16/05/2012 16:49

The health benefits of chilli

A study by scientists at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston has shown that capsaicin - the ingredients which give peppers their burning sensation - could be used in weight-loss surgery. The health benefits of the humble chilli pepper are seriously underrated - here's why!


Woman eating a chilli (© Getty Images)

It turns out there's some truth in the mantra "no pain no gain" after all. "The heat from a chilli pepper comes from the nutrient capsicum," explains Emma Gardner, nutritional therapist and director of Appetite for Life. "Much of the research about chilli's health-giving properties have concentrated on capsicum so it's safe to assume that the hotter the chilli the greater the benefit. Recent studies suggest that nutrients in sweeter peppers promote similar health-giving properties too. So you don't have to be a 'chilli head' to reap the health rewards - just give the curries as much fire as you like using the peppers that you enjoy."

While we're not suggesting ditching your weekly work-out for a spicy curry, several studies have shown that capsaicin can aid weight loss by giving our metabolism a boost. "Chilli peppers increase the number of calories burned after eating," says Dr David Heber, professor of medicine and director of UCLA's Center for Human Nutrition. "In our research study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition we studied a non-pungent variety of chilli pepper called capsiate which increased the metabolism by stimulating a receptor in the intestines without stimulating the pain receptor on the tongue."

Suffering with the headache from hell? A hot curry might just be the answer. "Chillies can help with pain relief as they are anti-inflammatory and many varieties have analgesic properties," points out Emma Gardner.

Those suffering from circulation-related problems should also consider incorporating chillies into their diet. "Chillies optimise your heart health by boosting circulation, making your blood less sticky and improving cholesterol levels," explains Emma Gardner. "Chillies can also be used to relieve congestion - we have probably all experienced a runny nose after eating a curry!"

Forget expensive supplements - chillies are packed with some of the most important vitamins and minerals around. "Chilli peppers have amazingly high levels of vitamins and minerals," says Emma Gardner. "They contain particularly high levels of the antioxidants vitamin A and C, many B vitamins and a wide range of minerals including iron, potassium and manganese."

Chilli peppers (© Rex Features)

Love life on the wane? A spicy curry might be just the thing to get you in the mood.

"Chilli peppers add pleasure to eating," points out Dr David Heber. "While initially stimulating a pain receptor on the tongue, the feeling is pleasurable and releases endorphins. The Aztecs even regarded chilli peppers as an aphrodisiac."

Chilli peppers are some of the cleverest vegetables around. "Chilli pepper plants produce chemicals to protect them from being destroyed by bacterial and fungal infections," points out Emma Gardner. "When we eat them we consume these chemicals and the plant confers anti-microbial properties on us - in other words they give us anti-bacterial and anti-fungal nutrients which help to keep us healthy."

So how exactly should chillies be consumed in order to reap the health benefits? "Fresh chillies are best as many nutrients are lost in the drying process," says Emma Gardner. "When buying chillies, opt for crisp, luscious-looking veg - if they're looking wrinkled or brown, leave them on the shelf. Try spicing up your summer with the many peppers now available; add hot peppers to curries, fajitas or stir fries or roast sweet peppers in some olive oil and add to salads or have as a side dish with meat or fish."

The good news is that while fresh chillies might be best, we don't have to start chomping on raw chillies in order to enjoy the health benefits. "Chilli powder, chilli peppers and chilli condiments all have the same health benefits to differing degrees," reveals Dr David Heber. Studies have shown that certain varieties of chilli peppers, such as the jalapeno, contain more capsaicin if they're grown in hot, arid climates rather than cooler, wetter ones, although soil quality can also affect the levels of capsaicin.

Suffer from a sweet tooth? Chilli peppers might just help curb those cravings.

"A recent study also suggests that chilli peppers may reduce sweet cravings," reveals Emma Gardner. "However, remember that if you want to shed a few pounds this is best achieved by eating healthy, balanced meals. Faddy diets which concentrate on one food type are not a good option - so add chilli peppers to your meals but do not start a chilli pepper diet!"

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21Comments
17/05/2012 18:36
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it's a good thing i like chilli then! :D
17/05/2012 17:32
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I absolutely WILL NOT ENJOY a meal where there are no chillies - especially the real hot ones!!!!!
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Ethnic food is responsible for many of the World's most interesting dishes, and it is not easy to name a national cuisine that excludes chillis altogether.

 

Obviously there's a reason for that.

17/05/2012 22:23
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 food taste bland without chillies, i love it

 

17/05/2012 18:15
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Scotch Bonnets are my favourite. Buy a bag full, cut into quarters and blend with apple cider vinegar and a drop of extra virgin olive oil until a smooth purée consistency. Put into a jar with a tight lid and it will keep in the fridge for ages. Add to your favourite recipes when required.
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...CHILLIES are my favourite, they are so tasty and even though some are HOT when cooked they're not as so. I love them and they don't give you the ***** when you get used to them.
17/05/2012 21:18
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I've tried loads of foods in loads of different countries, and you just can't beat a Chicken Phaal. The sensory and bodily onslaught just can't be topped.What other food can you enjoy for so long? Not just the eating, but the shell-shock afterwards, being woken up in the middle of the night with a burning feeling in your intestines, and not to mention when the chilli finally passes out the other end!

 

  

20/05/2012 21:08
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I would like to know the joker that named these hot little spicy numbers chillies .

If i was the one that discovered them i would have named them hotties.

20/05/2012 21:17
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I grow many varieties of chilli every year. Love them. I dry most of them so I can use all year around. I make a lot of hot, spicy chutneys using them. Hot tropical chutney (pineapple, banana, mango, lime and chilli), being my favourite.
17/05/2012 17:25
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here is a little more about the benefits of eating chillies

cayyenne pepper dot info 

recommended reading

@joiner2k
18/05/2012 14:20
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My mother makes this really spicy home made sweet chilli pickle. If I touch the oil with the tip of my finger and tap it on the tip of my tongue my eyes water and I can feel it's spiciness run down the back of my throat.
21/05/2012 11:11
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A cheapo bag of dried red hot chillies from the Indian shop fed into the top of a bottle of equally cheap olive oil is my preference,but use any cooking oil you like ,the longer you leave it the better it gets..use it to cook with and drizzle on salads....don't forget to top it up weekly with oil.

a few chillies pulled out and added to a curry or chillie-con-carne  are a great enhancement but be careful just as in buisiness what you ingest today may well burn your a**e tomorrow!

19/05/2012 13:38
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Virtually everything in a properly made curry is good for you.

FOOD OF THE GODS!!!

17/05/2012 21:38
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Chilles give me wind , its not me that suffers, but everybody else!

 

22/05/2012 07:25
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less food more exercise, do it the real way!
22/05/2012 09:30
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It is 9.25 am, the sun is shining and I am still in bed listening to Radio 4...

 

18/05/2012 13:38
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poor old sod Iam 65 and single also a millionaire loneley not on your life I live in spain in the summer and south africa in there summer never date a lady over 40 , i dont sit around swilling beer and watching football  just make recieve and give love and Liam not racial I have some georges black girl friends and if i was not so fond of my freedom could easily marry one.
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