Do spicy foods REALLY make you live longer?

I always get a kick out of studies that find almost magical powers of a single ingredient -- like "blueberries prevent cancer," or "nuts keep dementia at bay."

Will they?

Not if you're eating cheeseburgers and pizza the rest of the time!

Yes, both blueberries and nuts contain plenty of healthy compounds. But they'll only work for you if they're part of a healthy lifestyle.

So bear that in mind when you hear about the latest study out of China, which claims that hot chili peppers will add years to your life.

The hotter the peppers, the bigger the benefit, according to the study of nearly half a million people ranging in age from 30 up to 79.

Overall, folks who ate spicy foods once or twice a week had a 10 percent lower risk of death during the seven-year study than those who ate little to no spicy foods. Those who ate spicy foods even more often had a 14 percent lower risk of death during the study, which was published in BMJ.

The benefits were the same in men and women, and seemed bigger in those who ate fresh chili peppers when compared to those who ate dried chili peppers.

Chili peppers are of course very healthy. They're the best natural source of capsaicin, an inflammation-fighting antioxidant compound that's also been known to help fight everything from obesity to pain to cancer.

But if you just sprinkle some Sriracha on a Big Mac, the only thing you might beat is the line to the bathroom door.

So if you're eating poorly, don't even waste your time adding a single "magic" ingredient or two to your diet, whether it's blueberries, nuts or chili peppers.

If, on the other hand, you're a healthy eater in general, then feel free to crank up the heat -- but only if you like it. I wouldn't expect you to force fiery peppers down your throat just because they're healthy if you don't actually like the things.

Where's the fun in that?

Your diet is about the big picture. It's about eating the foods that are healthy AND enjoyable. Trust me, they're out there -- and if you're looking for a place to get started, read this free report from my House Calls archives.