What is Chili pepper?
The chili pepper (also chile pepper, chilli pepper, or simply chilli) from Nahuatl chīlli is the fruit of plants from the genus Capsicum, members of the nightshade family, Solanaceae. They are widely used in many cuisines to add spiciness to dishes. The substances that give chili peppers their intensity when ingested or applied topically are capsaicin and related compounds known as capsaicinoids.
Chili peppers originated in Mexico. After the Columbian Exchange, many cultivars of chili pepper spread across the world, used for both food and traditional medicine. Worldwide in 2014, 32.3 million tonnes of green chili peppers and 3.8 million tonnes of dried chili peppers were produced. China is the world’s largest producer of green chillies, providing half of the global total.
Chili pepper has a fiery sensation to the tongue. Chili contains capsaicin which is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which aids in treating inflammatory diseases, cancer, boosts Immunity among others.
History of Chili Pepper
Chili peppers have been a part of the human diet in the Americas since at least 7500 BCE. The most recent research shows that chili peppers were domesticated more than 6000 years ago in Mexico, in the region that extends across southern Puebla and northern Oaxaca to southeastern Veracruz, and were one of the first self-pollinating crops cultivated in Mexico, Central and parts of South America.
Peru is considered the country with the highest cultivated Capsicum diversity because it is a center of diversification where varieties of all five domesticates were introduced, grown, and consumed in pre-Columbian times. Bolivia is considered to be the country where the largest diversity of wild Capsicum peppers is consumed. Bolivian consumers distinguish two basic forms: ulupicas, species with small round fruits including C. eximium, C. cardenasii, C. eshbaughii, and C. caballeroi landraces; and arivivis with small elongated fruits including C. baccatum var. baccatum and C. chacoense varieties.
Christopher Columbus was one of the first Europeans to encounter them (in the Caribbean), and called them “peppers” because they, like black pepper of the genus Piper known in Europe, have a spicy, hot taste unlike other foodstuffs. Upon their introduction into Europe, chilies were grown as botanical curiosities in the gardens of Spanish and Portuguese monasteries. Christian monks experimented with the culinary potential of chili and discovered that their pungency offered a substitute for black peppercorns.
Chilies were cultivated around the globe after indigenous people shared them with travelers. Diego Álvarez Chanca, a physician on Columbus’ second voyage to the West Indies in 1493, brought the first chili peppers to Spain and first wrote about their medicinal effects in 1494.
The spread of chili peppers to Asia was most likely a natural consequence of its introduction to Portuguese traders[verification needed] (Lisbon was a common port of call for Spanish ships sailing to and from the Americas) who, aware of its trade value, would have likely promoted its commerce in the Asian spice trade routes then dominated by Portuguese and Arab traders. It was introduced in India by the Portuguese towards the end of 15th century. Today chilies are an integral part of South Asian and Southeast Asian cuisines.
The chili pepper features heavily in the cuisine of the Goan region of India, which was the site of a Portuguese colony (e.g., vindaloo, an Indian interpretation of a Portuguese dish). Chili peppers journeyed from India, through Central Asia and Turkey, to Hungary, where they became the national spice in the form of paprika.
An alternate, although not so plausible account (no obvious correlation between its dissemination in Asia and Spanish presence or trade routes), defended mostly by Spanish historians, was that from Mexico, at the time a Spanish colony, chili peppers spread into their other colony the Philippines and from there to India, China, Indonesia. To Japan, it was brought by the Portuguese missionaries in 1542, and then later, it was brought to Korea.
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In 1995 archaeobotanist Hakon Hjelmqvist published an article in Svensk Botanisk Tidskrift claiming there was evidence for the presence of chili peppers in Europe in pre-Columbian times. According to Hjelmqvist, archaeologists at a dig in St Botulf in Lund found a Capsicum frutescens in a layer from the 13th century. Hjelmqvist thought it came from Asia. Hjelmqvist also said that Capsicum was described by the Greek Theophrastus (370–286 BCE) in his Historia Plantarum, and in other sources. Around the first century CE, the Roman poet Martial mentioned Piperve crudum (raw pepper) in Liber XI, XVIII, allegedly describing them as long and containing seeds (a description which seems to fit chili peppers – but could also fit the long pepper, which was well known to ancient Romans).
Contrary to the Columbian Exchange, evidence of the use of chili peppers in Southeast Asia can be found in stone inscriptions from the Bagan period of the thirteenth-century Myanmar. The Shwe-Kun-Cha Pagoda stone inscriptions (1223 CE) of King Nadoungmya (1234 – 1254 CE) included five baskets of chili in the list of his donations to the pagoda and a slightly later stone inscription (1248 CE) of Princess A-Saw-Kyaum included chili alongside rice, betel nut, and salt in the cost of her merit makings.
History Of Chili Pepper
It’s not surprising that chili peppers can trace their history to Central and South America, regions whose cuisines are renowned for their hot and spicy flavors. Chili peppers have been cultivated in these regions for more than seven thousand years, first as a decorative item and later as a foodstuff and medicine.
