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Fighting Salt and Sugar Cravings, With Spicy Food

(CNN) There’s no magic pill that will cure you of your cravings. But there is something that may help the effort, and it’s all-natural.

Research has shown that simply spicing up your diet may help you consume less salt and possibly less sugar, while potentially improving your health even beyond the reduction of salt and sugar.

There is more consistent evidence that spicy food helps curb salt cravings than sugar.

In a study involving more than 600 people from China whose brains were analyzed with PET/CT scans, researchers found that regions stimulated by intake of both salty and spicy foods overlapped. Because of similar activities taking place in this shared space (think of the overlapping parts of a Venn diagram), consuming spicy foods effectively enhanced one’s sensitivity to salt, thereby helping people crave and consume less salt.

“We think that spicy food can trick our brain when tasting salty food. It makes us taste the same (level of) saltiness even when a reduced amount of salt is actually consumed,” said study author Dr. Zhiming Zhu, professor and director of the Department of Hypertension and Endocrinology at the Third Military Medical University in Chongqing, China.

In fact, researchers found that people who regularly enjoy spicy foods consumed 2.5 grams less salt in a day (that’s 1,000 fewer milligrams of sodium) compared with those who typically steer clear of spice. They also had lower blood pressure.

It remains to be seen whether the findings can be replicated in other populations outside China, said Richard David Wainford, associate professor in the Department of Pharmacology at the Boston University School of Medicine, in an accompanying editorial. Still, “a lifestyle intervention that adds taste to the diet, in the form of extra spice and flavor, versus reduction of the pleasure given by the salt we add to our food, may have more success as a public health strategy to promote population-level dietary salt reduction,” he added.

Spice may have the potential to curb sugar cravings too, though the evidence is mixed. In one study involving 40 students from Denmark, when chili pepper was added to sweet, sour and bitter meals, participants experienced a greater desire to eat sweet foods compared with meals without chili added.

In another study, also from Denmark, people experienced a decreased desire for salty and spicy foods when they ate tomato soup with cayenne pepper compared with eating the soup without pepper. But their desire for sweet and fatty foods significantly increased when they consumed the spicy soup.

No pain, no weight gain?

Capsaicin is the compound in chili peppers that is responsible for the burning sensation we experience when eating them. The compound has the ability to suppress sweet taste, which could also explain some findings.

But while some may enjoy the heat that capsaicin produces, it may also come with an unintended consequence.

“Capsaicin helps fight pain. Most of the time, you hear about this as a topical cream, but eating chili peppers also has benefits. It may be that when the pain goes away, you’re stimulated to consume more sweet foods,” said Mary-Jon Ludy, an associate professor of clinical nutrition at Bowling Green State University.

In a meta-analysis, involving more than 70 studies, funded by the National Institutes of Health and the McCormick Science Institute, researchers state that the balance of the literature suggests the capsaicin suppresses appetite, though the magnitude of the effects is small. “Purposeful inclusion of these compounds in the diet may aid weight management, albeit modestly,” the study stated.

(Note that the National Institutes of Health is a federal government agency, and the McCormick Science Institute is an independent research organization that is owned and funded by spice product manufacturer McCormick & Co. Inc. The company said it does not influence the science institute’s research priorities.)

The meta-analysis included the Danish study that found increased sugar cravings among those who consumed spicy meals. But it also included a study that found adding spice can actually curb sugar cravings. In that study, when people added half a teaspoon of red pepper to their lunch, they had a decreased desire to eat sugary, fatty and salty foods, and ate about 70 fewer calories at their next meal. The effects were seen only among those who didn’t regularly consume red pepper.

“I think that there’s something in the novelty of the stimulus that would allow you to eat less,” said Ludy, who authored the study and the meta-analysis. “In terms of the work with red pepper, I think that that’s an important piece of the puzzle. If you are adding a spicy meal every couple of weeks, it might be enough to have an effect … but if you have it every day, the effect goes away, because you get used to it.”

A little dash will do ya

To get started with spice, Ludy recommends sprinkling red pepper flakes into eggs in the morning. You can also use spice when making a rub for meat or when seasoning vegetables, soups, pasta or curry dishes.

She also recommends adding red pepper flakes to a meal in anticipation of a tempting dessert. “It may give you that extra piece of security,” she said. Though not specific to sweet taste, cinnamon, ginger and saffron are other pungent spices with appetite suppressive effects, according to Ludy.

However you choose to use spice, it’s wise to start slowly. “Remember that a tiny bit of spice can go a long way!” Ludy said. If the heat is an issue, you can calm your taste buds by pairing hot spices with healthy fats, such as avocados and nuts, according to Ludy. “They help break down the chemical that causes the burn.”

