Eating spicy foods may help people consume less sodium, according to a Chinese study published recently in the journal Hypertension. Researchers found that, compared to participants who avoided spicy foods, those who had a preference for such foods and could best tolerate capsaicin (the key component of chili peppers) were more sensitive to the taste of salt in food and thus tended to consume less sodium—and had lower blood pressure, on average.
This may partly be explained by the fact that capsaicin increases activity in some of the same parts of the brain that sodium stimulates, as seen on brain scans done by the researchers.
Since the study involved only Chinese people, it’s not known if the findings can be generalized to other populations. Still, it has long been known that adding spices to foods helps many people reduce their use of salt.