Does being a hot-head help you live longer?

If you like your food on the spicy side, a new study shows this could well prolong your life. Scientists analysed data from nearly 500,000 people and discovered a strong correlation between those who liked their food hot and living longer lives – and this was a very marked link. Over seven years the findings revealed that those who ate spicy food - mainly from chilli peppers - more than once a week reduced their overall risk of death (from cancer, diabetes, obesity or heart disease) by 10%.

If you’re even more of a hot-head, and eatspicy food three or more times a week, you could reduce your chances of death by 14%, compared to those who can’t stand the heat in the kitchen - say scientists analysing the data. “We know something about the beneficial effects of spicy food from animal studies and very small-sized human studies” says Lu Qi, Associate Professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, who carried out the research. She continues: “Some of those preliminary studies have found that spicy food and their active components – like capsaicin, the compound found in chilli peppers – might lower inflammation, improve metabolic status and have a positive effect on gut bacteria and weight.”

Professor Qi is keen to point out that more studies need to be done. For example, research into whether spicy food consumption really has the potential to improve health and reduce mortality directly, or if it’s a marker for other dietary and lifestyle factors. I.e. are those people who eat chillies healthier all round?

We say that chillies have long been known for their health benefits in Asian and Middle Eastern countries as well as adding an exciting dimension and flavor to recipes. We’ve never heard a better reason to whip up a spiralized dish with a little chilli. You don’t have to go overboard with the heat. It’s all about balancing flavor and spice. Here are a few delicious recipes to try.


  • Zucchini puttaneseca.
  • Bombay sweet potatoes with grilled sardines.
  • Za’atar spiced chicken with labneh and cucumber salad.


Zucchini Puttaneseca

A classic Sicilian dish with a rich tomato-based sauce that’s full of complex ‘unami’ or savoury flavours – thanks to the tomato, olive and anchovy combination. As with many Italian dishes, zucchini spaghetti works perfectly as a wheat-pasta replacement.


Bombay Sweet Potatoes with Grilled Sardines

This is a super-healthy curry that makes a perfect side instead of rice: we’ve replaced the white potatoes traditionally included in this dish with spiralized sweet ones, so they melt into the sauce. And it takes less time to cook than getting take out.



This fragrant recipe combines wonderfully complex Middle Eastern Flavors, even though it’s fairly simple to prepare. It’s well worth making your own za’atar spice mix and storing it, but you can also use store-bought.


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