It was not until the 15th and 16th centuries that chili peppers were introduced to the rest of the world. Christopher Columbus encountered them on his explorations of the Caribbean Islands and brought them back to Europe. There, they were used as a substitute for black pepper, which was very expensive since it had to be imported from Asia.
Explorer Ferdinand Magellan is credited with introducing chili peppers into Africa and Asia, continents that have since incorporated them into their cuisines and pharmacopeias. Chili peppers are now grown on all continents, however, China, Turkey, Nigeria, Spain and Mexico are among the largest commercial producers.
Types of Chili Pepper
African Bird’s Eye / African Devil
175,000 Scovilles. Also sometimes known as Piri Piri or Pili Pili, the African Bird’s Eye is a small chile, growing to only about 1 inch, but they pack a lot of punch. They mature to red or purple, and have a tapered shape, with a blunt point. Historically found in the African wild, it has recently been grown commercially in some parts of Africa, often to be used as pepper extract or as organic pest…
Amarillo Chili Peppers
30,000-50,000 Scovilles. Since “Amarillo” is the Spanish word for yellow, and “Ají” is the term for chile in South America, this pepper is also appropriately known as the “yellow chile.” The Ají Amarillo is grown in all areas of Peru. Used by the Incas, it is still the most common and popular chile in that country. It may be said that is it possibly the most important ingredient in Peruvian cooking. It grows to about 4-5 inches in length, and despite its name, it actually matures to a deep or…
Scovilles Chili Peppers
1,177 – 75,000 Scovilles. Also known generally as the Peruvian hot pepper, aji is the common name primarily in South America and areas of the Caribbean for chili peppers.
1,177 – 75,000 SCOVILLES.
Also known generally as the Peruvian hot pepper, aji is the common name primarily in South America and areas of the Caribbean for chili peppers. A few popular aji are:
The aji amarillo, or “aji yellow” or “yellow chile,” also known as the aji escabeche, the most common pepper cultivated and consum…
Fantasy Chili Pepper
Capsicum Bacattum. The Aji Fantasy is an aji variety that was developed over a 5 year period in Finland. It is a sweet pepper, emphasis on sweet, with a mild heat level. The peppers are highly flavorful and ideal for many dishes. The plants are quite productive. Mine exploded this year in the garden and I’ve picked several dozen already. The pods are smallish, about the size of a habanero pepper, and ripen to an attractive bright yellow. They are shaped like squat little
Limo Chili Peppers
30,000-50,000 Scovilles. The Limo chile (or Ají Limo) is another super-hot chili from Peru. (Ají is the term for chile pepper in South America.) It grows to about 2-3 inches, and may be red, yellow, orange, or even purple or white, providing great color for your dishes. They are commonly used in ceviche, and other Peruvian cooking, and they’re also great for salsas, chili and other fish dishes. The Limo has a citrus-spice flavor when cooked.
Aji Panca Chili Peppers
500 Scovilles. The Panca chili (or Ají Panca as it’s known in South America), is a deep red to burgundy pepper, measuring 3-5 inches. It is the second most common pepper in Peru, and is grown near the coast. Similar in shape to the Ají Amarillo, it is less spicy and has a rather sweet, berry-like, and slightly smoky flavor. The Ají Panca can be made into a paste or dried and minced to be used as a condiment. They can be found for sale on the internet in either form. Used in Peruvian cooking, …
Aji Pineapple Chili Pepper
Capsicum baccatum. The Aji Pineapple is a gorgeous yellow baccatum pepper with elongated fruits that average from 2-3 inches long. They begin green and ripen to the vibrant yellow that you see in the photos. Similar to other Ajis, which are typically bright and fruity, the Aji Pineapple runs around 20,000 Scoville Heat Units, so it is moderately hot. I’m told this is a rare chili pepper, though that is a shame. It is a delicious pepper and works in many a dish. The plants are easy to grow and…
Aleppo Chili Peppers
About 10,000 Scovilles. Capsicum Annuum. The Aleppo pepper, also known as the Halaby pepper, is named after the city of Aleppo in Northern Syria. It is commonly grown in Syria and Turkey, and is usually dried and crushed. Aleppo pepper is used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine, although it has become very popular around the world as an alternative to crushed red pepper or paprika, due to its beautiful deep red color, rich fruity undertones and aromatic flavor. It is perfect for chil…
Anaheim Chili Peppers
A mild, medium sized chili pepper that grows to 6-10 inches, often used when green, though it can be used when red. The basic variety ripens to a dark green/reddish color, but other strains ripen to full red. They are one of the most common chilis in the United States and are used in many foods and recipes. Red varieties can be strung together and dried to make ristras.
A mild, medium sized chili pepper that grows to 6-10 inches, often used when green, though it can be used when red. The basi…
Ancho Chili Peppers
1,000 – 2,000 Scovilles. An Ancho pepper is the dried form of the poblano chili pepper. Ancho has a mild paprika flavor, with sweet to moderate heat. The Ancho chili pepper, together with the Mulato and Pasilla chili peppers, form the “holy trinity” of peppers widely used in cooking mole sauces. The Ancho is used to add flavor, heat, and color to the sauces.
