The secret superfood no one is talking about

Fight pain and live longer with just a few dashes a week

Ask most people what constitutes “health food” and you’re likely to hear a bunch of lists featuring granola or tofu. (Never mind that both of those foods are about as bad for you as they come — but that’s a conversation for another day.)

One response you probably won’t get is hot sauce. And that’s a real shame. Because chili peppers rank higher on the superfood spectrum than you’d probably ever guess. For example, consider the results of this recent study, published in the British Medical Journal…

Researchers looked at the dietary habits of nearly 500,000 healthy Chinese men and women.  The goal was to see whether hot pepper consumption has any effect on mortality rates.

And get this: Subjects who enjoyed spicy food most or all days of the week were almost 15 percent less likely to die during the seven year study period, compared with subjects who rarely ate spicy food. Even spicing things up just a couple days a week was linked with a 10 percent lower mortality risk.1

These benefits all seem to trace back to capsaicin — the compound that gives chili peppers their heat.

Studies show it has strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory powers, making it a natural foil for lethal conditions like metabolic syndrome and stroke. It can even help to unblock arteries by melting plaque deposits and arteries.

Studies also show that capsaicin kick starts thermogenesis and activates your body’s stores of brown fat — the metabolically active form of disease-fighting fat that I wrote about in detail last month.2 And New Zealand researchers are currently investigating how exposure to capsaicin might even cause cancer cells to self-destruct — possibly halting the disease and promoting greater numbers of healthy cells.3

Common hot pepper preparation methods — like chopping, blending, and cooking — increase this phytochemical’s availability to your body.

So when you think about it, hot sauce is about the most perfect capsaicin delivery system there is. (And you can’t go wrong with a generous dash of cayenne pepper, either.)

And you’ll get even more bang for your buck if you add hot sauce to a recipe with some fat. That’s because capsaicin is fat-soluble. So the more it has to “grab on to,” so to speak, the more of the good stuff your body’s going to absorb. Excellent news for anyone who likes their guacamole or cheese omelets with a little extra kick…

Of course, there are just a few things to keep in mind when choosing a hot sauce.

The first is to beware of brands with hidden sugar. Always check the label. Or even experiment with making your own.

Second, hot peppers are members of the notorious nightshade family — which also includes bell peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, and potatoes.

Nightshades are higher in a compound called solanine, which can pose a problem for some people with autoimmune issues (including arthritis).

But if you’re not sensitive to nightshades and can stand the heat, by all means, add a liberal dash of hot sauce to any food you’d like. You’ll live longer — and healthier — for it.