How Spices (Especially Spicy Chili Peppers) Can Make Your Life Longer & Healthier
Written with Herbalist Daniela Turley, MCPP, AHG for Charlotte’s Book: an online resource dedicated to aesthetic health + wellness. We know you don't need another reason to order Thai curry takeout, but here's something to ease any lingering regret: a new study, reported here, says that eating spicy food regularly can actually extend your life. The study, conducted over seven years with adults in China, links regular consumption of spicy foods, like chili peppers, to 14% reduced risk of death. Longevity was most notable in people who ate spicy foods between three and seven days per week. But don't just grab the hot sauce—fresh, rather than dried chili peppers, had the greatest effect. Yes, there are extenuating circumstances (how the food is prepared, other lifestyle choices of study participants), but it's a good reminder to include chili and other spices in your regular rotation. Nita Forouhi, from the University of Cambridge, points to other potential benefits from chili and its bioactive compound capsaicin, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties.
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"As an herbalist," says Charlotte's Book Premiere Provider Daniela Turley, "this makes perfect sense." Turley has written for Charlotte's Book on the many and varied benefits of particular foods and herbs. Her super-power list of herb and spice remedies is long, but here's a few that go particularly well with your hot chili peppers. Pair These Power Foods With Your Spicy Peppers
Garlic contains a compound called allinin, which gets converted into allicin when the bulb is crushed. Allicin is both a natural antibiotic, shown to be effective in combating harmful organisms like MRSA, and a resource for fighting against cardiovascular disease. Many studies have shown allicin decreases hypertension by as much as 30 points. And, according to a clinic study at UCLA, garlic may help prevent strokes by slowing arterial blockages and lowering levels of homocysteine, a chemical that leads to plaque buildup. Reaping the health benefits of allicin is simple. Just crush cloves of garlic and set them aside for 15 minutes. Then, incorporate the garlic anywhere in your meal. If you don't spend a lot of time in the kitchen or want to skip ingesting the recommended 5 cloves, you can always take concentrated Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract, which is coated to protect the delicate allicin from stomach acid.
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Turmeric can do almost everything! Its active ingredient, curcumin, has been proven to help improve a variety of serious and even life-threatening conditions, including multiple myeloma, pancreatic cancer, colon cancer, psoriasis, arthritis, major depression and Alzheimer’s Disease. Curcumin possesses potent anti-inflammatory qualities that aide in the treatment of conditions associated with inflammation, ranging from autoimmune disease to arthritis. The only issue with this miracle ingredient is that it's hard for your body to absorb. Scientists are currently researching better methods of administration. For now, the ingredient piperene, found in black pepper, is used to improve the bioavailability of turmeric (up to 200%). I recommend Gaia Herbs Turmeric Extreme, $30, which also contains black pepper.
Ginger herbal supplements come in two forms—fresh and dried. The fresh version is useful in reducing nausea and also has great antiviral properties to help fight the common cold. Dried ginger has increased anti-inflammatory and anti-cancerous benefits. Use fresh ginger tea at the first sign of a cold or when nauseous. Alternatively, use dried ginger tea bags to reduce the pain of arthritis or improve peripheral circulation. Ginger had been cited by the World Health Organization in the top five anti-cancerous foods.