Can Eating Chili Peppers Help You Live Longer? A New Study Has the Answer

|Updated Mar 10, 2021
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If you like spicy food, you’re in luck: There’s a growing body of research, which supports that chili peppers can help you live longer. Longevity involves many factors, such as maintaining a healthy heart, decreasing your risk of chronic diseases, and practicing a healthy lifestyle, according to Harvard Health.

One recent study, presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2020, examined the diets of more than 500,000 people worldwide to investigate the impact of chili pepper consumption on longevity. The analysis found that those who regularly ate chili pepper had a 26 percent relative reduction in cardiovascular mortality, a 23 percent relative reduction in cancer mortality, and a 25 percent relative reduction in all-cause mortality. Findings emphasize the importance of diet in improving health, as certain foods can be more beneficial for your body than others.

“The exact reasons and mechanisms that might explain our findings, though, are currently unknown. Therefore, it is impossible to conclusively say that eating more chili pepper can prolong life and reduce deaths, especially from cardiovascular factors or cancer,” said senior author Bo Xu, MD, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic’s Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute in Cleveland, Ohio.

The exact link between eating chili peppers and living longer remains unclear and more research needs to be done, specifically regarding the amount and type of chili pepper consumption to draw conclusions. However, most chili peppers are power-packed with anti-inflammatory properties and essential nutrients that make them a great addition to any diet. Here are some benefits of this spice:

1. Chili Peppers Are High in Vitamins and Minerals

Chili peppers are rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin K1, copper, and potassium. Just one medium-sized red bell pepper provides 169% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for vitamin C, making it one of the richest dietary sources of gaining this nutrient. “Chili peppers also have antioxidant properties, which fight free radicals in the blood. Free radicals put our bodies at increased risk for many chronic diseases,” Amanda Nicole, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist tells The Beet.

2. Chili Peppers Provide Pain Relief

Capsaicin is an important compound only found in chili peppers. This compound has many anti-inflammatory effects, according to a 2017 study published in Pharmacognosy Magazine. The study found that the consumption of capsaicin-rich foods, such as chili peppers, can reduce inflammation and also be used as a potential treatment in muscle-related diseases such as myotube atrophy. The more capsaicin the chili pepper has, the spicier it is. Today, you can find this compound in many creams and patches that are designed to provide pain relief. When capsaicin is applied on the skin, you block pain messages to your nerves –– allowing you to not feel the pain.

3. Chili Peppers Promote Satiety

“Capsaicin, the active ingredient in cayenne pepper, has metabolism-boosting effects and may reduce hunger by lowering the production of the hormone ghrelin,” Nicole says. The hormone ghrelin increases appetite and plays a role in body weight. A 2017 review published in Bioscience Reports examined the impact of capsaicin in keeping one full for longer. Researchers found that dietary capsaicin consumption could activate brown adipose tissue, which transfers energy from food to heat. When brown fat burns, it results in a process called thermogenesis which burns calories and promotes satiety. While further research is needed to establish a clear link between capsaicin and weight loss, it has been studied to support healthy weight management.

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Types of Chili Peppers

Just like spices, different types of chili peppers work for different dishes. Luckily, there are many varieties you can use for salads, salsas, soups, cocktails, tacos, and more to give it a zesty kick. The spiciness of each pepper is determined by its Scoville Heat Units (SHU), a measurement of how much capsaicin, the active component of chili peppers, is present. The SHU ranges typically used to identify a pepper as mild, medium, hot, or extra hot are: Mild (100 to 2,500) Medium (2,500 to 30,000) Hot (30,000 to <350,000). There are over 50,000 types of peppers in the world, here are the ten most common ones along with their SHU:

  • Bell Pepper (SHU: 0)
  • Banana Pepper (SHU: 100-500)
  • Pepperoncini (SHU: 100-500)
  • Poblano (SHU: 1,000 - 2,000)
  • Jalapeño (SHU: 2,500 - 5,000)
  • Serrano (SHU: 6,000-23,000)
  • Cayenne (SHU: 30,000-50,000)
  • Tabasco (SHU: 30,000-50,000)
  • Thai Chilli (SHU: 50,000-250,000)
  • Habanero (SHU: 100,000-350,000)

Top 10 Sources of Plant-Based Protein According to a Nutritionist

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1. Seitan

Protein: 21 grams in ⅓ cup (1 ounce) Seitan isn’t as popular as other proteins, but it should be! Made from wheat gluten, its texture resembles ground meat. It’s often used in pre-made veggie burgers or meatless nuggets. Seitan has a savory taste, like mushrooms or chicken, so it works well in dishes that call for an umami flavor. With a hearty texture, seitan can be the star of practically any vegan main dish. Add it to stir-fries, sandwiches, burritos, burgers, or stews. Like tofu, seitan will take on the flavor of any marinade or sauce.


