it comes into contact with any tissue. But, when exposed to capsaicin long enough, the pain receptors’ release of a neurotransmitter called substance P is depleted. Its pain relief property is exactly because of this due to the fact that substance P is what transmits the feeling of pain to the brain. This is why capsaicin is an ingredient in topical rubs for relieving arthritis, sore muscles and even nerve pain.
Another benefit that capsaicin can give is weight control. This is because when there is an increase in body temperature – which is what capsaicin does – it may shift the body from carbohydrate oxidation to fat oxidation which means the sored fat is broken down to smaller parts. Studies have also shown that it can increase brown fat metabolism associated with decreasing body fat. It can also help regulate blood sugar levels after a meal. Moreover, capsaicin makes you feel fuller, reducing your appetite and then reducing your calorie and fat intake.
It can also help fight cancer. Recent studies have shown that when exposed to capsaicin, prostate cancer cells are more likely to undergo apoptosis or cell death. Not only that, it decreased the size of prostate cancer tumors by 80 percent. It also shows promise in destroying lung cancer and pancreatic cancer cells without causing damage to nearby tissue. Further research regarding utilizing capsaicin against cancer are still undergoing.
It’s good to know that the spice we add to our food is actually beneficial. For those not fond of it though, try it.