How to healthy without eating bland. This is a question I’m often asked by my weight loss clients.

 

My answer:  Spice up your meals with spices like cayenne pepper.

 

This seasoning will perk up even the most boring vegetable dish. Spices like cayenne perk up your taste buds and make your meals more enjoyable. Healthy eating does not mean eating bland, boring meals.

 

How to Eat Healthy

Spices are one of the keys to healthy eating. If you’re trying to avoid saturated fats and packaged foods, you may find that your food doesn’t taste as good as it used to. Don’t add salt as a flavor enhancer, as that may increase your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. Instead, get creative with other spices. Cayenne pepper is a good go-to seasoning that goes with almost any healthy offering.

 

Cayenne Pepper: Nature’s Spicy Medicine

 

 

We’re familiar with cayenne pepper as the spice that makes our eyes water and has us scurrying for a glass or milk or a slice of bread. But, did you know that its active ingredient, capsaicin, is also a potent medicine?

 

 

Cayenne Peppers are Nutritious

Cayenne peppers grow on a shrub and turn deep red as they ripen. Whether you chop up the whole peppers and use them in cooking or sprinkle on the powdered spice, you can rely on cayenne to wake up your taste buds and to enliven any bland dish.

 

Native Americans have used cayenne as both food and medicine for over 9,000 years. While capsaicin is the most active ingredient in this spice, these peppers are also plentiful in vitamins A, B-2, B-6, and C, as well as essential minerals such as iron, potassium and magnesium.

 

 

Cayenne is a Pain Reliever

The capsaicin in cayenne peppers has a demonstrated ability to relieve pain and has been used in Ayurveda medicine as a topical analgesic for centuries. Research demonstrates capsaicin’s effectiveness in relieving pain due to osteoarthritis, shingles, back pain, diabetic neuropathy and post-surgical neuropathic pain.

 

More recently, capsaicin has become available as an over-the-counter remedy and as a medically prescribed patch.

 

You may have seen the OTC cream marketed under the brand names Capzasin or Zostrix. If you suffer from general aches and pains, arthritis, back pain or nerve pain, this cayenne pepper derivative may help.

 

The prescription patch is designed to treat the chronic pain which often follows a bout of shingles. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 3 Americans will develop shingles in their lifetimes and the risk of contracting the disease increases after age 50. “The most common complication of shingles, is postherpatic neuralgia (PHN), which is severe pain in the areas where the shingles rash occurred. The risk of this complication also increases with age.

 

 

Cayenne Is Also Used to Treat Cancer and Prevent Heart Attacks

 

 

The health benefits of cayenne do not stop with pain relief. Capsaicin shows effectiveness in treating lung cancers, pancreatic tumors, as well as breast and bladder cancers. It is also used to treat the chronic pain which frequently develops in post-surgical cancer patients.

 

Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death among all adults in the United States. Research from the University of Cincinnati demonstrates that application of OTC capsaicin rubbed on the skin during a heart attack may prevent or reduce damage to the heart while other interventions are administered. Keith Jones, PhD, the lead researcher, suggested that this remedy be applied in the ambulance or at the ER to prevent a possible heart attack and its accompanying cardiac cell death.

 

 

How to Eat Healthy By Cooking with Cayenne

Cayenne pepper is a versatile spice that may be sprinkled over soups, cooked in stir fries and stews, added to egg dishes, and used to flavor salsas and marinades. It also pairs nicely with fish dishes. In Latin America, cayenne is used to make Mexican Hot Chocolate.

 

If you’re feeling brave and want to use fresh cayenne peppers, here are some tips. Wear gloves and don’t rub your eyes as you finely dice the peppers. The seeds and the surrounding ribs are the hottest part, so you might want to discard them. A melon baller works well to dig out the scorching insides of the peppers. If you just want to add a little kick to a stir-fry, add the whole pepper and remove it after cooking.

 

Click here for a slightly different version of this blog, originally published on LifetimeDaily.com.