2. Tempeh

Protein: 16 grams in 3 ounces If you like a protein with a bit of bite, add tempeh to your list. Made from fermented soybeans, tempeh has a slightly nutty flavor and is pressed into a block. Most varieties include some sort of grains, such as barley or millet. Not only is tempeh a plant-based source of protein, but the fermentation process also creates good-for-your-gut probiotics. You can cut tempeh right off the block and use it as the base for a sandwich or pan-fry it with some sauce. Or, crumble, heat, and make it the star of your next taco night.

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3. Lentils

Protein: 13 grams in ½ cup cooked Lentils come in multiple varieties--red, yellow, green, brown, black. Regardless of the type lentils are small but mighty nutritional powerhouses. They pack a good amount of protein as well as iron, folate, and fiber. When cooked, brown lentils retain their texture and can be the base for a grain bowl or make a hearty substitute for ground meat in meatballs, lasagna, tacos or Bolognese. Red lentils are a bit softer and make a nice add-in for a hearty soup, chili, or stew.

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4. Hemp Seeds

Protein: 10 grams in 3 tablespoons Hemp seeds are a tender and nutty seed, derived from the hemp plant. They contain good amounts of omega-3s, iron, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, and manganese. They are also a solid source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, which helps to keep your digestive tract healthy and humming. Because they pack a double whammy of protein and healthy fats, hemp seeds can help satisfy hunger, preventing those embarrassing stomach growls as you slog your way to your lunch break. Add them to your morning smoothie or sprinkle them on top of yogurt, oatmeal, or even a salad.

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5. Tofu

Protein: 9 grams in 3 ounces (⅕ of a block) Made from coagulated soybeans, tofu is the most popular plant-based protein. Soy is one of the only meatless "complete" proteins, meaning that it contains all of the essential amino acids that the body can’t make but needs for muscle and immune function. With 15% of your daily calcium needs, tofu is also a good replacement for dairy.

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6. Edamame

Protein: 9 grams of protein in ½ cup This sushi appetizer is a nutrient powerhouse, so eat it anytime. Edamame is really just another name for soybeans in their pods. Let’s list off some stats--a small ½-cup serving of edamame has 9 grams of protein, 15% of your daily vitamin C, 10% of your daily iron and 16% of your daily fiber. Keep a bag of edamame in your freezer to serve as a fun-to-eat side dish or opt for the shelled variety to toss into salads or a grain bowl.

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7. Quinoa

Protein: 8 grams per cup (cooked) Quinoa is an ancient grain and since it's gluten-free a great choice for anyone avoiding gluten. Add it to your burger recipe to create filling texture, or instead of meat in your taco or burrito. Quinoa is among the healthiest foods on the planet, delivering phytonutrients that have anti-inflammatory qualities, so keep it in your pantry for any meal that needs a filling grain. Just remember to soak it and rinse before cooking to get rid of any bitter taste.

8. Black Beans

Protein: 7 grams in ½ cup (canned) Eating beans on the regular might as well be a prerequisite for a plant-based diet. Not only are canned black beans inexpensive, but they also contribute 10% of your daily iron and 25% of your daily fiber to your diet. For less than $1 a can, beans can be the star of tacos, quesadillas, salads, soups, burgers, or dips.


9. Amaranth

Protein: 6 grams in ⅔ cup (cooked) Chances are you’ve never cooked amaranth. But you should, since this tiny, gluten- free grain is packed with almost 30% of your daily fiber and 20% of your daily iron. Cook it like a traditional grain to yield a soft, porridge-like texture. Many people add amaranth to other a hot breakfast cereal mixture, like oats and quinoa. It also pops like popcorn. Toss it in a pot with some oil and wait for it to pop up into a nutritious snack.

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10. Peas

Protein: 5 grams in ⅔ cup If peas were one of your most hated veggies as a kid, it’s time to give them another chance. These green beans are a great low-calorie protein to keep in your freezer. Sure, they don’t always taste great when steamed or microwaved (who wants to eat mushy, overcooked peas?), but they do blend well into a yummy puree that can be slathered on toast. To amp up the flavor, add some lemon juice or mint to your mix before you blend.