A healthy diet means watching our salt intake. Most Americans consume 3,400 mg of salt per day because we use the salt shaker too liberally and eat in restaurants that over salt food to enhance its flavor. The recommended amount for a healthy diet is 2,300 mg per day. Consuming too much can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease.
A Healthy Diet Includes Using Spices Other Than Salt
In order to have a healthy diet, experiment with other spices and use them to replace some or all of the salt youre now using. Cayenne pepper is a great way to spice up almost any dish. It also has a wide-range of health benefits.
Cayenne Pepper: Natures Spicy Medicine
Were 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 capsaicins 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 Cook 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 youre feeling brave and want to use fresh cayenne peppers, here are some tips. Wear gloves and dont 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.
Why not make cayenne pepper a part of a healthy diet?
A slightly different version of this article was first published on LifetimeDaily.com.