Variety may be the spice of life, at least folks have been claiming that since William Cowper coined the phrase in his 1785 poem “The Task.” But in 2019, science may have changed the saying by proving that spice itself is the heart of life.

Italian researchers have found that eating chili peppers four or more times weekly reduces your risk of dying from a heart attack by 40% and from stroke by over 50%! Their study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, tracked around 22,000 men for eight years, and the researchers say peppers convey those benefits regardless of whether you have any cardiovascular risk factors or eat a healthy Mediterranean diet.

This follows a 2017 study published in PLOS that found Americans who eat chili peppers (not counting dried pepper flakes) reduce their risk of death over a 19-year timespan by 13%!

What makes chili peppers so health-friendly when they can be so hot they seem heart-stopping? The benefits appear to be the result of the tongue-searing chemical capsaicin, which helps moderate your insulin response after eating and lowers your resting heart rate, and phytonutrients that help process fats, dilate blood vessels and knock out bacteria.

So, enjoy whole wheat pasta arrabiata or diavolo using pepperoncini (like spicy Calabrian peppers that register 15,000 to 30,000 on the Scoville scale). And don’t shy away from Asian peppers found in dishes like Szechuan Dan Dan noodles or spicy vegetarian eggplant.

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.