Spicy food is a lot more than the experience. It reduces the risk of heart attack and strokes. It can dip cholesterol levels and blood pressure. It can also decrease or prevent the growth of cancer cells. People who typically eat spice throughout their life have a reduced risk of dying prematurely. Some studies also reveal it aids weight loss.
Who doesn’t love working up a sweat and sniffling while eating a spicy meal? There’s nothing like getting your taste buds burning for a big glass of water (or milk, as experts suggest). Researchers claim people love spicy food for the thrill. But, spicy food is a lot more than the experience. It’s amazing for your health as well. Foods containing cayenne pepper, jalapeno, habanero, turmeric, cumin, red pepper, or other heat-producing spices are packed with healthy goodness.
Benefits Of Spicy Food
1. Improves Heart Health
The heart loves spicy food. People who eat spicy food throughout their life were found to have much lower instances of heart attacks and strokes, thanks to capsaicin. This compound typically found in chili pepper and jalapenos can reduce blood pressure and LDL “bad” cholesterol levels – perfect for heart health.1
2. Aids Weight Loss
Some experts claim the sweat you produce while eating spicy food is a sign of burning calories. This is because capsaicin raises your metabolic rate by 8% for a brief period of time. That’s not all. One study revealed people who ate food with hot sauce for an appetizer ate 200 fewer calories than people who didn’t. Also, let’s not forget spicy peppers does add a lot of flavor to food, making eating weight-loss specific food more palatable.
3. Promotes Anti-Cancer Effects
Spicy peppers and herbs can help reduce the risk of developing cancer. Capsaicin in spice was found to destroy leukemic cells and reduce prostate cancer cells. Also, curcumin found in turmeric is packed with anti-cancer properties. Experts reveal turmeric can help reduce the growth of cancer cells and prevent it as well, especially in cancers of the breast, stomach, and cervix.2
4. Increases Your Life Span
An interesting study followed the eating patterns of 500,000 people across China for 5 years. They revealed people who had spicy food 6 times a week had a 14% lesser risk of dying from heart diseases, cancer, infections, and respiratory diseases.3 Doctor’s order? Add spice wherever you can in your diet. Also, black peppers and bell peppers aren’t considered as spicy food.
5. Boosts Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Turmeric and capsaicin in peppers are anti-inflammatory in nature – a property used to tackle several diseases. Rheumatoid arthritis (an inflammatory disease) isn’t very common in countries that eat a lot of spicy food in their normal diet.
6. Treats A Stuffy Nose And Chest
Notice how your nose runs when you eat something spicy? This is because heat is excellent at clearing up your nasal tract and decongesting a stuffy chest.
Make sure to add red pepper and ground cayenne pepper in your diet. If you can’t handle spicy peppers, try milder versions of spice. Add ginger slices to tea and add turmeric to your dishes. Top your salads with red chili flakes as well.
Discovering the fountain of youth has been one of the world’s most sought-after but elusive endeavors. New information suggests that enhanced metabolism may be a valuable key for improved health and longevity.
Scientists at the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine and the life sciences company Cardax collaborated on a study aimed at evaluating a naturally occurring chemical with promise for anti-aging therapy.
FOXO3 is a gene that’s been proven to improve longevity, and the astaxanthin compound CDX-085 was instrumental in this venture.
Dr. Bradley Willcox, director of research at the Department of Geriatric Medicine for the Kuakini Honolulu Heart Program, and Richard Allsopp, Ph.D., associate professor and researcher with the Institute of Biogenesis Research, were principal researchers on the study.
The ‘Longevity Gene’ and How It’s Activated
According to Willcox everyone has the FOXO3 gene, which is associated with aging in humans, but 1 in 3 individuals possesses a version of the gene associated with longevity.
However, by activating the FOXO3 gene common in all humans, scientists can make it behave like the “longevity” gene, and astaxanthin is the mystery component that activates it.
Researchers already knew from a large number of animal studies that astaxanthin lowers inflammation, heart and liver damage and risk of stroke. In humans, astaxanthin goes the extra mile by lowering inflammation and triglycerides. This study was the first of its kind, Allsopp said.