1,000 – 2,000 SCOVILLES.
An Ancho pepper is the dried form of the poblano chili pepper. Ancho has a mild paprika flavor, with sweet to m…
Bahamian Chili Peppers
95,000-110,000 Scovilles. As its name suggests, the Bahamian pepper originates from the Bahamas, where it is still one of the major agricultural crops. This small, round pepper grows to only about an inch in length, and may be found in an assortment of colors, including yellow, orange, green and red. Interestingly, the Bahamian pepper grows upright in clusters, unlike most peppers that hang from their stems. At roughly 100,000 Scovilles, they are hotter than the cayenne, but not quite as hot …
0-500 Scovilles. Also known as the Yellow wax pepper, the Banana Pepper has a mild, sweet taste that is very popular on many types of foods. It is commonly eaten on pizza, in Greek salads, on sandwiches, or stuffed with meat and/or cheese. They also add a bit of sweetness to salsa and an interesting flavor, while other peppers add the heat. They may be pickled or used fresh. As the name suggests, it is typically a bright yellow or yellow-green, but they may mature to orange or red if left to …
Barker’s Hot Chili Peppers
15,000-30,000 Scovilles. The Barker’s Hot chili pepper is an extra-hot chile, the hottest of the Anaheim/ New Mexico variety, and it has great flavor. They grow to 5-7 inches in length, and can be used just as you would use an Anaheim, with an extra punch. This variety originally comes from a selection of native New Mexican chiles, so it naturally grows well in very hot, dry climates. The peppers ripen from green to red, with the red fruits growing hotter than the green ones. The fruits have …
Bhut Jolokia Chili Peppers – Aka Ghost Pepper
855,000 – 1,041,427 Scoville Heat Units (SHU). Yep, these babies were officially the hottest peppers around, topping the Red Savina Habanero. It was awarded the distinction of World’s Hottest of All Spices by the Guinness World Records in 2006, though was eventually toppled several times over.
Jalapeno Pepper Comparison
The hottest ghost pepper is 416 times hotter than the mildest jalapeno pepper, and about 208 times hotter than the average jalapeno pepper. Quite hot!
Bird’s Eye Chili Peppers
50,000-100,000 Scovilles. The tiny Bird’s Eye Chili originated in Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, The Philippines, and surrounding countries, but they can now be found all over the world. They are presumably called Bird’s Eye Chili because of their small round shape and because they have been spread by birds, which are not affected by the heat of the peppers. The Chiltepin pepper in North America is also known by the same name, and for the same reasons, but it is a different pepper altogether.
Bishop’s Crown Chili Peppers
5,000-30,000 Scovilles. Capsicum Baccatum. This chile is a member of the Capsicum Baccatum species, which includes the Ají pepper. It has an interesting shape, hence its name, and can be very spicy, with a fruity flavor. It is red when mature, and measures about 1 inch long and 2-3 inches wide. It can be used fresh in salsas or salads, and can be dried or pickled as well.
This chile is a member of the Capsicum Baccatum species, which includes the Ají…
Bolivian Rainbow Chili Peppers
10,000-30,000 Scovilles. Grown for centuries in Bolivia (Central South America), the Bolivian Rainbow chile is a stunningly beautiful plant. The peppers start out a brilliant purple and turn yellow to orange to red, with all stages of the pepper present on the plant at once, making it a bright and colorful addition to your garden or your home.
They can be grown indoors and will produce fruits continuously, year-round. When grown outside, they need a warm climate. The peppers are small, about …
Chili Pepper Nutrition
Fresh chili peppers are mainly composed of water (88%) and carbohydrates (9%).
Amount Per 100 grams
- Calories 40
- Fat 0.4 g
- Cholesterol 0
- Sodium 9 mg
- Potassium 322 mg – 9% RDA
- Carbohydrate 9 g – 3% RDA
- Dietary fiber 1.5 g – 6% RDA
- Sugar 5 g
- Protein 1.9 g – 3% RDA
- Vitamin A 19% RDA
- Vitamin C 239% RDA
- Calcium 1% RDA
- Iron 5% RDA
- Vitamin B-6 25% RDA
- Magnesium 5% RDA
Vitamins and Minerals
Chili peppers are rich in various vitamins and minerals.
However, since they are only eaten in small amounts, their contribution to the daily intake is very small.
Vitamin C: Chili peppers are very high in vitamin C. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, important for wound healing and immune function.
Vitamin B6: A family of B-vitamins, some of which have important functions in energy metabolism.
Vitamin K1: Also known as phylloquinone, vitamin K1 is essential for blood clotting and healthy bones and kidneys.
Potassium: An essential dietary mineral that serves a variety of functions in the body. Adequate intake of potassium may reduce the risk of heart disease.
Copper: Often lacking in the Western diet, copper is an essential antioxidant trace element, important for strong bones and healthy neurons.
