If you’re looking for a hot date on Valentine’s Day, why not choose one that’s good for your heart? And no, I don’t mean Paul Rudd or Idris Elba. I mean red hot chili peppers (not the band)!
In a study published in the Journal of The American College of Cardiology in 2019, Italian scientists observed that people who eat hot peppers 4 or more times per week were 40 percent less likely to die from heart attack and 60 percent less likely to die from cerebrovascular disease compared to those who do not consume chili peppers regularly.
The study was based on data from over 22,000 subjects and the results held true whether the rest of the diet was healthy or not. Health status was tracked over a period of 8 years.
Another study with about the same number of subjects demonstrated a reduced risk of death in those who eat spicy foods six to seven days per week. This Chinese study was published in the BMJ in 2015 showing a 14% relative risk reduction in death. The study spanned seven years.
As with most dietary observations, it’s hard to draw a hard fast line between the specific properties of chili peppers and their positive effects. Is the microbiota of each person’s gut the key? Is it the antioxidant effect of capsaicin that does the trick? Is it the antiobesity effect of capsaicin? Does vitamin D have an effect in individuals with hypertension? All of these may be a piece of the puzzle. And we may never put the puzzle together perfectly.
While that may mean we don’t have enough information to formulate a soup that perfectly protects the heart, we can rely on the take away that chili peppers have a positive effect even when the rest of the diet is less than ideal. That gives us the opportunity to up our spice game on a regular basis.
There’s no better day to get started than today! Add some cayenne to your chocolate covered strawberries, throw some spiced pecans in your brownies, or serve black cherry blooms for happy hour. It’s easy to keep it festive and make it healthy on Valentine’s Day!
To that I say, “Bring on the heat!” Your heart with thank you for it.