We love to be fit. We also love food.
So when we discover amazing foods that not only help us get fit, they also help us stay that way… we are hooked!
When we started looking into “capsaicin”, it seemed a little too good to be true.
So what is Capsaicin? It’s the chemical in chili peppers that gives them their heat.
It is also what makes these spicy additions to our meals boost your metabolism, eat up extra body fat, and leave us feeling more satiated so we avoid those extra snacks.
This means adding a whole lot of flavor adds a whole lot of health benefits too. That’s a combo we love!
Just how do chili peppers help to keep you full and trim?
First, it gets your metabolism going which burns more calories. Capsaicin causes the body to produce adrenaline which in turn activates the sympathetic nervous system.
All the research we found was unanimous; chilis rev up your digestive process and heat up the body by burning fat… However, the results of various studies were all a slightly different depending on your age, sex, and body type.
Leaner people tended to get a bigger boost, but on average people increased around 8%.
This boost is due to a process called diet-induced thermogenesis, the act of heating up the body through metabolic activities.
The heat found in capsaicin is what ramps up this process and can also cause sweating and redness. It takes a lot of work to raise the body’s core temperature which is why the calories start to burn.
Cayenne can help you burn around 119 extra calories a day when you consume one teaspoon a day. This may not sound like a lot, but the real advantage here is the body specifically uses brown adipose tissue for thermoregulation.
Most body fat is white tissue and is used for energy, but brown and beige tissues are used in physical processes.
While spice doesn’t directly target white adipose tissue, think belly, hips, and thighs, it still helps you move it. Capsaicin activates a process in the body to turn white fat into brown fat and then stores it around your spine, shoulder blades, kidneys, and clavicle area to help maintain your core temperature.
That’s not the only fat that gets burned away!
When you dive into a spicy meal and activate your sympathetic neurons, you begin a process called fat oxidation, or breaking down fatty acids.
This is the same thing that happens when you exercise! Studies show that along with elevating your resting rate of metabolism, you also prolong and enhance fat oxidation which leads to increased energy expenditure.
These are both really good things for long-term weight management! Unfortunately, they don’t take the place of a good sweat session at the gym.
The third advantage to eating more spicy peppers at mealtime is appetite suppression.
One study showed that eating red peppers with high levels of capsaicin for breakfast had a significant impact on participants eating substantially less protein and fat at lunch.
When they added the same high capsaicin, red peppers in an appetizer, participants ate significantly less carbohydrates and less overall food even though it was available.
One study showed that people who spice their foods tended to eat less in general and felt fuller more quickly. Another study showed that adding peppers to food caused people to eat more slowly which allowed them to recognize when they were full and left them feeling more satiated.
Each study showed a decrease in appetite along with a lower amount of overall calories consumed. A few studies even showed a link between spice and curbing those pesky food cravings.
So a spicy dinner could help you avoid a freezer binge during your evening tv show.
How do you know what chili to eat and how much?
The higher the amount of capsaicin the hotter it will be and the more health benefits you receive.
When looking at the Scoville heat scale for chili peppers, you can see that the first edible pepper is the Carolina Reaper. This is the hottest chili in the world!
If you can handle it, we give you some major kudos; however, for the sake of health and ulcers everywhere, we are going to go a little lower on that chili scale.
For those who love the heat, habaneros, datils, Thai chilis, and cayenne are great additions to your meals.
Manzanos, serrano, and jalapenos are good choices for those who prefer moderate heat, and if spice just isn’t your thing, guajillo, poblano, Anaheim, and pepperoncini will give you a touch of capsaicin.
Sorry, bell peppers are not an option as they have no heat and therefore no capsaicin. So the hotter the pepper, the greater the health benefits!
Remember moderation is the key to everything in life, so be sure to protect your stomach lining and digestive tract by consuming wisely.
If you can handle it hot, do so, but we don’t recommend making every meal a scorcher. Start with a couple days a week and work up if your body handles it well.
Then give yourself a break for a week or so and start again. This has two purposes.
One, it will protect your stomach.
Two, it has been shown that the body adapts to capsaicin, so the effects taper off.
If you’re still not convinced, capsaicin has been linked to numerous other health benefits as well. It is great for the vascular system and can help reduce the risk of stroke, dilate blood vessels relieving high blood pressure, and may even help to prevent blood clots. It’s also a great choice for those with diabetes, and it has also been linked to cancer prevention and overall longevity.
Lastly, capsaicin has long been used for pain relief. This can be taken internally, or you may even see some creams have it for arthritis or sore muscles.
So what are you waiting for? Go load up your stir fry with red chili flakes or add some cayenne to your morning avocado and toast!