Vitamin A: Red chili peppers are high in beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in the body.
Source Of Protein
Every 100 grams of chili pepper contains one gram of protein. When you eat more protein, you automatically protect your body from loss of muscle mass, decreased immunity, poor respiratory system and even death. Protein also helps in carrying oxygen to the blood. It builds muscles, cartilage and regulates the nervous system.
Vitamin D Benefits
Chili oil is full of nutrients, vitamins and minerals. It contains Vitamin D that protects you against Alzheimer’s disease, bone weakening, and cancer attacks. Other rich sources of Vitamin D are milk, soy, fish, egg yolks, etc.
Vitamins A, E, And K
Chili oil also contains Vitamins A, E, and K that provide your body with a large number of benefits. It helps in maintaining good bone health. They contain antioxidants that play a major role in tooth development, immune system, cell division and reproduction. Vitamin K helps in the reduction of blood clotting as well.
Chili oil contains iron too. Eating iron filled foods prevents several illnesses such as glossitis. It also helps you feel relaxed. Iron is one of the major nutrients that prevent you from feeling tired and exhausted. In fact, iron deficiency leads to anemia, cough, and dialysis.
Vitamin C Benefits
Chili oil also contains Vitamin C, which protects you from strokes, coronary heart diseases and other cardiovascular diseases. Vitamin C may also shorten the duration of a cold or the effect of a recent cold treatment. Other sources of Vitamin C are oranges, lemon, and grapefruit.
Other Plant Compounds
Chili peppers are a rich source of spicy-hot capsaicin. They are also very high in antioxidant carotenoids, which are linked with numerous health benefits. Here are the main bioactive plant compounds in chili peppers:
Capsanthin: The main carotenoid in red chili peppers, responsible for their red color, and often accounting for up to 50% of the total carotenoid content. Its powerful antioxidant properties may act against cancer.
Violaxanthin: The major carotenoid antioxidant in yellow chili peppers, accounting for 37-68% of the total carotenoid content.
Lutein: Most abundant in green (immature) chili peppers, the levels of lutein decrease with maturation. High consumption of lutein has been linked with improved eye health.
Capsaicin: One of the most studied plant compounds in chili peppers. It is responsible for their pungent (hot) flavor and many of their health effects.
Sinapic acid: An antioxidant, also known as sinapinic acid. It has a variety of potential health benefits.
Ferulic acid: Similarly to sinapic acid, ferulic acid is an antioxidant that may help protect against various chronic diseases.
The antioxidant content of mature (red) chili peppers is much higher than of immature (green) peppers.
Health Benefits of Chili Pepper
1. Improves Vision
Chili Pepper contains vitamin A which improves eyesight and prevents night blindness and macular degeneration from developing as we age.
2. Reduces cancer risk
Chili Pepper has many antioxidants like capsaicin and also the chemical that makes them hot—inhibits cancer cell growth in the colon and prostate. Lycopene which is also an antioxidants aid the fight against bladder and cervical cancer as well.
3. Boosts Immunity
Chili pepper contains vitamin C which is an antioxidants and neutralizes free radicals, vitamin c protects from scurvy and develops immune system.
Chili pepper is an excellent source of B-vitamin complex elements, such as riboflavin and niacin. Niacin has been known to increase an individual’s “good” cholesterol and reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems. A deficiency of niacin leads to Pellagra – a disease characterized by diarrhea, dementia, dermatitis, and insomnia, the inability to sleep.
4. Helps fight inflammation
Chili pepper has anti inflammatory properties which helps relieve pain caused by arthritis.
5. Heals migraine
One sniff of the spray up the nostril on the same side as a migraine has been known to stop the pain in its tracks.
6. Aids in weight loss
Capsaicin increases thermogenesis, a process which converts energy into heat. Capsaicin increases the heat by attaching to SERCA, a muscle protein, stopping the normal calcium pumping into the sarcoplasmic reticulum, which stops the muscle relaxation cycle. This increases metabolism by the stomach continuing to process the nutrition in the stomach, which helps to boost weight loss.
Obesity is a serious health condition that increases the risk of many chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. There is some evidence that capsaicin, a plant compound in chili peppers, can promote weight loss by reducing appetite and increasing fat burning. In fact, studies have shown that 10 grams of red chili pepper can significantly increase fat burning in both men and women. Supporting this, other more recent studies have shown that capsaicin may significantly increase fat burning.
Capsaicin may also reduce calorie intake. A study in 24 regular consumers of chili found that capsaicin before a meal led to reduced calorie intake. Another study found a significant reduction in appetite and energy intake only in those who did not regularly consume chili. Not all studies have found chili peppers to be effective. Other studies found no significant effects on calorie intake or fat burning.
Despite the mixed evidence, it appears that regular consumption of red chilis, or capsaicin supplements, may be helpful for weight loss when combined with other healthy lifestyle strategies. However, they are probably not very effective on their own; tolerance to the effects of capsaicin may develop over time, which limits its usability.
