If you love all things spicy, going so far as to keep a mini bottle of sriracha in your purse (while noting serving size, because #sugar), your taste for heat might be paying off.
According to a new study published in the journal Hypertension, Chinese adults who enjoyed eating spicy food on the reg not only had lower blood pressure—which alone could reduce their risk of heart attack and stroke—but also ate less salty food than those who weren’t fans of the hot stuff.
When looking at the participants’ brain scans, researchers found eating spice increased brain activity in the areas typically activated by salt, making people more sensitive to it and therefore wanting to put less in their dishes—and that’s great news for your health.
“If you add some spices to your cooking, you can cook food that tastes good without using as much salt. Even a small, gradual increase in spices in your food may have a health benefit.” —Zhiming Zhu, MD
“If you add some spices to your cooking, you can cook food that tastes good without using as much salt,” said senior study author Zhiming Zhu, MD, in a press release. “Yes, habit and preference matter when it comes to spicy food, but even a small, gradual increase in spices in your food may have a health benefit.”
Since it’s not uncommon for people to go well over the daily allowance of salt (don’t worry, salt rooms don’t count!), which is just a measly teaspoon, per the American Heart Association, spicing things up really might benefit your overall well-being.
While more research is required to note whether the study, limited to Chinese participants, can be applied to worldwide adults, consider stocking your kitchen with chili flakes and powder, cayenne powder, cumin, and anti-inflammatory turmeric to add some spice into your life.