Can Cayenne Pepper help you lose weight? 7 health benefits of adding Cayenne to your diet.
Ready to turn up the heat? Cayenne pepper is not limited to spicing up your favorite dish. It’s also a tool for building up your health! This hot pepper is not one of the many here today, gone tomorrow health fads; it has a centuries old culinary and medicinal legacy. As always, use the links to skip ahead if you want to get straight to the benefits and product recommendations.
- A brief history
- What is Cayenne pepper?
- How can you use Cayenne pepper for weight loss and health?
- What cayenne pepper should you buy?
A BRIEF HISTORY
Tracing Cayenne back, we know that Aztec royalty used Cayenne as early as 700 B.C.
In 1642 an herbalist by the name of Nicholas Culpepper stated that Cayenne pepper could: ““help digestion, provoke urine, relieve toothache, preserve the teeth from rottenness, comfort a cold stomach, expel the stone from the kidney, and take away dimness of sight.”
pioneer and doctor by the name of Priddy Meeks kept a journal, in which he wrote: “Now the healing power of nature is in the blood, and to accelerate the blood is to accelerate the healing power of nature and I am convinced there is nothing that will do this like cayenne pepper. You will find it
applicable in all cases of sickness.”
Historical spice and natural medicine? Yes. Fad? We think not.
WHAT IS CAYENNE PEPPER?
Cayenne pepper is a hot chili pepper used in a wide range of spicy dishes, as well as in some of the most popular hot sauces. It is most recognized in its crushed or powdered forms, both commonly referred to as red pepper. The pepper itself is a vibrant red due to its high level of beta-carotene, a well known antioxidant.
To make the powdered and crushed forms you are likely most familiar with, the cayenne chili peppers are harvested, dried out, and either crushed or ground. The whole fresh pepper is used in cooking as well, either raw or dried.
Cayenne pepper contains capsaicin, a compound that gives Cayenne and other chili peppers their heat. You have capsaicin to thank (or to blame) for that burning sensation. You can also thank capsaicin for a majority of the health benefits we get out of this powerful little pepper.
HOW CAN YOU USE CAYENNE PEPPER FOR WEIGHT LOSS AND HEALTH?
First thing’s first. Capsaicin is the active component of peppers such as Cayenne. The Capsaicin is responsible for many of the weight loss and health benefits we get from Cayenne and other peppers. However, there are several conflicting studies and opinions surrounding the medicinal use of pure Capsaicin. We are not recommending the use of pure Capsaicin medicinally or otherwise. If you are curious, get some research going and come to your own conclusions, however our focus is on Cayenne peppers. The amount of Capsaicin in Cayenne peppers is high enough to be beneficial, but low enough to be safer than pure Capsaicin.
Onto the good stuff!
The high heat in Cayenne pepper gets your blood moving, and can raise your body temperature just sightly, making you sweat. Increased blood circulation is good for your heart, other organs, and digestive system. Its ability to stimulate digestion may also help in weight loss. The heat this spice adds to a dish may also serve to prevent you from eating too quickly or too much.
WEIGHT LOSS, DIABETES, AND COGNITIVE FUNCTION
Naturally regulating your blood sugars is one key to weight loss.
What is blood sugar and why does it matter?
When you eat, your body turns carbs into blood sugar, also called glucose. Your body uses glucose for energy. Glucose levels can impact your hunger, your energy level, and whether you burn or store fat.
Insulin, a hormone produced by your pancreas, carries blood sugar (glucose) into your cells. Blood sugar is then either burned as energy, or stored as fat. When insulin spikes due to eating foods high in sugars or carbohydrates, this indicates to your body that an energy source is available and it can stop burning fat for energy. This can lead to weight gain, or severely hinder your weight loss goals.
Let us restate this: When you eat something high in carbs or sugar and your blood sugar spikes too high, you will store fat instead of burning it. Yikes! We’re sure we don’t need to remind you that burning fat is what you’re trying to do in the pursuit of weight loss. Okay, we totally just reminded you anyways.
To be clear, insulin is not the enemy. However, it is important that you learn how to regulate blood sugars if you want to maintain a healthy weight and overall healthy body. Cayenne pepper is shown to help accomplish this.
How do we know Cayenne can promote healthy insulin levels and weight loss?
This 2008 study investigated 36 subjects broken into two randomly chosen groups. For four weeks, one group ate freshly chopped chilis, a majority of which were Cayenne, while the other group ate a bland diet free of any chilis. Insulin was monitored between meals. At the end of the 4 weeks, blood tests were taken, then the groups swapped diets and continued for another 4 weeks.
Individuals who had a bland meal after a bland diet (BAB) showed the highest insulin levels, while those who had a chili-containing meal after a chili diet (CAC) showed the lowest insulin levels.
High insulin levels can
lead to cell damage, and can also be an indicator of high blood sugar. Remember what we talked about earlier? High blood sugar can lead to fat storage. Over time, high blood sugar can cause more serious problems such as kidney failure.
The test concluded that “Regular consumption of chili may attenuate postprandial hyperinsulinemia.” Which, rather literally translated means: Regular consumption of chili may reduce the effect of post-meal high insulin levels. The study also says that an indicator of “insulin clearance” was higher after a chili-containing meal after a chili diet (CAC).
This information is important for both weight loss and Type 2 Diabetes!
This 2013 study conducted tests to find the relationship between insulin clearance and metabolic syndrome. As we discovered in the 2008 chili-pepper vs bland diet study, insulin clearance may be improved by the consumption of Cayenne pepper. This study on insulin clearance determined that a decrease in insulin clearance may be linked to metabolic syndrome.