In the context of the study, mice were given regular food, food containing low amounts of the astaxanthin compound CDX-085, or food with a high dose of the same.
As a result, the heart tissue of the mice in the latter group showed a significant spike in activation of the FOXO3 gene. In fact, it was a spike of nearly 90 percent. Biz Journals reported:
“The scientists plan more studies into other tissues where FOX[O]3 is expressed, including in the liver, muscle and brain. Also planned are human clinical trials of whether, for example, astaxanthin supplements could improve cognitive function in people with early dementia.”1
Astaxanthin, FOXO3 and Your Mitochondria
There are 700-odd naturally occurring carotenoids which provide the bright colors in many foods, but also act as incredibly powerful antioxidants. Further, scientists believe astaxanthin is the most powerful antioxidant in nature.
Astaxanthin is a naturally occurring compound, existing in nature without any artificial or chemical assistance.
As a supplement to help support your immune system, astaxanthin, which also protects against DNA damage and improves brain function, shows a dramatic effect on your mitochondria. Mitochondria have been described as the powerhouse of your cells, with the primary job of performing cell respiration. Soft Schools explains:
“This means it takes in nutrients from the cell, breaks it down and turns it into energy. This energy is then in turn used by the cell to carry out various functions.
Each cell contains a different number of mitochondria. The number present is dependent upon how much energy the cell requires. The more energy a cell needs the more mitochondria that will be present.
Cells have the ability to produce more mitochondria as needed. They also can combine mitochondria to make larger ones.”2
Mitochondria can produce as much as 95 percent of your body’s energy, so it makes sense that it’s present in your muscle tissue. However, while it’s busy producing energy, with subsequent free radical generation your cells can become damaged, leading to tired, achy muscles.
When astaxanthin is ingested, such as in supplement form, those symptoms diminish and your stamina is improved. In comparison with other antioxidants, studies show astaxanthin to be 64 times more potent than vitamin C and 54 times more potent than beta-carotene, plus many other benefits.
One study shows that FOXO3 (from Forkhead box O) may also increase your mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels, but is also instrumental in apoptosis (programmed cell death) and cell cycle arrest. Further:
“In neuronal tumor cells, FOXO3 triggers ROS-accumulation as a consequence of transient mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization, which is essential for FOXO3-induced apoptosis in these cells …
Cellular ROS levels are affected by the FOXO targets Bim, BclxL and Survivin. All three proteins localize to mitochondria and affect mitochondrial membrane potential, respiration and cellular ROS levels.”3
Bim, for example, “mediates mitochondria-regulated particulate matter-induced apoptosis in alveolar epithelial cells,”4 while survivin inhibits apoptosis.5
Astaxanthin and How to Include More of It in Your Diet
While many antioxidants can be obtained by eating plenty of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, “real” astaxanthin is derived only by microalgae called Haematococcus pluvialis.
When this type of algae’s water supply dries up, it has a sort of “survival mechanism” or “force field” to protect itself from intense sunlight, ultraviolet radiation and low nutrition.
That said, that means there are two natural astaxanthin sources: the microalgae that produce it and the sea creatures that consume the algae, such as salmon and krill. The best resources for these foods are wild-caught Alaskan salmon and krill oil supplements, which offer a large number of other nutritional benefits.
As a fish food supplement, synthetic astaxanthin is often used to give farmed salmon a pink or orange-red hue.
However, because synthetic astaxanthin is made from petrochemicals (obtained from petroleum and natural gas), it’s best to avoid this version. In referencing food as medicine for longevity, The Huffington Post noted that:
“Certain micronutrients found in Okinawan sweet potatoes, turmeric and marine-based carotenoid-rich foods (e.g., seaweeds and kelp) are particularly potent …
One marine carotenoid in the Okinawan diet that holds particular promise is astaxanthin, a natural product which is available as a supplement, derived mainly from micro-algae.
The compound has powerful, broad-ranging anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties.
Research indicates astaxanthin may benefit those suffering from inflammation-related conditions including arthritis and rheumatoid disorders [and] metabolic disease, as well as cardiovascular, neurological and liver diseases.”6
Additionally, astaxanthin is completely safe.
