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Spicy-food connoisseurs, take note: Warming ingredients can increase your taste buds’ sensitivity to salt, which may reduce cravings for salty foods and can lower your risk of heart disease. A recent study published in Hypertension has found that eating spicy ingredients such as capsaicin along with salt can change the way the brain interprets sodium intake by significantly increasing brain activity in the region associated with the processing of taste. The dominance of spicy over salty enhances salt perception, which may help you reduce the amount of sodium you eat per day and thus thwart heart disease, since high salt intake is a contributing factor to the disease.
Chinese researchers conducted three studies, one on mice, one on humans involving a trial of more than 600 adults and another human study involving 60 subjects. Compared to the control group in the trial, those who ate the most spicy foods were found to consume about 2.5 fewer grams of salt per day. The spice lovers were also found to have lower blood pressure levels, on average. A related experiment saw similar results on salt desire and effects of salt on the brain. The American Heart Association advises consuming no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, so cut back on dining out and processed foods, which are often packed with salt, and use spices and herbs instead.
To get the health benefits of capsaicin, warm up with a bowl of CE’s Chile Chicken Soup.