Spicy food-lovers have yet another reason to celebrate. You may have already heard about the amazing health benefits of jalapeno peppers, but the goodness doesn’t stop there.
A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology has found that regularly eating chili peppers can decrease your risk of death from heart disease and stroke .
Eat Chilis to Lower Your Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
The study was done in Southern Italy, where chili peppers are a common ingredient in many dishes. It compared the risk of death of nearly 23 000 people, some of whom regularly consumed chilis and some who did not .
Researchers monitored participants’ health status over eight years and found that people who ate chili peppers frequently (four times per week or more) had a 40 percent lower risk of dying from a heart attack, and a 23 percent lower risk of dying from all forms of cardiovascular disease .
“An interesting fact is that protection from mortality risk was independent of the type of diet people followed,” said study lead author Marialaura Bonaccio, an epidemiologist at the Mediterranean Neurological Institute (Neuromed) .
“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,” .
Other Studies With Similar Findings
This is not the first time researchers have observed the protective effects of chili peppers. Another study conducted in 2017 that examined over 16 000 participants during a six-year period found that those who consumed hot red chili peppers had a thirteen percent lower risk of death by all causes .
In 2015, researchers in China followed nearly 500 000 participants from ten geographically diverse regions for seven years. After adjusting for other known risk factors, participants who ate spicy foods six to seven days per week showed a fourteen percent reduced mortality rate compared with those who ate spicy food once per week or less .
What is important about all of these studies, is that each group of participants came from different areas of the world (Europe, North America, and China), yet the results remain consistent across all of the studies. This means that despite the difference in the way the peppers are used, their protective effects are still present.
“And now, as already observed in China and in the United States, we know that the various plants of the capsicum species, although consumed in different ways throughout the world, can exert a protective action towards our health,” said Licia Iacoviello, director of the department of epidemiology and prevention at Neuromed and a professor at the University of Insubria in Varese .
Read: 6 Health Benefits of Cayenne Pepper
How Do Chilis Protect us From Heart Disease?
Researchers are still uncertain as to exactly how chili peppers delay death, but they are exploring a few theories.
The group from the United States believes it could have something to do with your Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) channels .
TRP channels are located on your cell membranes  and are the primary receptors for pungent agents such as capsaicin, the principal component in chili peppers .
When TRP vanilloid type 1 (TRPV1) channels are activated, they appear to alter the rate of fat breakdown and heat production in your body, which protects you against obesity . Since obesity is one of the leading risk factors for cardiovascular disease, preventing it goes a long way in protecting you against heart attacks and strokes .
Capsaicin has also been shown to improve blood flow to your heart. This is important because without adequate blood flow you are at high risk for cardiac events such as a heart attack or stroke . Finally, capsaicin has antimicrobial properties that positively affect your gut microbiome . The healthy gut microbiome has been linked to a number of health outcomes, including lowered rates of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease .
The Study Has Some Limitations
Many experts are praising the study, but are quick to point out that it does not show a causal link between chili consumption and health .
Duane Mellor, a registered dietitian and senior teaching fellow at Aston Medical School in the UK explained that chilis’ effects could be due to how they are used in the diet .
“It is plausible people who use chilies, as the data suggests also used more herbs and spices, and as such likely to be eating more fresh foods including vegetables,” he said.
“So, 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.” 
Easy Ways to Incorporate Chilis Into Your Diet
Whether chilis are as magical as they appear to be, or they simply make it more pleasurable to eat a healthy diet, including them in your meals is an easy way to boost your daily nutrient intake. Here are a few simple ways to add them into your daily routine:
- The next time you make healthy sautéed vegetables, add some chili peppers to turn up the spice volume.
- Add chili peppers to your favorite cornbread recipe to give it an extra spark.
- Add minced chili peppers to yogurt and use it as a condiment or dip.
- Add jalapenos to your favorite tuna salad recipe.
- Purée fresh chili peppers together with olive oil, garlic, coriander, peppermint, and caraway. If you would like, add your own favorite herbs and spices to this mixture to make your own version of Harissa, a condiment popular in some Middle Eastern and North African countries.
- Keep a container of cayenne pepper on the table right next to the pepper mill, so you and your family can add a pinch of extra spice to any of your meals.
Cayenne pepper and lemon juice make great complements to cooked bitter greens such as collards, kale and mustard greens .
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- “Chili Pepper Consumption and Mortality in Italian Adults.” Online Jacc. Marialaura Bonaccio, et al. December 2019.
- “Eating chilies cuts risk of death from heart attack and stroke, study says.” CNN. Jack Guy. December 16, 2019.
- “The Association of Hot Red Chili Pepper Consumption and Mortality: A Large Population-Based Cohort Study.” PLOS One. Mustafa Chopan and Benjamin Littenberg. January 9, 2017.
- “Consumption of spicy foods and total and cause specific mortality: population based cohort study.” BMJ. Jun Lv, et al. August 2015.
- “Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) Channels.” NCBI. Amrita Samanta, et al. July 2018.
- “Vanilloid receptors—do they have a role in whole body metabolism? Evidence from TRPV1.” Science Direct. Andrea Zsombok. May-June 2013.
- “Disruption of TRPV1-mediated coupling of coronary blood flow to cardiac metabolism in diabetic mice: role of nitric oxide and BK channels.” Physiology. Giacinta Guarini. July 2012.
- “Darwinian Gastronomy: Why We Use Spices: Spices taste good because they are good for us.” Bio Science. Paul W. Sherman and Jennifer Billing. June 1, 1999