7. Aids in digestion
Chili pepper contains capsaicin which fightindigestion. Capsaicin causes blood to rush to areas where it is applied, it acts to help stimulate the stomach to produce the juices it needs to sooth the upset. Capsaicin also kills H. Pylori, a gastrointestinal-issue causing bacteria.
8. Skin Care
Chili pepper contains vitamin C which is an antioxidant and neutralizes free radicals that can destroy skin cell. Vitamin C also create and maintain collagen, an essential protein found in hair and skin.
9. Regulates Blood Pressure And Prevents Cardiovascular Disease
Chili pepper has high level of potassium and low sodium content, potassium acts as a vasodilator and helps reduce pressure on the artery walls. This combination with folate also contributes to the reduction of hypertension and relaxes blood vessels, while maintaining proper blood flow.
Chilies contain potassium. Potassium is a mineral that plays different functions in the body. An adequate intake of potassium combined with folate can greatly reduce the risk of heart diseases. Potassium relaxes blood vessels; thus creating ideal blood flow.
Chili peppers are also an excellent source of riboflavin and niacin. Niacin increases a person’s good cholesterol levels, also reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Niacin deficiency can only lead to a disease called Pellagra. Pellagra is characterized by insomnia, dementia, and diarrhea. Spicing up your meals with hot peppers is the first step you can take in preventing atherosclerosis.
10. Treats anemia
Chili pepper contains folic acid which help the body to produce
healthy red blood cells and prevents anemia. Chili also contains copper and iron which are essential for the new blood cell formation. A deficiency in iron can lead to anemia, fatigue, and muscular weakness.
11. Pain Relief
Capsaicin, the main bioactive plant compound in chili peppers, has some unique properties. It binds with pain receptors, which are nerve endings that sense pain. This induces a burning sensation, but does not actually cause any real burning injuries. Even so, high consumption of chili peppers (or capsaicin) may damage the pain receptors over time, causing desensitization to the burning flavor of chili. It also makes these pain receptors insensitive to other forms of pain, such as heartburn caused by acid reflux.
One study found that when red chili peppers (2.5 grams/day) were given to patients with heartburn (dyspepsia) it worsened pain at the beginning of the 5-week treatment, but improved it over time. This is supported by another small study showing that 3 grams of chili each day for 6 weeks improved heartburn in patients with acid reflux. The desensitization effect does not seem to be permanent, and one study found that it was reversed 1-3 days after capsaicin consumption stopped.
12. Improves Cognitive Functioning
You need proper amounts of oxygen and iron for you to achieve and maintain good cognitive performance. Spicing up your meals with chili peppers everyday can decrease your chance of getting cognitive disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease when you reach old age.
13. Contributes To Red Blood Cell Formation
Anemia and fatigue are caused by iron deficiency. Chili peppers contain copper and iron. These minerals are vital for new blood cell formation. Chili pepper is also rich in folic acid. Folic acid aids in the production of red blood cells and fights anemia. It also plays a vital role in rapid cell division and growth in pregnancy. Pregnant women must never undergo folic acid deficiency; otherwise it could lead to certain birth defects in newborns.
14. Clears Nasal Congestion
Capsaicin not only alleviates pain but also relieves congestion. Its fiery heat stimulates secretions that aid in clearing mucus from stuffy nose. Capsaicin has antibacterial properties that combat against chronic sinus infections, thanks to its ability to induce vasoconstriction in the blood vessels of the nasal cavity.
Soothe Intestinal Diseases And Disorders
Chili peppers are often used as food preservatives because of its antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. Capsaicin can kill bacteria such as H. pylori and cure inflammatory bowel diseases.
15. Help Prevent Stomach Ulcers
Chilies can actually prevent stomach ulcers. Red hot chili peppers kill bacteria that you may have ingested and stimulates the cells lining the stomach to release buffering juices. This is in direct contrast to the belief that peppers worsen the development or outcome of these ulcers.
16. Improve Longevity
Several researchers from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences have been observing the eating habits of roughly half a million Chinese people starting from age 30. They noticed that in a span of seven years, those who include chili peppers in their diet six or seven times a week had a lower risk of mortality that those who do not consume these peppers on a regular basis. This could be due to the little known fact that chili peppers increase levels of IGF-1 in blood, an anti-aging hormone.
17. Help Stop the Spread of Prostate Cancer
Red chili peppers’ capsaicin, the compound responsible for their pungent heat, stops the spread of prostate cancer cells through a variety of mechanisms, indicates a study published in the March 15, 2006 issue of Cancer Research . Capsaicin triggers suicide in both primary types of prostate cancer cell lines, those whose growth is stimulated by male hormones and those not affected by them. In addition, capsaicin lessens the expression of prostate-specific antigen (PSA), inhibits the ability of the most potent form of testosterone, dihydrotestosterone, to activate PSA, and directly inhibits PSA transcription, causing PSA levels to plummet.
