Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Many Benefits of Hot Peppers

Before I was 21, my idea of spicy was a dash of black pepper. Then I spent a few nights on Bourbon Street in New Orleans and my eating habits changed forever. Peppers, or Capsicum, have become such a huge part of my dietary life and are so for many cultures around the world. Interestingly enough, black pepper, the spice I once thought would send smoke shooting out my ears, is not of the Capsicum family at all. It is the product of a berry that is dried and ground down. The nutritional benefits of black or white pepper is not nearly that of the Capsicum family, which ranges from the sweet green bell pepper to the fiery hot jabanero. I will get into more information about black and white pepper at a later date.

What makes Capsicums hot is a little chemical compound called capsaicin - I'm sure there's a tongue-twister or two out there involving these C-words. The 'hotness' of peppers is measured on the Scoville Scale. Bell or sweet peppers have a rating of zero on the Scoville Scale as they contain no capsaicin. A jabanero pepper has a rating of 200,000. This means the pepper would have to be diluted 200,000 times to reach a zero rating. By the way, the Jalapeno which most Canadians associate with really spicy food, hits the scale somewhere between 2500 and 8000.

Where Capsicums kick ass is in the vitamin C department. Jalapenos produce 66% of the RDA in a 90g serving. Sweet green peppers serve up a whopping 200% in a 149g serving. These stats are provided by NutritionData.com.

Benefits of hot peppers include:
  • Production of sweat leading to smoother skin.
  • Lowers blood pressure.
  • Contains major antioxidants.
  • Acts as an anti-inflammatory.
  • Can help in the treatment of colds and fevers.
  • Can speed up metabolism and burn more calories thus acting as an aid in weight loss.
  • Can trigger the release of endorphins.
  • Can be beneficial for those suffering from diabetes.
  • Improves digestion by increasing stomach secretions.

The most important benefit of any kind of pepper is that they truly make a meal great. A great website for make it yourself hot sauce recipes can be found here.

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