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
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
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
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
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.