Spice Up Your Life With Capsaicin
Posted by Kate W on Monday, June 25th, 2012
My dad has always been a spicy food fanatic. He never met a meal he didn’t think could be improved by a hefty dollop of hot sauce, whether it was cold leftover pizza or burgers hot off the grill. When I was nine years old he moved into a house that had an interesting architectural detail: a shelf ran along the top of the walls of the living room and kitchen; presumably, the previous homeowners had been collectors of some sort. He contemplated taking the shelves down, but then decided he might as well start his own collection. That’s when the hot sauce collection began.
Every time my dad traveled somewhere new, a bottle of local hot sauce would make its way into his collection. Just a few years later he had run out of shelf space, but by that point the collection had taken on a life of his own; friends and family members presented him with bottles for birthdays, Christmas, Father’s Day, etc. He ended up hiring a contractor to build more shelves. By the time he moved out of the house a decade later, he had amassed over 300 bottles.
I did not inherit my dad’s love of spicy food; quite the opposite, actually. Ground black pepper has a little too much heat for me. My dad has encouraged me to build up my spicy food tolerance, as he insists his constant ingestion of hot food is responsible for keeping him healthy. He’s into his sixties but is still a competitive triathlete. I wrote off his claims at first, but after some research, I discovered that food with a kick can kick your health into overdrive.
Hot peppers are actually considered a superfood by Dr. Nicholas Perricone. Capsaicin, the active ingredient in chili peppers, is what brings the heat to a variety of peppers from habaneros to chipotles to habaneros. It also provides myriad health benefits. Capsaicin can be used to alleviate pain, whether it’s easing headaches or providing arthritis relief. If you’re prone to catching cold, capsaicin is a great preventative measure; not only does it clear out congested nasal passages and prevent chronic nasal congestion, it has natural antibacterial and allergy-fighting properties. And while some people (myself included) may feel that spicy foods can upset their stomachs, capsaicin actually has demonstrated gastric relief powers. There is even some medical evidence it may help with weight loss by acting as an appetite suppressant which might explain why my dad has 2% body fat, and I … do not.
I have gradually started increasing my intake of spicy foods, but I may never reach the levels of intensity that my dad can endure. Luckily capsaicin can be found in my beloved red bell peppers, a dietary staple around here. If worse comes to worse, I can even take cayenne pepper supplements; I don’t mind cayenne as long as there’s a protective barrier in place so I don’t have to actually taste it.
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