There’s not much middle ground when it comes to spicy food; you either like it or you don’t. There are a few exceptions, such as turmeric. It is a mild enough spice that when combined with others creates an amazing flavor without additional heat, but did you know it also has amazing health benefits? For people without related autoimmune diseases or allergies, these can be great additions to an already healthy and nutrient dense diet.
In this article, I hope to accomplish two things. First, I am going to introduce you to flavors and spices that you can add to your diet no matter what level of heat you can handle. Second, I am going to help you decide whether adding spicy foods, such as turmeric or cayenne, back into your diet is something you should consider.
If you have never been one for spicy foods or just want a couple spices that are good for you and flavorful, make sure you have a good supply of turmeric, paprika, ginger, and cayenne.
Turmeric is one of the most amazing spices in any kitchen arsenal. It has shown potential to help with diseases such as Alzheimer’s and other forms of Dementia. It also carries potent anti-inflammatory effects , so it can assist with inflammation you may be experiencing as well. There are also many other benefits associated with Turmeric.
The vitamin A content in a tablespoon of Paprika is more than 100% of the daily intake requirement. Vitamin A is believed to improve eyesight.
Ginger has been a well known spice for many things. Many people swear it helps calm their stomach and even speed up recovery when ill. It is also great for pain relief from arthritis, sore muscles, menstrual cramps, and bronchitis, and it is even used for pain in the chest, lower back, and stomach.
Finally, one of Cayenne peppers lesser known health benefits is the fact that it is great to relieve pain as a topical agent. If you mix a tablespoon cayenne pepper with one cup of coconut oil, it makes a great topical pain reliever, as well as a ready made spicy oil to cook in.
If you’re like me, you find those previous spices great for everyday cooking, but what I really crave when I want spicy foods is typically jalapeños , Serrano peppers (typically as a sauce), or some smoky Chipotle peppers . The Capsaicin in these peppers are amazing antioxidants, and as you move up the scale in heat, known as the scoville scale , the more antioxidants are in the pepper. Remember when you were a kid and you had to drink a whole glass of that sugar filled lemon juice to get a daily serving of vitamin C?
A single Jalapeño has more than your daily requirement of vitamin C. As you begin to scale into these peppers, you gain additional benefits pertaining to weight loss, as the Capsaicinoids are known to stimulate the metabolism, and there is a greater benefit when you “go hotter.”
For instance, a Serrano pepper is said to be approximately five times hotter than a Jalapeño. While many of the health benefits are similar, the main benefit the Serrano has over the Jalapeño is a boosted stimulus for your metabolism. These peppers are also being linked to insulin sensitivity, which helps combat type 2 diabetes by stimulating consistent fat oxidation, instead of fat storage, turning fat into fuel for the body , very similar to what the Paleo diet does.
The final point towards spicy foods that I would like to share with you is in the form of an experiment I performed. Prior to writing this guest post, I performed a 7 day caffeine fast. Instead of coffee or tea, I drank water, and for energy I utilized peppers and sauces with a higher scoville rating, such as eating pickles that had been pickled with Habaneros and a Ghost pepper seasoning salt.
I found that my midday fatigue had subsided, and I was actually gaining even more energy in the early evening after everything within my day was coming to a close. I successfully replaced caffeine with Jalapeño peppers, Habanero peppers, and Ghost peppers.
So, as you can see, there are various degrees of heat that you can encounter, and many of the benefits are shared between the varying levels with some scaling with the heat. The primary question you should ask yourself when considering the addition of spicy foods back into your diet is “did I do this for autoimmune reasons?”
If the answer is yes, this may be something to do lightly. If you add turmeric and some milder paprika to your diet, you will see amazing health benefits from even these flavorful additions. If you made the change to the Paleo lifestyle for health or fitness you may want to consider being someone who adds Jalapeño peppers, Serrano peppers, or maybe even the Habanero pepper to their diet.