Today’s post is about an impressive vegetable that is capable of making both my nasal passages and my mascara run, the chili pepper! This fiery little vegetable is not only in season, but it’s been making news. Yep, there has been a flurry of news surrounding the health benefits of capsaicin, the substance in chili peppers that gives them their punch and has earned my utmost respect. Read on to find out why you might want to turn up the heat!
You should consider chili peppers as part of a healthy diet for two main reasons:
• the confirmed health benefits they offer
• the potential health benefits they may offer
Let’s start with what’s confirmed:
Perhaps the number one health benefit of chili peppers is weight control. This benefit comes from their ability to increase flavor and add variety with few calories and perhaps to a lesser degree the latest discovery that they boost metabolism. A glance of the nutritional profile of chili peppers reveals they are low calorie, low sodium, fat free, cholesterol free, a good source of fiber, and are high in vitamins A and C. Use them to complement healthy foods your whole family loves. Pile on sandwiches, add to burgers, omelets, eggs, chili, soups and stews, barbeque sauces, and salsa. As far as revving up your metabolism, don’t count them to solve the obesity epidemic. Research shows the effect is temporary (after a single meal). Far from a magic bullet!
The second health benefit of chili peppers relates to the natural antioxidants it provides. Antioxidants boost your immune system and protect your body from free radicals. Free radicals are destructive to cells and tissues and have been suggested as the number one offender in the aging process.
Hmm, figure friendly and an enemy to the aging process; that’s enough for me! Yet, in addition to what science has already confirmed, there may be more possibilities for potential health benefits. There have been many preliminary studies suggesting a correlation between capsaicin and health. These possible benefits include: reducing LDL cholesterol and blood pressure, anti-diabetic and anti-cancer properties.
Let me warn you that the amount of capsaicin necessary for some of these benefits is far beyond what you would normally consume. For example, in the prostate cancer study, a 200 pound individual would have to eat 8 habanero chiles (the hottest chili pepper) every week to equal the amount of capsaicin laboratory rats received. Another caution: while capsaicin shows promise, too much can also be harmful.
Current research has yet to prove whether capsaicin works alone, or has a synergistic effect with other nutrients in foods, such as vitamins. Therefore, if you’re looking for health benefits of capsaicin, health experts suggest using chili peppers as a complementary addition to an already balanced diet (of fruits, vegetables, whole grains , nuts, legumes, fish, poultry, lean meat, and fat free dairy) to increase flavor and provide possible synergist benefits described.
How do you like to eat chili peppers?