Are you one of those misunderstood foodies who add Tabasco sauce to soup, pizza and everything else in between? Your preference for hotness may be off-putting to some, but chalk up their wrinkled nose to envy of your virtuous palate.
Studies have shown that a little—or a lot—of spiciness is beneficial to your health. Even in the throes of hot, sweaty summer, spicy food has its pluses, such as cooling you down when eaten on the hottest days. This is a result of your body compensating for the sudden hotness by raising your internal temperature and thus causing your body to sweat and cool off.
Read on for more trivia and easy-to-make recipes that will help you reap the perks of eating hot and spicy foods.
Hot ’N Healthy
There are several health benefits when it comes to eating spicy foods. For instance:
Fat burner: A 1998 study at Laval University discovered red pepper increases metabolism, which means energy is burned faster and used more effectively. Red pepper was also shown to suppress appetite.
Carcinogen fighter: In 2007, scientists of Nottingham University in the United Kingdom found that curry is effective in preventing prostate cancer. The cancer-fighting agent in curry is curcumin, which is a pigment that has antioxidant properties.
Decongestive: Lighthearted comments of spicy scents clearing the sinuses may have more truth than you think. Hot food can relieve clogged nasal passages as well as fight fever and flu symptoms due to increased body temperature.
Mood booster: Like a runner’s high, eating a spicy food will cause your brain to release feel-good endorphins. This mood boost is partially due to your body’s defense mechanism in fighting pain from heat. Hot spices may also reduce inflammation.
Spice Up Your Life
What makes most hot foods, uh, hot? The spices mixed into them, of course! Spices have their own beneficial health quirks. What’s great about spices is that you can easily add them to foods in just a pinch.
Cinnamon: Sure it’s mostly used in desserts, but cinnamon has a twang that can leave your tongue tickling or burning if you add this spice in excess. Cinnamon is rich in polyphenols, which may regulate blood sugar, a trait beneficial to diabetes sufferers.
Turmeric: Found in curry powder, researchers are in the process of finding the link between turmeric and brain health. This spice may protect people against cognitive decline. Feeling old and forgetful? Add turmeric to your tuna salad.
Dried red peppers: You can attribute fat burning to red peppers. The dream team of metabolism enhancers includes cayenne, crushed red pepper and paprika. These scorching spices are great for increasing satiety, too.
Too Hot To Handle?
If you feel you’ve overestimated your spicy threshold and are surprised you aren’t setting off fire alarms, milk is your best bet to cure the burn. The casein in milk binds spicy capsaicin—found in chili peppers—resulting in heat relief upon first gulp.
Sizzllin’ In The Kitchen
Blogger Tiffany of Creme de la Crumb is a lover of white chocolate as well as hot and spicy dishes. Cook up Tiffany’s recipes to treat your palate and better your health.
Holla for Jalapeños
“I like it hot,” blogs Tiffany. The self-taught cook loves Mexican food and popping whole jalapeños into her mouth. The Skinny Jalapeño Popper Dip is a perfect appetizer for parties. Easy to throw together—only six ingredients!—the dip can also be a yummy and low-fat snack.
Skinny Jalapeño Popper Dip
8 ounces fat-free cream cheese, softened
8 ounces fat–free, plain Greek yogurt, or fat-free sour cream
1/3 cup mayo, or light mayo or mayo made with extra virgin olive oil
1-2 7-ounce cans sliced jalapeños, drained
2 tablespoons reduced-fat grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons seasoned bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 400°F. In a large bowl, mix together cream cheese, Greek yogurt or sour cream, and mayo. Stir in jalapeños. Transfer mixture to a small-medium casserole dish. Sprinkle bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese on top. Garnish with additional jalapeños if desired. Bake 20 minutes until top begins to brown. Serve hot with crackers or chips.
This sweet and hot meal is in the words of Tiffany, “Totally customizable.” Control the heat by adding more or less red pepper flakes depending on your desired hotness. The prep time is only 10 minutes, making this dish a great choice when you need to cook a last-minute meal.
Spicy Apricot Chicken
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (plain or seasoned)
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
About 2 cups apricot preserves or apricot jam
Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Add apricot preserves (or jam), 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt and crushed red pepper flakes to a medium sauce pan, and bring to a slight boil. Place beaten egg in one bowl. In another bowl, whisk together bread crumbs, 1 teaspoon garlic powder and 1 teaspoon salt. Dip each chicken breast in the egg, tossing to coat, then in the bread crumb mixture, tossing to coat. Pour about 1 cup of sauce into prepared baking dish. Place chicken breasts side by side on top of sauce. Cover chicken with remaining sauce. Bake 20 to 25 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Serve warm.
The Fiery Fish
You’re in for a spicy, citrusy and savory dinner when you make Tiffany’s Sriracha Lime Salmon. A touch of honey, lime and Sriracha will satisfy your hunger and have your tasters schooled.
Sriracha Lime Salmon
4 salmon fillets
For the marinade:
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
For the sauce:
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon Sriracha
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons cilantro, roughly chopped
Whisk together all marinade ingredients. Place salmon and marinade in a Ziploc bag, seal and chill 30 minutes or overnight. Remove salmon from bag, and discard marinade. Spray a nonstick pan or skillet with cooking spray, and cook salmon over medium-high heat 6 to 8 minutes on each side until salmon begins to blacken very slightly and is flakey (falls apart easily when touched with a fork). If salmon has skin on, carefully peel skin off after cooking and discard. While the salmon is cooking, whisk together all sauce ingredients except for cilantro. Heat in a small sauce pan over medium heat, and bring to a boil; then reduce to a simmer. When salmon is cooked, drizzle sauce over salmon and sprinkle with chopped cilantro. Serve with cooked rice or steamed vegetables.
For more recipes by Tiffany, visit her blog at lecremedelacrumb.com.