How to live longer: The two vegetables that can help protect the heart and lungs
A healthy, balanced diet should include fruit and vegetables, with UK health guidelines stating we should all eat five portions each day. While there is no guarantee that following a healthy diet will help you to live longer, it can minimise your risk of developing health problems. The vitamins and minerals found in fruit and vegetables can help keep the body in optimum health, while they also contain antioxidants which can help fight diseases. According to dietitian Juliette Kellow and Dr Sarah Brewer, peppers and chillies are two vegetables which may help protect the heart and lungs.
“Peppers boost our intake of health-promoting carotenoids and vitamin C, while chillies have been linked to weight loss and better heart health,” said Kellow and Brewer.
Kellow and Brewer explain how exactly peppers and chillies can keep you healthy:
Studies have shown capsaicin – a compound found in chillies – has many heart-friendly effects.
One of these is that it blocks the action of a gene that makes the arteries constrict. This stops the blood vessels from narrowing, allowing more blood to flow through to the heart.
Capsaicin also helps stop platelets clumping together, preventing blood clots, while helping reduce cholesterol.
The carotenoids and vitamin C found in peppers, meanwhile, act as powerful antioxidants, helping fight against cell damage and narrowing of the arteries.
Vitamin C and carotenoids have been linked to a improvement in respiratory diseases, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
COPD is a disease in which the lungs become inflamed, damaged and narrowed, leading to severe breathing difficulties.
Studies have also shown vitamin C and carotenoids from food can decrease the risk of lung cancer.
A 2017 study found the risk of lung cancer was 26 per cent lower in adults with the highest intakes of vitamin C compared with the lowest.
For beta-carotene – a carotenoid found in peppers – the risk was 34 per cent lower.
Men who smoked heavily seemed to benefit most from the carotenoids, while women who smoked seemed to benefit most from vitamin C.
Capsaicin in chillies has shown in studies to boost the number of calories you burn.
One review found about 50 more calories were burnt in a day when capsaicin was included in the diet.
Capsaicin also seems to curb appetite, so you don’t feel the need to eat as much.
Kellow and Brewer advise eating three to four peppers per week and small amounts of chilli.