Living in Malaysia, chili has always been a well-known addition to our food intake. Whether it’s presented in the form of fragrant curries, spicy sambals, or just raw cut chilies, this fiery ingredient had always been a prominent part of our diet. However, despite its popularity, chili often has a negative label attached to it in terms of health.

Rumors are it causes intestinal upsets, acne breakouts, even fever, just to name a few. Well, it’s about time we return these misrepresented plants some justice. Here are five good reasons why you should start including chili in your daily diet.

1. Boost weight loss:
Have you ever heard of people wrapping cling films or other fabrics that contain chili (well, probably derivatives of chili) around their waist, thighs or any other body part for the sake of toning or weight loss? Well, instead of having to suffer from that burning sensation on your skin for hours after those wraps, what about just enjoying some chilies in your meals for similar effects? Capsaicin, the main component in chilies, was found to boost metabolism, increase heat production and raise oxygen consumption in the body after being consumed.

All of these, of course, lead to higher energy expenditure and therefore greater calorie consumption, resulting in (you’re right) weight loss. Bear in mind, though, achieving your goal in losing weight does not only depend on a single dietary ingredient, but should also include other forms of healthy eating and physical activity as well.

2. Improve immune function:
One of the reasons a person has a less effective immune system is the presence of free radicals. These are the pests that damage your immune cells and disrupt the pathway of how they work, leading to higher risks of developing infections. To curb this problem, one solution is to start loading up on anti-oxidants, natural free radical fighters that can also enhance production and performance of your immune cells. Chili peppers are exceptionally rich in this group of substances, containing high amounts of Vitamin A (also called the anti-infection vitamin), Vitamin C, beta-carotene, lycopene, and more. Vitamin A is an important element in maintaining healthy mucous membranes that line our nasal passages, lungs, intestinal tract and urinary tract, serving as our body’s first line of defense against infective agents.

Besides, studies have shown that chilies contain seven times more Vitamin C than oranges, a vitamin that is vital in sustaining our immune function. So the next time you’re feeling down on health, you’ll know what to go to for that kick in immunity!

3. Cardiovascular benefits:
There are many ways capsaicin can improve your heart health. Consumption of capsaicin can lead to lower levels of cholesterol and triglyceride in your blood, two major culprits in cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and stroke. Besides, remember the mention of free radicals in the paragraph above? Not only do they affect your immune system, they can also damage fat cells in your blood, resulting in the development of atherosclerosis, formation of fatty plaques that lead to hardening of your arteries, causing heart problems. Still not convinced enough to bite into this spicy goodness? Research has proven that capsaicin in chilies can reduce the risk of diabetes, a huge risk factor in the development of cardiovascular diseases.

Now, instead of shunning away from this plant because of its heart rate-increasing sweat-inducing properties, why not start taking more of this surprisingly beneficial ingredient for your heart!

4. Protection against cancer:
By now, you would have known how eating chili-peppers can help fight against body fat, free radicals, even cholesterol, right? Well, it’s about time to introduce another group of cells that its main component capsaicin can fight against: Cancer cells. Animal studies have demonstrated an ability in capsaicin to protect against prostate cancer, one of the leading causes of cancer deaths in males. Capsaicin was found to make it more difficult for cancer cells to avoid programmed cell death, resulting in slower tumor growth.

Experiments done on mice had shown that prostate tumors treated with capsaicin were only one fifth the size of untreated cases, and the death of almost 80% of prostate cancer cells could be caused by capsaicin. Two other cancers that capsaicin had been shown to be able to protect against are lung and pancreatic cancer. In a study done by British researchers, capsaicin was shown to disrupt the main energy source of cancer cells, mitochondria, therefore killing these cancer cells while leaving healthy cells intact.

5. Prevent stomach ulcers:
In contrast to myths of how chilies can cause intestinal upsets or gastritis, it is now proven that these plants can actually protect us against stomach ulcers. Capsaicin has been demonstrated to be able to kill or slow down the growth of bacteria in our stomachs after consumption, one of them being H. pylori, one of the top causes of gastric ulcers. Not only that, this amazing substance can stimulate secretion of protective juices in our stomach. Word of caution though: For people not used to this spicy ingredient, a sudden intake too much chili-peppers can cause burning sensations in your gastrointestinal tract. To neutralize it, you can include dairy proteins such as yogurt or milk in the same meal. Also, if you are a patient suffering from gastrointestinal reflux disease, spicy foods might be something that you’d want to avoid to prevent worsening of the condition.

So now that the myths had been busted, and the truth is known, you can no longer be afraid to add in a little more spiciness into your daily food intake! Time to bring up the heat!

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