“One of the most intriguing characteristics about astaxanthin is what [it] doesn’t do. It doesn’t have the nasty side effects that conventional anti-inflammatory therapies such as steroids and aspirin (and related compounds) exhibit. Its safety profile is strong …
Over 1,000 peer-reviewed publications are available on astaxanthin and more than several hundred have been published in just the last three years, reflecting a growing scientific interest.”7
Besides the fact that it may increase your muscle capacity and stamina, decrease the time it takes to recover from a workout8 and diminish muscle pain,9 astaxanthin has other multiple and highly impressive health benefits:
The study involved CDX-085, which is a synthetically manufactured form of astaxanthin. Astaxanthin decreased triglycerides by 72 percent, as well as atherosclerosis (also known as hardening of the arteries) and blood clots.
Additionally, there’s “extra protection” against the risk of death as you get older for people with the FOXO3 “G” genotype, compared to those without the gene. According to EurekAlert:
“Researchers found that people with this FOXO3 gene have an impressive 10 percent reduced risk of dying overall and a 26 percent reduced risk of death from coronary heart disease over a 17-year period. Data are based on a 17-year prospective cohort study of 3,584 older American men of Japanese ancestry from the Kuakini HHP cohort study and a 17-year prospective replication study of 1,595 white and 1,056 African-American elderly individuals from the Health ABC cohort.”12
How Your Mitochondria Affect Your Health — And Your Longevity
Eating for optimal health is one of the best ways to lengthen your life. One of the most important reasons lies within your mitochondria. Understanding how your mitochondria function is also a way to effectively balance your metabolism and fight cancer.
The primary source of energy for your body, mitochondria ensures that your organs function as they should. stands to reason that the best way to do this is to make sure your body is getting plenty of nutrients and antioxidants, including astaxanthin, which help your body fight disease.
Broccoli — and to an even greater degree broccoli sprouts — has gained a reputation as a potent cancer-fighter, and recent research sheds new light on the actual mechanics behind its chemoprotective abilities.
One of the compounds in broccoli known to have anti-cancer activity is sulforaphane, a naturally occurring organic sulfur.
Studies have shown sulforaphane supports normal cell function and division while causing apoptosis (programmed cell death) in colon,1 prostate,2 breast3 and tobacco-induced lung cancer4 cells, and reducing the number of cancerous liver tumors in mice.5
Three servings of broccoli per week may reduce your risk of prostate cancer by more than 60 percent.6 Now, Oregon State University (OSU) researchers believe they’ve discovered yet another way sulforaphane works to protect you against cancer.
How Sulforaphane Prevents Cancer From Spreading
More than 90 percent of the DNA sequences in your genome are thought of as “junk DNA,” having no perceptible function as they do not code for proteins. Alas, mounting research is now revealing the fallacy of such thinking. As suspected, nature does not waste material, nor does it create useless junk.
As noted in a recent paper discussing micro RNA (miRNA) and long noncoding RNA (lncRNA) interactions in the circulatory system,7 advances in DNA analysis have revealed that as much as 98 percent of the human genome encodes for noncoding transcripts.
Common sense would suggest 98 percent of the human genome could not be purposeless “junk” as previously thought.
It turns out differences between higher and lower organisms may actually arise from differences in these noncoding transcripts more so than the actual genetic code of any given organism. The paper goes on to explain:
“Many of these noncoding transcripts are processed to generate small noncoding RNA such as miRNA, or lncRNA. Through their interaction with DNA, RNA and proteins noncoding RNA have emerged as key regulators of gene expression under both physiological and pathological conditions …
Interestingly, cross-regulatory networks between miRNAs and lncRNA have recently been identified. A number of detailed sequencing studies have revealed that lncRNA are preferentially expressed in a tissue‐specific manner, suggesting that they hold great promise as selective targets in disease.”
Getting back to broccoli, scientists at OSU discovered that sulforaphane significantly reduces the expression of lncRNAs in prostate cancer cells,8,9,10,11,12 thereby influencing the miRNA and reducing the cancer cells’ ability to form colonies by as much as 400 percent.
So much for junk DNA! Lead OSU investigator Emily Ho, Ph.D., commented on her team’s findings, saying:
“It’s obviously of interest that this dietary compound, found at some of its highest levels in broccoli, can affect lncRNAs. This could open the door to a whole range of new dietary strategies, foods or drugs that might play a role in cancer suppression or therapeutic control.”
