Most of the foods you love to eat turn out to be bad for you (looking at you, bacon). Thankfully, hot sauce isn't one of them. In fact, hot sauce lovers might even be smarter than someone who refuses to touch a bottle of Frank's.
So, contrary to popular opinion, you’re the exact opposite of a dumbass for eating that ghost pepper. Your spicy obsession isn’t just proof of your non-dumbassness; hot sauce has a whole smorgasbord of health benefits that’ll have you replacing your morning cereal with Tabasco in no time (note: that's probably a bad idea).
Hot sauce eases your pain
Hot peppers contain capsaicin, a flavorless, colorless compound that brings the burn. This is more than figurative language; capsaicin literally tells your brain that your eyes/tongue/soul are on fire. In response to this fire, your brain releases a flood of endorphins to bring some pleasure to the pain. Scientists aren’t quite sure how, but this reaction acts as an anti-inflammatory pain reliever for almost every part of your body (despite how your face may feel after that Cholula chugging challenge you agreed to). Doctors have used capsaicin’s unique anti-inflammatory properties to treat everything from toothaches and skin pain to severe arthritis, so stop rubbing dirt on every injury to prove your toughness, and switch to hot sauce.
It could save your prostate
About 14% of men will get prostate cancer at some point in their lives. If you’ve never been one for statistics, use a dash of chili oil to avoid becoming one. Capsaicin attacks prostate cancer cells on multiple fronts at almost every stage of cellular growth, and while studies have been limited on humans (rats don’t whine as much), they’ve shown some promising results. Your ass might be on fire in a couple hours, but capsaicin might actually be saving it.
It clears your sinuses
You probably already knew this, but five-alarm hot sauce creates a snotty nose spout that no mountain of napkins can contain, and those oozing orifices are a sign that capsaicin is cleaning and boosting your sinuses. A lot of people pay good money to stick things up their nose for some sweet sinus relief. Put the spray down (it could cost you $17 for what's essentially a shot of capsaicin anyway), and pick up the tiny red bottle instead.
It helps burn fat
Not a fan of working up a sweat at the gym? Try working it up on your plate. Not only does capsaicin scald your tongue, but it might also scorch your fat at the same time. On one hand, the painful effect of capsaicin helps reduce your food intake. It takes a lot longer to get through a pound of chicken wings when each bite feels like the seventh circle of hell. Slower eating gives your brain time to realize that you’re full, which is basically natural portion control. At the same time, capsaicin revs up your body temperature and metabolism, increasing the amount of calories you burn while eating. That means that eating hot wings definitely, 100% will help you lose weight.
It keeps blood pressure under control
High blood pressure leads to some nasty complications, including heart attacks and strokes. Blood pressure management usually involves lame advice like "eat less bacon" or "make more kale smoothies." More hot sauce is the one blood pressure prescription that actually doesn’t suck. Recent studies have demonstrated that capsaicin lowers blood pressure through a variety of mechanisms. Texas Pete might make your mouth freak out, but your blood vessels are relaxed and healthier for it.
It's loaded with antioxidants
Peppers are more than just a pretty face. The rich colors are produced through a process called anthocyanin biosynthesis (use that in your next charades game). The antioxidants created as a result of the process are great for both the pepper plant and your pepper-head body. Each bold color comes with its own mix of antioxidants and nutrients unique to that hue.
Red chilies get most of their color from a compound called capsanthin. This powerful antioxidant has been shown to slow tumor growth in certain types of cancer. Smoked jalapeños, more commonly called chipotle peppers, are high in two phytonutrients (lutein and zeaxanthin) that help your eyes in a big way. Peppers and eyes don’t typically mix, but in this case, the phytonutrients protect against macular degeneration and cataracts. Yellow peppers are especially high in vitamin C and the tongue-twisting antioxidant violaxanthin.
Honestly, every pepper color has its own little magic, and it would take all day to list them all out. So do yourself a favor and stock up on a rainbow of hot sauces to cover all your bases.
Like any delicious treat, too much hot sauce can come with certain risks, so be smart with the spice. But in moderation, your daily dose could be the key to a longer, healthier life. Now be sure to savor that last sentence. Let it wash over you. Bask in its glory. You never know the next time you’ll find out that a food you can’t live without is actually good for you.
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Nicholas Knock is a freelance writer for Thrillist who bleeds hot sauce. Even though he doesn’t say much, you can follow him on Twitter @nickaknock.