Some good news for fans of spicy food: eating all those peppers could help you burn calories. For a recent study published in Obesity Open Access, researchers gave 40 healthy men and women either a placebo pill or a 2-milligram capsule of capsaicinoids—the component of chili peppers that makes them spicy—and used a new device called a Breezing to measure their metabolism every hour for three hours after taking the pill. They found that people who took the capsaicinoid capsule burned 116 calories on average, while the people who took the placebo burned less than 15 calories on average. Not too shabby.
Capsaicin, the study asserts, has a thermogenic effect, which means that it generates heat when you digest it. As a result, you burn more calories. However, this is far from the only health benefit to come from spicy food. Studies have shown that capsaicin may reduce inflammation, which makes it a potential gamechanger when it comes to treating everything from arthritis to heart attacks. A seven-year-long study of nearly 500,000 Chinese people showed that people who ate spicy food three times a week lowered their risk of dying by 14%, compared to people who abstained from food with a kick. The American Association of Cancer Research has even linked capsaicin to fighting cancer, finding that some spices have killed cancerous and leukemic cells. Studies have also shown capsaicin to lower blood pressure, sooth skin disorders like psoriasis, and treat ear infections.
Another benefit? Capsaicin is known to make you feel good. Consuming it can release a flood of hormones like serotonin that can boost your mood and relieve some depression and stress.
So, there's really no reason to burn, baby, burn.