A recent 2016 study determined that metabolic syndrome is also linked to the risk of cognitive impairment and the progression to dementia.
What is metabolic syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome is the term used for a group of risk factors associated with increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other health issues. The conditions linked to metabolic syndrome are also commonly related to…you guessed it, obesity. This is because metabolic syndrome is primarily the result of obesity and lack of activity.
Some of the conditions are: too much body fat (particularly around the waist), unhealthy cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar levels.
You may have one or more of these conditions and not suffer from metabolic syndrome, but each condition seriously increases your risk.
There are many steps you can take and changes you can make in your lifestyle to avoid or overcome metabolic syndrome. Cayenne pepper is not magic. It will not fix your bad habits. It will not force you to get up, get out, and take a walk. It will notforce you to put down the processed foods. However, with its ability to assist in lowering insulin levels and insulin clearance it may be one important tool in losing weight and balancing out your health.
The 2008 chili-pepper diet vs bland-diet study, which we referred to above, also concluded that consuming fresh chili resulted in lower rates of oxidation (caused by free radicals) altering the quality of cholesterol. Oxidation occurring in the vascular system can cause damage and may be a key factor in cardiovascular disease.
Based on the study, including chili peppers such as Cayenne in your diet can help resist this damaging oxidation process.
The study also determined that women went a longer period of time after eating the chili pepper diet before damage occurred to cholesterol. Males who consumed the chili pepper diet had lower resting heart rates and increased blood flow to the heart.
Earlier we explained that Cayenne peppers get their vibrant red color from their high beta-carotene content.
What is beta-carotene?
You may have heard of beta-carotene by now. It’s also responsible for the orange color of carrots. Your body turns beta-carotene into vitamin A, a vitamin important for the health of your immune system, mucous membranes, skin, and eyes. Beta-carotene is also a well known antioxidant.
What are antioxidants?
Antioxidants are substances that prevent oxidation, the cell damaging free radical process we briefly discussed in the cardiovascular section. Antioxidants are well established in supporting the immune system and show evidence of protecting your body against cancer and heart disease.
Cayenne peppers are also rich in Vitamin C, which is linked to a strong immune system. Vitamin C is also believed to reduce the duration of the common cold, though little evidence shows that Vitamin C alone has any measurable effect on the common cold.
This blend of antioxidants, Vitamin A and Vitamin C makes Cayenne pepper a powerful immune booster.
“Eat something spicy!”
You have likely heard this recommendation when suffering from chest congestion or a stuffy nose. There is truth to these suggestions. We won’t get too technical with this classic natural remedy. Spicy foods can help thin mucous, making it easier to clear your system of the nasty stuff.
WHAT CAYENNE PEPPER SHOULD YOU BUY?
This is where we remind you, as we always will, that cayenne pepper (and any supplement, food, gadget, or exercise) is not magic. It is a tool, and like any tool it must be used properly and in moderation to get the best results. If used properly, cayenne pepper can be valuable in building a healthy you. Are you ready to ready to take full advantage of Cayenne’s potential?
Cayenne (Red) Pepper Powder
You’re probably not surprised to hear that fresh, organic, pesticide and fertilizer free is best. You want to find a Cayenne powder that is a vibrant red or red-orange color. Remember, this indicates high levels of the beloved antioxidant and Vitamin A precursor, beta-carotene. If the Cayenne powder you’re eyeballing is more of a reddish-brown, turn away!
Also, and importantly, your Cayenne pepper is always best kept sealed tightly in a glass jar or container.
The heat level of Cayenne pepper is measured in “heat units” or “Scoville Heat Units”, named for the Scoville Scale which measures the hotness of chili peppers and their derivatives. We will refer to these units as “H.U.” Pure capsaicin (which we do not recommend) is 15,000,000 H.U. That’s right, 15 million heat units. Your average Cayenne pepper typically ranges between 30,000 to 50,000 H.U. If you’re just starting out, we recommend starting low. You can work your way up to a higher H.U. but remember to use caution and moderation as the capsaicin in Cayenne can also be an irritant.
Quality, Organic Cayenne Pepper Powders:
- Frontier Chili Peppers Certified Organic Ground Cayenne 30K H.U.
- Starwest Botanicals Organic Cayenne Powder 35K H.U.
- Indus Organic Cayenne Pepper Powder 60K H.U.
- Starwest Botanicals Organic Cayenne Powder 90K H.U.
Whole Dried Cayenne (Red) Peppers
Whether you already enjoy cooking with whole, dried Cayenne peppers or you’re ready to try your hand at it, here’s what we recommend:
Whole Fresh Cayenne (Red) Peppers
If you’re shopping fresh Cayenne peppers, make sure to look for the vibrant red or red-orange Cayenne peppers, indicating a matured and fresh pepper high in beta-carotene. The Cayenne pepper is naturally wrinkled, but if it appears overly dried out or aged avoid it and seek out one that is fresher.
Popular Cayenne Pepper Hot Sauces
Of course, we can’t talk about Cayenne Pepper without mentioning some of the most popular and tasty Cayenne Pepper hot sauces. Check out a few of our favorites:
- Dave’s Gourmet Sauce, Cool Cayenne
- Frank’s RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce
- Georgia Peach and Vidalia Onion Hot Sauce
- Zombie Cajun “The Antidote” Hot Sauce
Growing Cayenne Peppers at home
Thinking about trying your hand at growing Cayenne peppers? You won’t get any fresher than picking planting, growing and picking them right at home. We recommend:
Here’s to happy, healthy, and spicy living! Check back in the future to discover more of the best healthy foods and their benefits.