If you’re new to spicy peppers, she recommends starting with milder varieties, such as jalapeno or serrano, which cause less burn than cayenne or habanero. “These peppers still contain some capsaicin but not as much. Although I haven’t researched it directly, my guess is that there would still be appetite effects (perhaps of a lesser magnitude) … but if you can’t tolerate higher quantities of spice, something is better than nothing, right?”

By Lisa Drayer, CNN   Fri November 17, 2017
 

Lisa Drayer is a nutritionist, an author and a CNN health and nutrition contributor.

 
source: www.cnn.com
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6 Health Reasons To Eat Spicy Foods More Often

Many people from different cultures and backgrounds worldwide have a special place in their hearts for spicy foods, and it turns out that these foods don’t only taste great, but provide wonderful health benefits as well.

Although everyone prefers a different level of spice in their foods, it doesn’t actually matter how much your food burns your tongue, but what type of spice you use in your cooking. Spices can serve as wonderful alternatives to medicines and other conventional healing modalities, and have been used for thousands of years to treat a variety of ailments, including aches and pains. Many spices have antimicrobial properties, which explains why they make wonderful alternative remedies.

“Studies show that many different herbs and spices offer health benefits,” says David Heber, MD, PhD, professor of medicine, and director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition. Much of the existing evidence supports use of cinnamon, chili peppers, turmeric, garlic, oregano, basil, thyme, and rosemary, Heber tells WebMD.

According to Heber, a compound in chili peppers called dihydrocapsiate increased fat-burning capacity in a study where people ate the spice three times a day. Furthermore, a study in Cell Metabolism showed decreased blood pressure in lab animals that consuming capsaicin, the component in chili peppers that makes them spicy.

If you don’t know which spices to add to your food, start out with the simple ones we’ve listed above. Thousands of spices exist in the world, but if you don’t use spices often, it’s best to begin with “safer” spices that you might be more familiar with. You can easily replace salt, sugar, or other additives with spices, which have no added calories or salt.

If you need more convincing to add spices to your food, read on for more of the benefits you can expect to receive.

6 HEALTH REASONS TO EAT SPICY FOODS MORE OFTEN

1. SPICES CAN HELP YOU LOSE WEIGHT.

Many spices have properties that increase body heat, which will help to boost your metabolism, and therefore lose weight. Others, such as cinnamon, help to balance your blood sugar so that you stay full longer.

Furthermore, as we mentioned above, spices can serve as a substitute for other additives such as sugar, which contains calories but no nutrients. More commonly, people use a spice to replace salt, which can pack on the water weight due to bloating.

Spices will help to make your food more satisfying, which means you won’t need as much to feel full.

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2. SPICES CAN INCREASE YOUR METABOLISM.

According to Better Nutrition, the capsaicin in chili peppers increases your body heat, which therefore amps up your metabolism. This goes along with our first point, but it’s still worth mentioning. Eating spices can serve as an easy way to increase your energy and metabolism, plus make your food taste better. Sounds like a win-win, right?

3. SPICES CAN PREVENT HEART DISEASE.

Garlic, ginger, and cinnamon specifically have been proven to help prevent heart disease. According to Dr. Sinatra, an integrative cardiologist, “Garlic, one of the most healthy herbs and spices in the world, is both a powerful antioxidant and blood thinner. It is commonly recommended as a cholesterol-lowering agent, and has been shown to help lower triglycerides – blood fats that are closely linked to heart disease. Garlic can even lower blood pressure as effectively as some drugs (as shown in studies where subjects supplemented with daily dosages ranging from 600 – 900 mg over a period of 3-6 months.”

He also lists cinnamon as one of the best healing herbs and spices for increasing antioxidant levels in the blood, and ginger as a natural blood thinner.

4. SPICES CAN ALSO ALLEVIATE SINUS TROUBLE.

This one seems pretty self-explanatory, as we’ve all had spicy food at one time or another, and had to run for the tissues in the middle of our meal. Because of the incredible heat present in spices, they cause the sinuses to become unclogged, which explains the runny noses and watery eyes.

If you ever have sinus issues, just reach for your favorite spice to add to your cooking, and you’ll see some relief in no time.

5. EATING SPICES COULD HELP YOU LIVE LONGER.

According to a study done by Time, people who ate spicy foods 1-2 times per week had a 10 percent reduced risk of death, compared to those who ate spicy food once or fewer times a week.

You can see why spices might make you live longer, as they decrease your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and other life-threatening issues.

6. SPICES CAN SERVE AS A NATURAL REMEDY FOR ANXIETY AND STRESS.

According to Dr. Cynthia, a holistic doctor, passionflower, kava kava, turmeric, and lavender have the potential to decrease anxiety and stress in a healthy, nonaddictive way. L-theanine, an amino acid found mostly in green and black tea, can reduce anxiety as well.

