People who love a spicy curry could be eating their way to a healthy heart, researchers have discovered.
Scientists from the Chinese University of Hong Kong found that the compounds that give cayennes, jalapenos, habaneros and other chilli peppers their fiery heat help lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
The study also discovered that the piquant family of spices, called capsaicinoids, also lowers the risk of blood clots.
Researchers investigated the role of spices and the reduced risk of heart disease on laboratory hamsters, who were fed high-cholesterol diets before being split into two groups.
Only one group were given foods supplemented with capsaicinoids and scientists analysed the effects they had on the hamsters' heart health.
They discovered that the spicy compounds lowered the levels of cholesterol in hamsters by decreasing the accumulation of cholesterol by increasing the breakdown of the ‘bad fats’.
The capsaicinoids blocked the cyclooxygenase-2 gene that makes arteries contract (which restricts the blood flow through the heart).
Researchers also noted that capsaicinoids may also reduce the size of fatty deposits already in the blood vessels, which narrow arteries in a way that could lead to heart attacks or strokes.
“We concluded that capsaicinoids were beneficial in improving a range of factors related to heart and blood vessel health,” explains lead author, professor Zhen-Yu Chen, reports Science Daily.
"But we certainly do not recommend that people start consuming chilies to an excess. A good diet is a matter of balance. And remember, chilies are no substitute for the prescription medications proven to be beneficial. They may be a nice supplement, however, for people who find the hot flavor pleasant."
If you’re worried about your heart health, find out how to lower your blood pressure with these simple, practical tips.
Cinnamon isn't just a great way to sweeten up your pastry or morning coffee, it also has great weight-loss properties, too. According to a recent study by <a href="http://care.diabetesjournals.org/" target="_hplink">Diabetes Care</a>, a simple teaspoon of cinnamon a day rapidly reduces blood sugar levels, as well as cholesterol by 26%, meaning it helps protect against diabetes, weight-gain and cardiovascular disease.
Hot and spicy paprika contains capsaicin, whose anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects may lower the risk of cancer (also found in cayenne and red chili peppers).
The staple in all our kitchen cupboards, black pepper contains piperine component (which creates its pungent taste) as well as boosting the metabolism by as much as 8% for sveral hours after ingesting. Freshly ground pepper packs the most piperine.
These spicy-tasting mustard seed not only pack a punch on your taste buds, but helps boost the metabolism. This helps the body burn fat quicker - by up to 25% and around 45 calories per average meal. According to a recent study by <a href="http://www.brookes.ac.uk/" target="_hplink">Oxford Polytechnic Institute</a>, the mustard seed's thermogenic property is best as burning off the fat.
The main ingredient in the cayenne pepper is capsaicin, which is known for its fat-burning abilities and thermogenic properties. These stimulate the central nervous system to produce heat in the body, that goes onto increase calorie burning. A recent study featured in the <a href="http://www.nature.com/ijo/index.html" target="_hplink">Journal of Obesity </a>found that these type of spices increase fat oxidation, which ramps up energy and stimulates the nervous system - all beneficial to helping the body shed weight.
Thanks to its preventative and curative ingredient, curcumin, a rich anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory agent, turmeric is best at reducing inflammation in the muscles and joints. This spice is also believed to be a great breast cancer-preventing food and is more effective than over-the-counter pain killers, like aspirin and ibuprofen, according to the <a href="http://www.vedanet.com/" target="_hplink">American Institute for Vedic Studies</a>.
According to the <a href="http://www.springer.com/medicine/internal/journal/10620" target="_hplink">Digestive Disease and Science</a>, coriander rapidly decreases the painful symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Coriander contains an anti-spasmodic agent that helps relax contracted digestive muscles, which cause stomach cramps. It's also good at relaxing the artery, which subsequently helps lower blood pressure.
Fennel can be classed as a vegetable, herb or spice but whatever you label it, it's anti-inflammatory agents provide pain relief for menstrual cramps. Fennel contains a liquorice-tasting oil called anethole and phytoestrogen, an oestrogen-like compound. This is proven to reduce menstrual cramps and is as strong as an over-the-counter ibuprofen.
Ginger has long been used as a spice which helps ease all types of nausea. Previous studies from the <a href="http://www.umich.edu/" target="_hplink">University of Michigan</a> and <a href="http://nymu-e.web.ym.edu.tw/front/bin/home.phtml" target="_hplink">National Yang-Ming University</a>, Taiwan, found that ginger reduces the release of vasopressin - the key hormone that plays a role in motion sickness. Ginger also has great gastric mobility abilities, and aids healthy digestion.
Oregano is a major source of thymol and carvacol - two antibacterial agents that fight off infection. It's also packed with super strength anti-oxidants, so much so, it has quadruple the amount of antioxidants found in blueberries.