Chili peppers, despite their fiery hotness, are one of the very popular spices known for their medicinal and health benefiting properties. The chili is a fruit pod of the plant belonging to the nightshade family (Solanaceae), of the genus, Capsicum.
Scientific name: Capsicum annuum. Some of other common members in the Solanaceae family are tomato, aubergine, potato, etc.
Chili plant is a small, perennial shrub with a woody stem, growing up to a meter in height. It is native to the Central American region where it employed as one the main spice ingredients in Mexican cuisine for centuries. Later, it was introduced to the rest of the world by Spanish and Portuguese explorers during the 16th and 17th centuries. Today chili pepper is grown widely in many parts of the world as an important commercial crop.
Several cultivars of chili peppers grown all around the world. Depending upon cultivar type, it bears flowers which subsequently develop into fruit pods of variable size, shape, color, and pungency. Moreover, again, depending on the cultivar type, their hotness ranges from mild, fleshy (Mexican bell peppers) to fiery, tiny, Nag Jalokiya chili peppers of the Indian subcontinent. The hotness of chili measured in “Scoville heat units” (SHU). On the Scoville scale, a sweet bell pepper scores 0, a jalapeño pepper around 2,500-4,000 units, and Mexican habañeros may have 200,000 to 500,000 units.
Inside, each chili fruit pod features numerous tiny, white, or cream colored, circular, flat seeds which clinging on to the central white-placenta.
To harvest; chilies picked up while they are green, or when they reach full maturity and dry on the plant itself. In general, the fruits are ready for harvesting once they mature and turn red. They are then left to dry in sunlight and shrinks in size.
Chilies have a strong spicy taste that comes to them from the active alkaloid compounds: capsaicin, capsanthin, and capsorubin.
12 Amazing Benefits
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. Reduce Blood Pressure and Prevents Cardiovascular Disease
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.
4. Acts as Natural Pain Relief
Topical capsaicin is used to alleviate pain caused by for osteoarthritis and diabetic neuropathy. It works by desensitizing sensory receptors, and also possesses anti-inflammatory effects.
Spicing up your meals with hot peppers is an excellent first step in preventing atherosclerosis.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. Boosts Immunity
The bright red color of chili peppers indicates its high pro-vitamin A or beta-carotene content. You can achieve about 6% of the recommended daily value for vitamin C with just a meager two teaspoons of red chili peppers. Vitamin A is vital in keeping a healthy respiratory tract, intestinal tract, and urinary tract. Vitamin A is also known as the anti-infection vitamin and serves as the first line of defense against infections.
8. Maintain Healthy Eyes
We need vitamin A to keep our eyes healthy at all times. Including chili peppers in our regular diet, approximately one tablespoon each day, can definitely improve your eyesight. It also prevents night blindness as well as macular degeneration.
9. Inhibits Cancer
American Association for Cancer Research has stated that capsaicin has the power to kill leukemia and cancer cells. Just like turmeric, a spice used in making curry, chilies can inhibit tumor growth and cancer. Medical News Today has cited that Capsaicin might actually have the ability to stop breast cancer.
However, further studies are still required and is not yet declared as a means to fully treat cancer.
10. Chili Pepper Can 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.
11. Promotes Weight Loss
Obesity is a serious health condition and must not be taken lightly. You can lose weight by eating chilies regularly with the inclusion of regular exercise, of course. Capsaicin is thermogenic. It reduces your cravings and increases your metabolism. The heat you feel after consuming chili pepper already takes energy and burn calories. Even cosmetic manufacturers have incorporated chili peppers in slimming lotions.
According to Jong Won Yun, a biotechnologist in Daegu University, people who have regular consumption of capsaicin have reported lower calorie intake and fat levels in the body.
Moreover, preventing obesity can lead to decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.
12. 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.