So, there you have it, six science backed reasons to eat more spicy foods; remember, incorporate spices into your foods slowly, so that you don’t overwhelm your taste buds. Then, once you feel comfortable, you can experiment with bolder spices that also make your food taste great!

source: Power of Positivity     July 15, 2016


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Spicy Foods May Help You Live Longer, Says a New Study

By Liza Lucas, Special to CNN     Fri August 7, 2015

A new study from China has found that eating spicy food may have health benefits.

Hot, hot, hot foods are the focus of new research released this week suggesting that eating fiery ingredients such as chili peppers may do more than burn your tongue. These foods may help you live longer.

“There is accumulating evidence from mostly experimental research to show the benefit of spices or their active components on human health,” said Lu Qi, an associate professor at Harvard School of Public Health and co-author of the study published in the BMJ. But the evidence evaluating consumption of spicy foods and mortality from population studies was lacking, he said.

As a result, researchers from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences studied data collected from 2004 to 2008 as part of the China Kadoorie Biobank. Using self-reported questionnaires, they analyzed the spicy food consumption of nearly half a million people age 30 to 70 across 10 regions in China, excluding those with cancer, heart disease and stroke.

They then reviewed the records of 20,224 people who died over a seven-year followup period and found that those who ate spicy foods six or seven times a week had a 14% lower risk of premature death for all causes than people who ate spicy foods less than once a week. People who frequently consumed spicy food also showed a lower risk of death from cancer or ischemic heart and respiratory system diseases.

Fresh and dried chili peppers were the most common spicy sources, according to the study.

What is it about spicy foods? The study points to the benefits of capsaicin, a bioactive ingredient in chili peppers, which has been linked to health perks such as increased fat burning. Folk medicine practitioners also say capsaicin can help fight infection and stimulate the kidneys, lungs and heart.

Then, there’s the old wives’ tale that says eating spicy food will induce labor (although there’s no scientific evidence supporting this claim).

There are also a few risks associated with eating spicy foods. “There are certain foods that are triggers for people with incontinence or overactive bladders, including spicy foods, which doctors have identified as common irritants for women,” said Kristen Burns, an adult urology nurse practitioner at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

Spicy foods can also aggravate colds or sinus infections, increasing your runny nose.

The new research found an “association” between death and spicy food consumption, but an editorial published with the study cautions that this is not definitive. As a result, experts emphasize the need for more research before a connection between these ingredients can be scientifically established.

“It’s an observational study within a single culture,” said Daphne Miller, associate clinical professor at the University of California, San Francisco and author of “The Jungle Effect: The Healthiest Diets from Around the World, Why They Work and How to Make Them Work for You.”

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There are many variables associated with eating spicy food that haven’t been accounted for, she said. The study itself cites limitations including the lack of information about other dietary and lifestyle habits or how spicy food was cooked or prepared. In addition, researchers note that although chili pepper was the most commonly used spice based on self-reports, the use of different spices tends to increase as the use of chili pepper increases. Consuming these other spices may also result in health benefits, independent of chilies.

However, Miller said the findings are still plausible, given the fact that spicy foods also have high levels of phenolic content, which are chemicals with nutritional and anti-inflammatory values.

Bio-psychologist John E. Hayes agrees. The fact that there seems to be an overall protective effect in chili intake is especially interesting, according to Hayes, an associate professor of food science and director of Sensory Evaluation Center at Penn State University. He has previously studied spicy food and personality association.

Now, scientists need to figure out why this benefit is occurring.

Hayes pointed out one significant question: “Is it a biological mechanism or a behavioral mechanism?”

A biological connection could mean that when you eat spicy food, thermogenesis occurs, increasing the basil metabolic rate, said Hayes, while a behavior mechanism could be that eating spicy food slows food intake, causing a person to eat fewer calories. A lower calorie consumption could indicate a more healthful diet, which would be an unaccounted variable not shown by the new study.

Qi, the author of this new study, believes the protective effect associated with spicy foods would indeed translate across cultures, but Hayes cautioned care.

“It’s a very big study, a very controlled study,” he said, that may not generalize to other countries. For instance, in the U.S., “spicy food is ubiquitously available but not ubiquitously consumed.”

“You have to consider that when we talk about spicy food, we can mean vastly different things, with different health implications,” Hayes said. “That spicy food could be low-energy-density vegetables, like kimchee. Or it could be a high-energy-density food like barbecue spare ribs.”

So before you make a run for the hot sauce, more research is needed to qualify what spicy entails and the various ingredients, which the current study does not break down.

“This isn’t an excuse to go out and eat 24 wings and then rationalize it by claiming they are going to make you live longer,” Hayes said. “When you’re looking at a whole food versus the individual component, we have to be very cautious.”

This is the big caveat. “In science, we try to break things down into the simplest parts while still considering the context,” Hayes said.

source: www.cnn.com