For some, they are a delicious treat. For others, they are something to eat on a dare. Yet others avoid them like the plague: hot peppers. Whether you love them or think they’re too intense, spicy peppers contain a wealth of health benefits, and it may be worth adding some to your meals, even in tiny amounts!
The heat quotient of peppers including cayenne, jalapeno, habanero and serrano, as well as crazy-spicy varieties such as ghost and scorpion, is determined by the concentration of capsaicin. Along with providing these peppers with their kick, capsaicin is a compound with many potent therapeutic qualities.
Because of these qualities, and also the antioxidants found in the peppers themselves, chilis of all sorts have been used around the world for both culinary and medicinal purposes for thousands of years.
The following are seven noted healing properties of spicy chili peppers:
Chili peppers are well known to help increase circulation, and may also stabilize blood pressure. They may even help to remove existing arterial blockages. Cayenne pepper, for just one example, has been found to help improve cholesterol levels, detoxify the blood, clear arterial plaque, and supply vital nutrition to the heart.
Aside from capsaicin, spicy peppers are rich in carotenoid and flavonoid antioxidants. These compounds, including beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A in the body and is vital to immune system and eye health, fight inflammation and oxidative stress throughout the body, thus lowering the risk of chronic illness.
Pain relieving qualities
Capsaicin, and especially cayenne pepper, have been found to have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving qualities in numerous studies. This compound has been found to help relieve back pain (http://www.thealternativedaily.com/chili-peppers-help-relieve-chronic-back-pain/), joint pain, arthritic pain, neuropathy, headache and migraine symptoms, and the itch of certain inflammatory skin conditions, such as psoriasis.
Don’t let cold and flu season take its toll on your sinuses – this year, get some organic cayenne pepper, for use in both teas and meals. Capsaicin can help to clear congestion and allow you to breathe easier, as it is thought to thin mucus and stimulate the sinuses. You may initially find that eating hot peppers makes your nose run and eyes water, but when you put down your tissue, you will feel worlds clearer.
Note: When adding cayenne pepper to teas, use caution! A quarter of a teaspoon is enough, and may even be a bit much for some individuals.
Spicy foods are well-known to amplify metabolism. Not only can having some jalapeno salsa help you to burn more calories and shed pounds when you exercise, it may also help you to lose weight by curbing cravings. Researchers from Laval University in Quebec found that consuming cayenne pepper at breakfast-time made participants less hungry throughout the day, and therefore less likely to grab unhealthy snacks.
It is a common – though false – myth that spicy food leads to digestive discomfort. In the cases that this does happen, it is likely because the individual ate something far too spicy for their comfort level, and their body was not acclimated to it. In fact, capsaicin is actually linked to repairing the stomach lining and aiding in healing ulcers.
Because capsaicin also stimulates intestinal movement (peristalsis), eating foods which contain it may also help to ease abdominal cramping and gas.
The antioxidants found in spicy peppers, including flavonoids and carotenoids, along with capsaicin itself, have been shown to have exciting anticarcinogenic promise. Some research has found lower instances of prostate cancer among individuals who eat chili peppers on a regular basis.
A study performed at Loma Linda University found that capsaicin may help prevent lung cancer in individuals who smoke, and a study performed by the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine linked chili pepper consumption to protection from colorectal cancer. And, these examples are just the tip of the iceberg.
If you’re a hot pepper newbie, remember to start slow! There is no health benefit to taking a bite of a habanero, or worse, a ghost pepper, and spending the next half hour writhing in pain. Start with less spicy peppers, such as jalapenos, and try to incorporate them into lunch or dinner, increasing the amount as your palate dictates. Using them in salsas and sauces is a great start.
Note: While spicy peppers have a great deal of benefits, always consult a health professional you trust before taking them in large doses, or to treat a specific condition. Foods are nature’s original medicine, and it is wise to approach them with respect.
-The Alternative Daily