1. Capsaicin can help you cut salt

    Too much salt? This little trick can help

    We all want to cut back on salt... but none of us want to make the switch to bland, lifeless, and flavorless foods.

    As it turns out, you don't have to.

    You can cut back on salt and love every minute of it -- and you don't have to make any sacrifices at all.

    All you have to do is turn up the heat.

    The key is in chili peppers. Don't worry -- if you don't like it spicy-hot, I'm not going to ask you to burn your tongue off.

    It doesn't take much.

    In fact, the new study finds that this little trick can work with levels so low you probably won't even taste the heat.

    But it can enhance the flavor just enough to trick your brain.

    That's a pretty nifty little gimmick when you consider how quickly you usually notice the lack of salt in food.

    Salt, for all its faults, has the power to enhance flavors and make the blandest of dishes sing.

    That's one reason why it's so tough to cut back: You WANT that flavor.

    The pepper compound, called capsaicin, won't replace that flavor. But it WILL make sure that you won't miss it, tricking your taste buds into thinking your dishes are absolutely exploding with taste.

    In experiments on both humans and mice, even low levels of capsaicin caused the parts of the brain that usually respond to salt to light up like a Christmas tree.

    Of course, that's just what the team saw on a scan.

    Sometimes, those images don't always mean a lot compared to the one test that really matters -- and that's how YOU feel.

    In this case, however, it passed the real-world test with flying colors.

    The people in the study who ate a meal enhanced with capsaicin also had less desire to eat salty foods.

    This is just one small study, so it's hard to say for sure if this can truly work on a consistent basis out in the real world.

    I imagine more studies are already in the works -- but if you like spicy foods, you can conduct a little "research" of your own by cutting back on salt and adding hot sauce or chili peppers to your dishes in its place.

    If you don't like hot food, capsaicin is available as a supplement that's already known to ease inflammation, fight pain, improve your digestion, and maybe even help you lose a little weight, too.

  2. Chili pepper compound capsaicin can lower cholesterol

    Chili pepper spice can boost heart health

    Here's some good news for all you lovers of spicy foods: A key compound found in chili peppers can help protect your heart.

    That compound is capsaicin, part of a family of compounds called capsaicinoids, and it's long been recognized for its heart-friendly benefits (along with another I'll tell you about in a moment). And now, a new study finds it can slash levels of LDL cholesterol and improve overall arterial health.

    Researchers from the Chinese University of Hong Kong gave two sets of hamsters a high-fat diet with one difference: One set of hamsters got plenty of capsaicinoids in their diet, while the other got none.

    Those that got all those spicy capsaicinoids had lower levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol. More importantly, the capsaicin also blocked the gene that causes arteries to contract -- allowing blood to flow more freely to the heart.

    It's a small study on hamsters, but it's not the first to find capsaicin can protect the heart. Other studies have shown that this spicy compound can help slash your triglycerides, thin your blood and reduce the damage of oxidation in your arteries.

    The only "catch" here is that capsaicin is the same compound that gives peppers their heat. Habanero peppers and Scotch bonnets, for example, have the most -- and not everyone can handle those.

    If you can't take the heat yourself, you can get capsaicin in capsule form.

    Capsaicin is also a key ingredient in some very effective pain-relief balms for people suffering from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, shingles, diabetic neuropathy, and more.

    And for pain relief, you'll want a topical balm rather than capsules or Scotch bonnets.

    You'll actually feel the heat when you rub it in -- it might even hurt a little at first. And whatever you do, don't touch your eyes or any other sensitive spots after handling it, or you'll be in for the sting of your life.

    One important safety note: Don't take capsaicin in any form if you're on blood-thinning medication.

  3. Chilis for chubbies

    If you're overweight and plan to stay that way, then I hope you like your food hot – real hot.

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