8 health benefits of spicy foods

Nutrition  |  By

Curry has long been a favourite food in the UK with 9,000 curry houses and over 23 million people eating curry regularly.

However, how many of us associate curry with large takeaway portions of greasy food, plates of white breads and poppadum’s? Not really the first meal we think of when we decide to increase our healthy eating!

A curry can be a great way to eat a vegetable-packed and tasty meal. If you love your spicy foods, there are lots of benefits! Cooked at home, where levels of fat, salt and sugar can be kept under control.

So without further ado, here are 8 health benefits of spicy foods.

Spices curry contains can help our health. Of course, the relative benefits obtained by a quick shake of these fragrant spices into the cooking pot are small – but nonetheless, read on and be inspired to spice up your dinner tonight!

1. Might help immune system

Turmeric, that bright yellow spice that stains the fingers contains curcumin – which may help boost our immune system. It does this by increasing levels of a vital protein that helps fight infection, according to Adrian Gombart, an associate professor of biochemistry and biophysics in the Linus Pauling Institute.

Combining turmeric with black pepper is the best way to make sure it gets absorbed into your body – a tip worth remembering.

2. Can increase libido

Most would link the increased libido of their partner on a Saturday night with the beer they have consumed rather than the curry! However, one study from the Centre for Integrative Clinical and Molecular Medicine in Australia has shown that fenugreek extract increased libido by 25% in a group of men who took the extract two times a day for six weeks.

3. Could reduce joint inflammation 

Turmeric has been shown to reduce inflammation in an experimental model of human tendons in a study from the University of Nottingham. If this can be used to good effect in treatments for arthritis and similar joint conditions needs further study. But it’s a good excuse to eat a delicious spicy foods.

4. May inhibit cancer growth

The amazing Turmeric once again showing us the health benefits of spicy foods! Cancer Research UK reports that some trials have shown that turmeric (or the curcumin in it) may prevent pre-cancerous changes from becoming cancerous.

Also, some countries with high turmeric intake have lower levels of certain types of cancer – possibly reflecting a protective effect. In addition, some trials are looking at possible treatment of established cancers with turmeric extracts.

5. Possibly reduces pain

Capsaicin is the compound found in hot peppers and is used in creams and gels to help pain from shingles and other aches. It causes pain and burning in itself (as anyone who has had a hot curry knows all too well) and, in small amounts, interferes with the pain pathways back to the brain, reducing the pain felt from other causes. Clever!

6. Acts as an antiseptic

In India, turmeric may be rubbed on cuts and burns to reduce infection and improve healing.

7. Might help improve brain function

Studies from India and elsewhere show that cinnamon and curcumin have both been associated with reducing the brain deposits that contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.

8. Could reduce liver disease 

Cinnamon has been shown in animal studies to improve the action of insulin and reduce the amount of fat deposited in the liver.  Of course, protecting your liver with a bit of cinnamon in your curry will be negated by too much alcohol washing it down! Ginger may also have some protective effects on the liver according to other studies.

With so many more spices present in such a huge variety of curries there are even more health benefits to be found than the ones described above.

8 Benefits of Spicy Foods - a bowl of curry with two bowls of spices, fresh coriander and a wooden spoon.

Whilst some of these spices appear to have beneficial effects, large amounts of these spices and some supplements that contain these spices may have side-effects. As with our general ethos at Vavista, we recommend eating real food in moderation and avoiding supplements unless specifically indicated or recommended by your own doctor.

If you want to cook up a storm, check out some great Indian recipes here and take advantages of the health benefits of spicy foods.

Sources: National Curry Week

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