Junk DNA Actually Regulate Gene Expression and Play Important Role in Cancer Development
According to Medical News Today, lncRNAs “have increasingly emerged as key players in the development of numerous cancers” — primarily by regulating gene expression.
To explain this a bit further, miRNA are small (18-22 nucleotides), endogenous (meaning they’re produced inside or within an organism) noncoding RNA molecules that influence gene expression by targeting messenger RNA.
They primarily regulate gene expression negatively by either degrading or inducing translational repression in the messenger RNA.
LncRNAs are long (longer than 200 nucleotides), transcribed RNA molecules which, like miRNA, do not code for proteins. Transcribed throughout the genome, they display many similarities to messenger RNA. They’re quite versatile and have been shown to regulate gene expression through a variety of different mechanisms.
Interestingly, lncRNA have the capability to bind to miRNA, thereby allowing them to communicate with other RNA targets — and vice versa. As explained in the paper on miRNA and lncRNA interactions in the circulatory system:
“The influence of miRNA on lncRNA function, and the converse, is now beginning to emerge. lncRNA may regulate miRNA function by acting as endogenous sponges to regulate gene expression and miRNA have been shown to bind and regulate lncRNA stability.”
Moreover, “Since many of these control important physiological functions, the abundance and binding of each miRNA and lncRNA will directly alter cellular function.”
Sulforaphane Combats Cancer in More Ways Than One
Sulforaphane also reduces damaging reactive oxygen species (ROS) by as much as 73 percent, thereby lowering your risk of inflammation13 — another hallmark of cancer. It’s also an immune stimulant,14 and having robust immune function is your first line of defense against not only cancer but all disease.
Sulfur-rich cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli also play an important role in detoxification, which is yet another factor that can affect your cancer risk. Broccoli sprouts, in particular, have been shown to help detox environmental pollutants such as benzene.15,16,17 As noted by The World’s Healthiest Foods:18
“… [S]ulforaphane increases the activity of the liver’s phase 2 detoxification enzymes. These enzymes … are well known for their ability to clear a wide variety of toxic compounds from the body including not only many carcinogens, but also many reactive oxygen species, a particularly nasty type of free radical.
By jump starting these important detoxification enzymes, compounds in crucifers provide protection against cell mutations, cancer and numerous other harmful effects that would otherwise be caused by these toxins.”
Other Anti-Cancer Compounds in Broccoli
Aside from sulforaphane, broccoli contains several other health-promoting, chemoprotective nutrients and compounds, including:
•Fiber, which helps nourish your gut microbiome to strengthen your immune function and reduce your risk of inflammatory diseases.19 Fiber also activates a gene called T-bet, which is essential for producing immune cells in the lining of your digestive tract.20
These immune cells, called innate lymphoid cells (ILCs), help maintain balance between immunity and inflammation in your body and produce interleukin-22 (IL-22), a hormone that helps protect your body from pathogenic bacteria.
ILCs even help resolve cancerous lesions and prevent the development of bowel cancers and other inflammatory diseases.
•Glucoraphanin, a glucosinolate precursor of sulforaphane that influences carcinogenesis and mutagenesis.21,22 Compared to mature broccoli, broccoli sprouts can contain up to 20 times more glucoraphanin.
•Phenolic compounds, including flavonoids and phenolic acids, which have a potent ability to eliminate damaging free radicals and quell inflammation,23,24,25resulting in a lower risk for diseases such as asthma, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.26
One of the ways phenolic compounds slow the encroachment of disease is by defending against infection, most dramatically by zapping ROS linked to atherosclerosis and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
•Diindolylmethane (DIM). Your body produces DIM when it breaks down cruciferous vegetables. Like many other broccoli compounds, DIM has shown multiple potential benefits, including boosting your immune system and helping to prevent or treat cancer.27,28
•Nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN), an enzyme involved in the production of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), a compound involved in mitochondrial health and energy metabolism. NAD may slow age-related decline in health by restoring your metabolism to more youthful levels.29,30,31
Previous research has shown that, with age, your body loses its capacity to create NAD — an effect thought to be related to, or the result of, chronic inflammation. Studies have also shown that taking NAD directly is ineffective. Instead, you’re better off taking its precursor, NMN, found in broccoli, cucumbers, cabbage, avocado and other green vegetables. Once in your system, NMN is quickly converted into NAD.
