Chilies spice up and add heat and flavour to any meal. Chilies are powerhouses of nutrition, and even though they are eaten in relatively small amounts, their nutrition is very concentrated. The health benefits of chili include fighting inflammation, pain relief, cold and flu protection, cardiovascular health, cancer prevention and weight loss.
Red chili peppers are a good source of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene with one regular chili containing 10% of the daily value. Chilies are an excellent source of vitamin C, with one red chili pepper containing over 100% of the daily value. They are also a good source of iron, copper, magnesium, manganese and potassium.
Chili’s Fight Inflammation
One of the major health benefits of chili is its ability to reduce inflammation. Chili peppers are strongly anti-inflammatory, giving it applications in pain relief and arthritis treatment. The anti-inflammatory substance in chili is called capsaicin and it works by inhibiting an inflammatory neuropeptide called substance P. The amount of capsaicin contained in each chili is proportional to its level of hotness. Creams that contain capsaicin are used to treat arthritic pain, with much success.
Chilis for Colds and Flu
Foods high in vitamin C, such as chili, help boost the immune system. Vitamin C has been shown to help ward off symptoms of influenza A, the common cold and pneumonia. In addition, eating hot chili helps to clear out nasal and sinus congestion.
Chilis for Cardiovascular Health
Red chilies have been shown to help reduce blood cholesterol levels as well as inhibit platelet aggregation, which could cause arterial blockages. Chili is also rich in antioxidants, which protect the heart against free radical damage.
Chilis for Weight Loss
Chili’s help speed up digestion and metabolism. The heat generated by chilis actually takes a lot of energy to produce, which means chilies have a thermogenic effect, in much the same way as exercise does.
Chilis for Cancer Protection
There is some evidence linking capsaicin to a reduction in prostate cancer risk. Capsaicin may work by inhibiting the expression of PSA (prostate specific antigen), to some degree.
Excessive intake of chili has been linked to stomach cancer. It can also cause heartburn when taken in excess.