Eating spicy food may curb unhealthy cravings for salt, leading to lower blood pressure, suggests a new study.
Researchers found that people who enjoyed this type of cuisine appeared to eat less salt because it 'tricks' their brains into wanting less.
As a result, they were found to have lower blood pressure, potentially reducing their risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
Senior study author Professor Zhiming Zhu, of the Third Military Medical University in Chongqing, China, said: "Previously, a pilot study found that trace amounts of capsaicin, the chemical that gives chili peppers their pungent smell, enhanced the perception of food being salty.'
"We wanted to test whether this effect would also reduce salt consumption."
The study, published in the journal Hypertension, researchers looked at 606 Chinese adults and determined their preferences for salty and spicy flavours.
Researchers then linked those preferences to blood pressure.
They found that, compared to those who least enjoyed spicy foods, participants with a high spicy preference had 8mm Hg lower systolic (upper) and 5mm Hg lower diastolic (bottom) blood pressure numbers.