If you just took a bite into a spicy Mexican dish that made your eyes water as if trying to put out the fire on your tongue, you probably just had a dose of chili pepper.
But there’s more to this vegetable than fire and heat – there’s many health benefits of chili peppers!
There are hundreds of chilies that fall under the food family name ‘Capsicum.’ Cultivated for thousands of years in Mexico, Central America, and South America, these peppers were used for everything from medicinal purposes to decorations to food and flavoring.
We are most familiar with cayenne, chipotle, anaheim, ancho, jalapeno, and habanero peppers. A variety and combination of these chilies are used to create many of our most popular spices, such as chili powder, cayenne powder, and paprika. But surprisingly, the health benefits of chili peppers are not as widely known.
It is easy to be confused which chili pepper is which since some peppers are referred to by one name when used fresh (poblano) and another name when dried (ancho). No matter what chili you choose, just remember the basic rule of thumb – green, fresh chilies are milder than red, dried chilies.
Now you know there are many varieties of chili peppers, but did you know there are a myriad of health benefits of eating chili peppers beyond the spicy flavor? Let’s take a look.
Chili Pepper Health Benefits – Nutritional Boost
Just two teaspoons of dried chili peppers provides a very respectable amount of the B complex vitamins, as well as vitamins A, C, E, and K. You’ll also find a good dose of calcium, iron, and manganese, along with some dietary fiber and even Omega-3 fatty acids.
As you can see, that kick of heat offers more than just flavor.
Health Benefits of Chili Peppers
The substance found in chili peppers that produces the heat we know and love is called ‘capsaicin’ which acts to prohibit inflammation. You’ll find more of this substance as the pepper gets hotter. So enjoy a habanero for the greatest anti-inflammatory benefits.
Jalapenos offer a less potent amount of capsaicin, but they are all good for you, helping to reduce pain from inflammation associated with arthritis, for instance.
Cayenne has been used successfully to reduce cholesterol in several studies. Adding hot chili peppers to your diet may also help fight those damaging ‘free radicals’ in your blood stream. In some studies it was even shown that health benefits of eating chili peppers regularly over time include lower resting heart rate and increased blood flow to the heart.
Even More Health Benefits of Eating Chili Peppers
Most of us already know that when we enjoy a healthy dose of chili peppers we breathe a bit easier. Yes, chili peppers do help clear sinuses, relieving congestion in the respiratory system.
This process helps reduce the risk of sinus infections in those who suffer from upper respiratory inflammation.
The bright red color of chili peppers is a clue to the super saturation of beta-carotene; vitamin A.
Along with a good dose of vitamin C, this combination of vitamins boosts immunity and builds a natural defense against the pathogens that attack us on a day to day basis. The mucous lining in our respiratory and digestive system is kept healthier, which keeps us healthier.
Chili peppers have a bad rap when it comes to creating stomach ulcers. Eating too much of this good thing may cause stomach problems, but eating a little chili pepper every day acts in just the opposite way by killing bacteria and stimulating the stomach lining to secrete protective juices for digestion. This process prevents ulcers rather than causes them.
Weight loss is another of the health benefits of eating chili peppers. When you feel that heat after eating a good chili pepper, you are feeling your body burning calories.
The health benefits of chili peppers also include helping to reduce the amount of insulin needed to lower blood sugar levels after eating a meal, helping to eliminate those sugar ‘spikes’ that can trigger weight gain and be a contributing factor in diabetes.
Is there any reason NOT to enjoy a bit of heat in your food? The next time you reach into your spice cabinet, be brave and choose chili peppers to create a hot, spicy, and surprisingly healthy dish.