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Happy Heart's Recipes

Happy Likes it Hot and Spicy

Happy Heart pouring water after eating spicy foodsBy Liz Moore, RD, LDN

Exercise is a great way to improve your heart health, but how about breaking a sweat while you eat? If you’re a spicy-food lover, you may get some extra health benefits from capsaicin, the compound in chili peppers that makes them hot.

A recent study published in the BMJ (formerly known as The British Medical Journal) found that people who ate chili-rich foods nearly every day were less likely to die from certain diseases, including cancer, heart disease and respiratory conditions. In the long-term study, researchers found that people who ate spicy foods regularly had a 14 percent reduced risk of death compared to those who consumed spicy foods less than once a week.

Not only does capsaicin help add a flavorful punch to your diet, it can also help protect your heart. Another recent study, from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, found that capsaicin also lowers cholesterol levels and blocks a gene that causes arteries to contract, which can lead to dangerous blockages of blood flow that can cause heart attacks or strokes.

Experts suggest moderately increasing your intake of spicy foods, about three to five times a week, to reap the health benefits and lower your risk of death from those diseases.

Do you like it hot? If you can handle the heat, these chili-rich recipes are sure to take your taste buds on a wild ride, while keeping you and your heart healthy and happy! For a little kick, try the Spicy Chipotle Pepper Dip with some veggies or whole grain crackers. Turn up the heat with our Chili Salsa — delicious with pita chips or on top of fish or chicken. If you’re looking for a bold dish, the Spicy Shrimp and Arugula recipe will set your taste buds on fire.

Spicy Chipotle Pepper Dip

Serves 2

chipotle dipIngredients

1 cup plain non-fat yogurt
3 Tbsp yellow onion, minced
1/2 cup cucumber, diced
3 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
Smoked chipotle chili pepper powder (very spicy — add a small amount and taste)


Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl. Serve as a dip with carrots, celery or whole grain crackers.

Nutrition Facts: Total calories per serving: 70; Total fat: 0g; Saturated fat: 0g; Total Cholesterol: 2mg; Sodium: 90mg; Total Carbohydrate: 9g; Total fiber: 0g; Sugar: 7g; Protein: 6g

Chili Salsa

Serves 4

chili salsaIngredients

3 tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup black beans, rinsed
1/2 small red onion, minced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1 small fresh chili pepper, minced (add slowly, taste as you go)
1/2 avocado, cubed small
1/2 tsp cumin
2 Tbsp lime juice


Combine all ingredients and serve as a salsa with pita chips, or as a topping for fish or chicken.

Nutrition Facts: Total calories per serving: 90; Total fat: 2.5g; Saturated fat: 0.5g; Total Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 21mg; Total Carbohydrate: 11g; Total fiber: 4g; Sugar: 1g; Protein: 3g

Spicy Shrimp and Arugula

Serves 4

spicy shrimpIngredients

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. shrimp, cleaned, deveined
1 tsp chili powder
6 cups arugula
2 Tbsp lime juice 


Heat oil in a pan on medium heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 - 2 minutes. Add shrimp and chili powder. Cook until shrimp is done, about 5 minutes. Take off heat and place on bed of arugula. Top with lime juice.

Nutrition Facts: Total calories per serving: 150; Total fat: 8g; Saturated fat: 1g; Total Cholesterol: 150mg; Sodium: 180mg; Total Carbohydrate: 0g; Total fiber: 2g; Sugar: 0g; Protein: 21g

Liz Moore, RD, LDNElisabeth (Liz) Moore, RD, LDN, is our resident guru in heart-healthy nutrition. She is a registered dietitian for BIDMC's CardioVascular Institute (CVI) and sees patients in BIDMC's outpatient nutrition clinic and the CVI's Cardiovascular Health and Lipid Center. Moore received her BS degree in human nutrition from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Above content provided by the CardioVascular Institute at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor. 

October 2015

Contact Information

CardioVascular Institute at
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215