Broccoli Reduces Risk of Fatty Liver and Liver Cancer
Broccoli may also be an important dietary intervention for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which affects up to 25 percent of Americans,32 including children. NAFLD is defined as an excessive accumulation of fats in your liver in the absence of significant alcohol consumption.
The overconsumption of net carbs, especially fructose from processed foods, soda and juices, is strongly associated with NAFLD which, if left untreated, can raise your risk of liver cancer.
Recent research33 suggests the fat-forming and pro-inflammatory effects of fructose may be due to transient ATP (the chemical storage form of energy) depletion. This in turn leads to uric acid formation, which at excessively high levels acts as a pro-oxidant inside your cells.
According to an animal study published in 2016, long-term consumption of broccoli may reduce your chances of developing fatty liver and liver cancer caused by the standard American diet by lowering triglyceride levels in your liver.34,35
How to Optimize Sulforaphane Content in Mature Broccoli
Ideally, broccoli should not be eaten raw. If you prefer raw food, you’d be better off eating raw broccoli sprouts instead of mature broccoli, as they’re a far more potent source of sulforaphane. Tests show three-day-old broccoli sprouts consistently contain up to 50 times the amount of anti-cancer compounds found in mature broccoli, including sulforaphane.36,37,38
This super-charged nutrient-density means you can eat far less of them while still maximizing your benefits. If you’re partial to mature broccoli, you can maximize the sulforaphane content by preparing it properly, and combining it with specific foods. Eating broccoli raw will actually only give you about 12 percent of the total sulforaphane content theoretically available.
Research39 shows steaming mature broccoli spears for three to four minutes will increase the available sulforaphane content by eliminating epithiospecifier protein — a heat-sensitive sulfur-grabbing protein that inactivates sulforaphane — while still retaining the enzyme myrosinase, which converts glucoraphanin to sulforaphane. The latter is important because, without myrosinase, you cannot absorb the sulforaphane.
Do not steam the broccoli for more than five minutes, however, as beyond that point, you start losing valuable compounds. If you want to microwave your broccoli, be sure not to go past the 1-minute mark, as this will destroy a majority of the myrosinase needed for sulforaphane absorption. If you opt for boiling, blanch it in boiling water for no more than 20 to 30 seconds, then immerse it in cold water to stop the cooking process.
Also, be sure to use raw, freshly harvested broccoli whenever possible. Frozen broccoli has diminished ability to produce sulforaphane as myrosinase40 is quickly destroyed during the blanching process.41 Broccoli can also lose 80 percent of its glucoraphanin — the precursor of sulforaphane — in the first 10 days after harvest.
To increase sulforaphane content even further, eat it with a myrosinase-containing food42 such as mustard seed, daikon radishes, wasabi, arugula or coleslaw. A 2013 study43 that focused on mustard seed — which is said to contain a particularly resilient form of myrosinase — confirmed that mustard seed can boost sulforaphane formation even in boiled broccoli. Adding a myrosinase-rich food is particularly important if you eat the broccoli raw, or use frozen broccoli.
The Many Health Benefits of Broccoli Besides Cancer Protection
The benefits of broccoli are remarkable indeed, making it well worth adding a few spears and/or broccoli sprouts to your meals on a regular, if not daily, basis. Doing so has been shown to:44
Support detoxification, thanks to the phytonutrients glucoraphanin, gluconasturtiin and glucobrassicin
Reduce inflammation, which is at the root of many chronic diseases
Fight allergies, thanks to the flavonoid kaempferol
Improve digestion and gut health, courtesy of significant amounts of fiber
Support eye health, thanks to high levels of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin
Benefit your skin, as sulforaphane helps repair skin damage
Provide important vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, potassium, calcium, protein and vitamin C
Help reduce blood sugar levels, as it contains both soluble fiber and chromium
Support heart health and help prevent thickening of your arteries