Some people long for spicy food and if you happen to be one of them, you may be wondering if your craving for all things peppery could be posing a risk to your health. While there are a number of spices and seasonings that can give your bland dish a kick, one of the most common household spices is red pepper flakes. Found in shaker jars on tables in most pizza or Italian restaurants, this spicy little flavor booster is a popular choice for packing some punch in every bite.
While red pepper flakes and crushed red pepper are essentially two variations of the same spice, they should not be confused with chili flakes, which are a bit different (via Foods Alternative). While all chili flakes can be red pepper flakes, not all red pepper flakes are solely from one chili pepper. In fact, red pepper flakes or crushed red pepper is a blend of chilis and peppers, such as anaheim, jalapeno, and even Fresno chilis. But does this blend of spices provide any risks or benefits to your health?
Red pepper flakes can vary in color, ranging from white to dark red (via Foods Alternative). The seeds contain the spiciness of the peppers, therefore, the intensity of the flavor and spice can increase whenever you're ready to cook it in your kitchen. One of the primary nutrients found in crushed red pepper is capsaicin, which is what gives spicy food that hot taste, according to a 2016 study published in Oncotarget. But aside from supplying the taste, it has also been shown to prevent certain cancers, such as prostate cancer.
In addition, capsaicin has several other advantages, including aiding in weight loss and pain relief (per WebMD). In fact, it may even help fight against inflammation due to the effects it has on free radicals in the body (via Healthline). Free radicals are a leading cause of inflammation, which can lead to other life-threatening disorders and diseases.
But are red pepper flakes actually good for you? Before you rush to find every recipe containing red pepper flakes, there are a few things you may want to consider. First, eating red pepper flakes may cause a burning sensation due to capsaicin (via Healthline). For some individuals, the burning sensation of the tongue caused by consuming red pepper flakes can be too spicy and uncomfortable. This may also cause a slightly elevated temperature. Additionally, red pepper flakes could cause irritation to the stomach resulting in heartburn. Like many things in life, consuming red pepper flakes in large or frequent quantities could increase your risk for certain cancers (per Healthline).
Overall, red pepper flakes are a great way to occasionally increase the flavor and spice of any dish, while also providing some potential health benefits in the process. However, be sure to monitor the intake of capsaicin in foods and spices to avoid potential negative side effects.