The dose effective for test animals was equivalent to 400 milligrams of capsaicin, three times a week, for a man weighing about 200 pounds. After four weeks of receiving capsaicin, prostate cancer tumor growth and size decreased significantly in the animals. One warning: Excessive intake of hot chilies has been linked to stomach cancer, so don’t go overboard.
18. Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Making chili pepper a frequently enjoyed spice in your Healthiest Way of Eating could help reduce your risk of hyperinsulinemia (high blood levels of insulin)—a disorder associated with type 2 diabetes. In a study published in the July 2006 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Australian researchers show that the amount of insulin required to lower blood sugar after a meal is reduced if the meal contains chili pepper. When chili-containing meals are a regular part of the diet, insulin requirements drop even lower.
Plus, chili’s beneficial effects on insulin needs get even better as body mass index (BMI, a measure of obesity) increases. In overweight people, not only do chili-containing meals significantly lower the amount of insulin required to lower blood sugar levels after a meal, but chili-containing meals also result in a lower ratio of C-peptide/ insulin, an indication that the rate at which the liver is clearing insulin has increased.
The amount of C-peptide in the blood also shows how much insulin is being produced by the pancreas. The pancreas produces proinsulin, which splits into insulin and C-peptide when secreted into the bloodstream. Each molecule of proinsulin breaks into one molecule of C-peptide and one molecule of insulin, so less C-peptide means less insulin has been secreted into the bloodstream.
In this study, which involved 36 subjects aged 22-70 years, the effects of three interventions were evaluated. Subjects were given a bland meal after a bland diet containing no spices, a chili-containing meal after a bland diet, and finally, a chili-containing meal after a chili-containing diet. A palatable chili flavoring, not pure capsaicin (the active component in chili), was used.
Blood sugar rose similarly after all three interventions, but insulin rose the most after the bland meal after a bland diet and the least after the chili-containing meal after a chili-rich diet. The maximum increases in insulin after the bland diet followed by a chili-containing meal were 15% lower than after the bland meal following a bland diet, and 24% lower after the chili-containing meal after a chili-rich diet compared to the chili-containing meal after the bland diet.
C-peptide blood levels also increased the most after the bland meal after a bland diet and the least after the chili-containing meal after a chili-rich diet, showing the least insulin was secreted after the chili-rich diet and meal. In addition, the C-peptide/insulin ratio was highest after the chili-containing meal after a chili-rich diet, indicating an increase in the liver’s ability to clear insulin. Besides capsaicin, chilies contain antioxidants, including vitamin C and carotenoids, which might also help improve insulin regulation.
A little chili pepper can really perk up an omelet, add heat to a black bean/sweet potato soup, or transform an ordinary salad dressing. So, spice up your meals with chili peppers. Your body will need to make less insulin and will use it more effectively. No need to go overboard though. Population studies in India and Mexico suggest that loading up on hot chilies at every meal may be linked to increased risk of stomach cancer.
Other health Benefits Of Chili Pepper
Capsanthin. This is the primary carotenoid (antioxidant) in red chili peppers, giving them their red color and typically accounting for up to 50 percent of the spice’s antioxidant content.
Lutein. Most plentiful in immature (green) chili peppers, it has been shown to help maintain and improve eye health.20
Volaxanthin. It is the main carotenoid found in yellow chili peppers, which accounts for 37 to 68 percent of their total content.
Sinapic acid. Also known as sinapinic acid, this antioxidant is known for its neuroprotective potential.21
Ferulic acid. This compound has shown promise in protecting against diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
How to Select and Store Chili Pepper
Choose fresh chili peppers that have vivid, deep colors and glossy, firm and taut skins. Their stems should seem hardy and fresh. With the exception of jalapenos, peppers should not have any cracks near the stem end. Avoid those that are wrinkled or have soft areas or black spots.
When purchasing dried chili peppers look for ones that are still vivid in color. If they’ve lost their color, they’ve probably lost their flavor as well. Both fresh and dried chili peppers are available throughout the year in most areas.
Even though dried herbs and spices are widely available in supermarkets, explore the local spice stores or ethnic markets in your area. Oftentimes, these stores feature an expansive selection of dried herbs and spices that are of superior quality and freshness than those offered in regular markets. Just like with other dried spices, try to select organically grown dried chili pepper, including cayenne pepper, since this will give you more assurance that it has not been irradiated.
Place unwashed fresh peppers in paper bags or wrap in paper towels and store in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator, where they should keep for at least one week. Avoid storing peppers in plastic bags as this may result in moisture accumulation, which will cause them to spoil more quickly.
Fresh peppers can also be hung in the sunlight to dry. Once dried, they can be used to make freshly ground chili powder. Dried peppers and chili powders should be kept in a tightly sealed jar, away from sunlight.
Powdered chili pepper, such as cayenne pepper and chili powder, should be kept in a tightly sealed glass jar, away from direct sunlight.
Tips for Preparing and Cooking Chili Pepper
Be very careful when you are handling and cooking fresh chili peppers. One of the peppers’ most pungent compounds, capsaicin, can cause a severe burning sensation if it touches your skin or lips, or comes in contact with your eyes.
