Spicy Foods Pros and Cons: May 24, 2019

Mild, medium, or hot—whatever your preference, health experts say adding spice to your meal can benefit your health.  “Sometimes adding different spices and herbs together can actually help the absorption of other nutrients,” explained Leigha Messner, a clinical dietitian with Lee Health.

Adding things like red pepper flakes, turmeric, or chili powder can add fiber, vitamin C, and different vitamins and minerals to your meal.  “Another good thing with spicy foods is the foods that you’re generally consuming that have these compounds in them also have nutritional bang for your buck. They are calorically low in calories, fat, and protein, but they are really high in nutrient density,” said Messner.

Studies show eating spices regularly can also decrease your risk for chronic disease. “It’s also been shown to decrease the risk of heart disease because the compounds in red pepper flakes tend to decrease your bad cholesterol, your LDL, and decrease inflammation as well,” she said.

But if you’re looking to add extra spice to your meal, be sure to look at spices and not at sauces. “You really want to kind of stick to those basic spices instead of looking for them in preserved sauces that could also be higher in fat, sodium, and actually contribute more to weight gain or chronic disease risk,” said Messner.

Keep in mind it’s important to know your limits. Too much spice can irritate your gastrointestinal tract. “If you are already predisposed to heartburn, spicy foods can continue to irritate that and exacerbate those symptoms,” she said.

Whether its red pepper or a sprinkle of black pepper, adding a little spice can enhance the flavor and benefit your overall health.