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Ten Health Benefits of Chili Peppers

Chili peppers are the fruit of Capsicum Frutescens plant with red orange, yellow  or green pods which are widely used in Nigerian cooking and are known for their hot sensation in the mouth when eaten.


While the flavor in the chili lies in the flesh and skins much of the heat potency rests in the seeds and veins which can be removed. Green chilies are a lot hotter than the red ones. The active chemical constituent is capsaicin and other chemical substances collectively called capsaicinoids are renowned for stimulating digestive process and helping to relieve heat fatigue in hot climates by inducing perspiration.


Though there are so many varieties of pepper, the scotch bonnet chili pepper and Piri piri (also known as peri peri, pili pili) are famous in Nigeria. They are also known as shombo in western Nigeria.


Piri piri pepper is a long red chili pepper containing large quantity of carotene (provitamin A) and vitamin C. It is very common is southern Nigeria where it is preserved by sun-drying and sold as "dried-pepper" throughout the year.


Chili pepper is the preferred pepper for traditional recipes. Pepper soup is the most common type of soup in Nigeria and is prepared from pepper, meat (or fish), water, salt and spices. Pepper soup is served in with drinks in "Beer Parlours", restaurants and parties.


Suya (grilled meat) is incomplete without chili pepper. It is an essential ingredient used for making the powdery spice that is sprinkled on the suya before consumption. Other examples of Nigerian recipes that contain pepper as a major ingredient are ogbono soup, egusi soup, banga soup and stew.


 It is also important in recipes of the Urhobo ethnic group that the collective name for different varieties of soups that originated from this ethnic group is iribo, which means pepper.


For those who like a little spice in their food, here are the benefits of chili peppers:


1. Anti Inflammation


Chili peppers contain a substance called capsaicin, which gives peppers their characteristic pungency, producing mild to intense spice when eaten. Capsaicin is a potent inflammation inhibitor and the hotter the chili pepper, the more capsaicin it contains.


2. Natural Pain Relief


Topical capsaicin is now a recognized treatment option for osteoarthritis pain. Several review studies of pain management for diabetic neuropathy have listed the benefits of topical capsaicin to alleviate disabling pain associated with this condition. It is also used to help relieve a certain type of pain known as neuralgia (shingles) as well as minor pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis or muscle sprains and strains. The side effect reported with topical capsaicin cream is a burning sensation at the area of application.


3. Cardiovascular Benefits


Red chili peppers, such as cayenne, have been shown to reduce blood cholesterol, triglyceride levels, and platelet aggregation, while increasing the body's ability to dissolve fibrin, a substance integral to the formation of blood clots. Cultures where hot pepper is used liberally have a much lower rate of heart attack, stroke and pulmonary embolism.


4. Clear Congestion


Capsaicin not only reduces pain, but its peppery heat also stimulates secretions that help clear mucus from your stuffed up nose or congested lungs. A bowl of favourite pepper soup is recommended when you have a cold.


5. Boost Immunity


The bright color of red chili peppers signals its high content of beta-carotene or pro-vitamin A. Just two teaspoons of dried red chili peppers will provide more than 10% of the daily value for vitamin A. Often called the anti-infection vitamin, vitamin A serves as the body's first line of defense against invading pathogens and is essential for healthy mucous membranes, which line the nasal passages, lungs, intestinal tract and urinary tract.


6. Help Stop the Spread of Prostate Cancer


Chili peppers' capsaicin, the compound responsible for their hotness, stops the spread of prostate cancer cells through a variety of mechanisms. Capsaicin triggers the death of prostate cancer cell lines, those whose growth is stimulated by male hormones and those not affected by them. One warning: Excessive intake of hot chilies has been linked to stomach cancer, so don't go overboard.


7. Prevent Stomach Ulcers


Chili peppers have a bad and mistaken reputation for contributing to stomach ulcers. Quite the opposite as they help prevent them by killing bacteria you may have ingested, while stimulating the cells lining the stomach to secrete protective buffering juices.


8. Weight Loss


All that heat you feel after eating hot chili peppers takes energy—and calories to produce. Even sweet red peppers have been found to contain substances that significantly increase thermogenesis (heat production) and oxygen consumption for more than 20 minutes after they are eaten. This increase in body metabolism helps to stimulate weight loss.


9. Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes


Chili pepper can 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.

10. Rich source of Vitamin C


Chili peppers are a rich source of vitamin C, which prevent, lessen, and even reverse degenerative health problems, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease as well as offers protection against colds and flu.


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.


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