Because of this, some people prefer to wear thin rubber gloves when working with chili peppers. If you choose not to do this, make sure to thoroughly wash your hands after handling them. Additionally, you should wash your knife and cutting board after cutting these peppers.
Capsaicin primarily resides in the seeds and fleshy white inner membranes. If you want to enjoy the pungency of peppers but minimize their heat, you can remove these parts, although capsaicin is responsible for much of chili pepper’s healing properties.
There is a range of “hotness” between pepper varieties and sometimes also within the same varieties. Therefore, each time you cook with them you may need to adjust the amount you use. Before adding chili peppers to a recipe, taste a little piece to determine the spice level, so you will know how much to add.
Quick Serving Ideas Of Chili Pepper
- The next time you make healthy sautéed vegetables, add some chili peppers to turn up the spice volume.
- Add chili peppers to your favorite corn bread recipe to give it an extra spark.
- Add minced chili peppers to yogurt and use as a condiment or dip.
- Add jalapenos to your favorite tuna salad recipe.
- Purée fresh chili peppers together with olive oil, garlic, coriander, peppermint, and caraway. If you would like, add your own favorite herbs and spices to this mixture to make your own version of Harissa, a condiment popular in the some Middle Eastern and North African countries.
- Keep a container of cayenne pepper on the table right next to the pepper mill, so you and your family can add a pinch of extra spice to any of your meals.
- Cayenne pepper and lemon juice make great complements to cooked bitter greens such as collards, kale and mustard greens.
Chili Pepper Recipe
If you want to try some chili pepper recipes, remember that the smallest peppers are usually the hottest, and the stems and seeds are typically removed during preparation. Moreover, the capsaicin oils in chilies can irritate and burn your skin (and your eyes), so wear rubber gloves when handling this spice.26 Chili peppers taste great with beans, just like this delicious dish from my book “Healthy Recipes for Your Nutritional Type:”
Beef and Bean Chili Recipe
- 2 pounds 100 percent grassfed beef
- 1 1/2 cups kidney beans (drain and rinse)
- 7 tomatoes (crushed)
- 1 medium jalapeno chili (remove the ribs and seeds then mince)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 cups chopped onions
- 2 cups tomato sauce
- 1/4 cup plain traditionally cultured yogurt made from organic raw milk
- 1/4 cup grassfed cheddar cheese (grated)
- 2 tablespoons garlic cloves (minced)
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
Procedure: This recipe makes four servings.
- Heat a heavy 5-quart pot, then add the ground beef. Cook, stirring and breaking up the meat until it turns brown (make sure it doesn’t burn). Drain the excess fat and leave just a small amount to cook the onions in.
- Add the onions and cook for five minutes. Mix in the garlic and jalapeno and cook until tender. Stir in the chili powder and cumin and continue to cook until it becomes fragrant.
- Stir in the crushed tomatoes and then the tomato sauce, and let it simmer for about 30 minutes.
- Add the beans and continue to cook uncovered until the meat and beans become very tender and the chili turns thick (about 30 minutes more).
- Serve in small bowls and garnish each bowl with 1 tablespoon each of yogurt and cheddar cheese.
How to Grow Chili Peppers at Home
Growing chili peppers takes about six months so you should plant them by May, although starting early is recommended so the plant will ripen just in time for summer. Here’s a simple step-by-step guide for growing chilies adapted from The Telegraph:25
- Fill a multicell seed tray with rich organic soil, firm it down and moisten with water. Place a seed in each cell, then lightly cover with soil.
- Use a very fine hose to water it gently and then cover with cling film and keep in a warm area of your home. The soil should be moist but not soaked.
- After about two to four weeks, when there’s a first sign of growth, move to a warm place with plenty of light — but it shouldn’t be in direct sunlight. Water the plant from below to strengthen the roots, and check daily to ensure the surface is moist.
- When the seedlings sprout a second set of leaves, transplant to 7-centimeter (2.75 inches) pots with moist soil and use liquid tomato for weekly feeding.
- Once the plants reach 12 centimeters (4.72 inches), transplant to larger pots, and fill with soil to approximately 1 centimeter (.39 inch) from the top. You should support the plants using a cane when they reach 20 centimeters (7.87 inches).
- When the plants reach 30 centimeters (11.8 inches), pinch out the growing tips right above the fifth set of leaves in order to encourage bushiness. Transplant to another pot if needed and make sure to check the plant daily for aphids.
- When the flowers appear, gently dab a cotton bud into every flower to pollinate.
- Cut off the first chilies while still green to encourage fruiting all season long (July to October). Allow the next fruit to turn red if you want a rounder flavor.
How To Make Chili Oil At Home?
The procedure to prepare homemade chili oil is quite simple. Following is what you should do:
- The first thing you need to do is choose your base oil. Now this is entirely dependent on you. You can try peanut oil, almond oil or even sesame oil. Take the base oil and gently pour into the pan.
- Slice chili peppers according to length. Take out the seeds too.
- Fry chili peppers in oil next for 8 minutes. Then pour them directly into the oil.
- Let the oil cool.
- Cover the jar using a lid.
Negative Effects Of Chili Pepper
Ingesting hot peppers of any type can cause indigestion, particularly if you do not usually have them in your diet. The burning sensation that you experience in your mouth from eating hot peppers also can occur in your stomach during digestion. This can send the hot sensation back into your esophagus as gastric reflux. Over-the-counter antacids, proton pump inhibitors such as lansoprazole and H-2-receptor blockers such as ranitidine or cimetidine may help suppress the reflux. You should take proton pump inhibitors at least an hour before eating the hot peppers because they do not act instantly as other antacids do.
While the hot peppers pass through the first stage of digestion in your stomach, they can unsettle your overall digestion. The fire sensations can disrupt your normally quiet digestion, again primarily if you do not eat hot peppers regularly. Proton pump inhibitors, H-2-receptor blockers and more traditional antacids can help suppress the stomach discomfort of digesting hot peppers.
As the hot peppers progress through your digestive tract, they can continue to retain some of the burning ingredients that makes them hot in the first place. This can cause a painful, burning sensation in your rectum as you pass stools containing any type of hot pepper waste. Although this side effect does not classify as serious, it can cause discomfort for a few days. Once your body acclimates to the inclusion of red peppers in your diet, this side effect may cease or decrease.
Even if you do not eat hot peppers, you can experience a side effect from handling them. Capsaicin works its fiery sensation even on your skin if the juice from red peppers absorbs slightly. This can turn your skin red and cause the burning sensation or itch. Unless you are allergic to hot peppers, however, this type of side effect should occur only briefly and then dissipate. When handling hot peppers, wear gloves to avoid such a rash and burning sensations.
Stomach Pain and Diarrhea
Eating chili can cause intestinal distress in some people. The symptoms may include abdominal pain, burning sensation in the gut, cramps, and painful diarrhea. This is more common in people with irritable bowel syndrome. Chili can temporarily worsen symptoms in those who are not used to eating it regularly. For this reason, people with irritable bowel syndrome may want to limit their consumption of chili and other spicy foods.
Cancer is a serious disease characterized by abnormal growth of cells. There is mixed evidence on the effect of chili on cancer. Test-tube experiments and animal studies indicate that capsaicin, a plant compound in chili peppers, may either increase or decrease the risk of cancer. Observational studies in humans have linked chili pepper consumption with increased risk of cancer, especially in the gallbladder and stomach.
Additionally, eating red chili powder was found to be a risk factor for mouth and throat cancer in India. Keep in mind that observational studies cannot prove that chili peppers caused cancer, only that people who ate chili peppers were more likely to get it. Further studies are needed to determine whether heavy chili consumption or capsaicin supplementation is safe in the long-term.
Nose, mouth and lungs irritant.
The peppers are also a strong nose and mouth irritant. Eating the hot peppers or breathing in a hot pepper powder can cause severe discomfort, redness, sneezing and a strong burning feeling, in more serious cases a skin reaction similar to a burn or even asthma (capsaicin is also a lung irritant).
Allergy and asthma.
Hot chili peppers allergy can range from mild to severe. Mild reactions include redness, itchiness and burning sensation, runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes, conjunctivitis and others. Severe allergic reactions to hot chili peppers are breathing difficulty causing the airways to close up, severe swelling of the throat, eyes, mouth or entire face and ultimately, anaphylaxis. Because of their pungency and the fact that they irritate the lungs, hot peppers can trigger asthma when inhaled.
Some people are allergic to the compounds that make the peppers hot, like capsaicin. Other may be allergic to all pepper or to multiple nightshade family members like peppers, tomatoes and eggplants. Simple mouth and nose reactions of sensitivity to hot peppers can build up over time to become more serious and lead to the development of an allergic-reaction proper. It is advised to avoid the peppers and anything containing them (they are used as color additives in many products, including vitamin supplements).
Garlic and onions are among the worst-smelling things a guy can eat, and they also happen to cause bad breath. Granted, bad breath isn’t much of a nuisance, but it can sometimes spell disaster, especially on a nice first date. So avoid spicy cuisine on those nights.
Here’s one most men probably didn’t know: spicy food is bad for sleep. The cause is quite simple. The body needs to slow down before it can snooze and spicy food raises body temperature (that’s why we sweat after a consuming fiery food). If one happens to consume something zesty before going to bed, it can disrupt slumber. The first cycle of sleep is particularly sensitive to hot food.
Damage to taste buds
Finally, constantly eating hot food can permanently reduce the sensation of taste. I often hear people assure others that they will get used to the burning of chili peppers. It’s true, people do feel less scorching after years of spicy abuse, but not because the body got “used” to the sensation in question.
Over time, taste buds wear out, making this reduced sensation nothing more than wear and tear of chronic abuse. It’s no different from people getting “used” to loud music in clubs — in both cases the body suffers permanent deterioration.