Chili – The Healthy Heat

Countries like India and Mexico swear by the spiciness of chili. Studies on the health effects of the hot pod show why we Europeans should reach for the chili more often. Chili has a cholesterol-lowering effect, can protect the gastric mucosa, and also stimulates calorie burning.

Chili – heat as a medicinal substance

Do you like it spicy? Fiery spices like chili (bot. Capsicum) not only spice up food, but they can also lift our spirits, melt the pounds and protect against illness – as you will read about in a moment. The Chili sin Carne (the vegetarian version of Chili con Carne) will taste even better afterward!

The vitamins of chili

Chili contains a lot of vitamin C and beta-carotene. Just a single chili pepper (approx. 10 to 20 g) covers a fifth of the official vitamin C requirement and also the daily requirement of beta carotene. Green chili has a slightly lower vitamin content than red chili.

The minerals of chili

Green chili contains slightly fewer minerals.

Chili for fructose intolerance

Chili is well tolerated by many people with fructose intolerance in the long-term diet.

With 1.7 g fructose and 2.1 g glucose per 100 g chili, the ratio between fructose and glucose is relatively balanced. Usually, only small amounts of chili are used: a pod, for example, weighs around 10 g depending on its size and contains 0.17 g fructose and 0.21 g glucose.

It is known from the sweet pepper that the green, unripe fruits contain less fructose than the red ones – this is not the case with the chili. 100 g green chili contains 3 g fructose and 3.7 g glucose, slightly more than red chili. However, it can be assumed that the levels generally vary depending on the variety.

Since the symptoms of fructose intolerance mainly affect the gastrointestinal tract, it may make sense not to burden digestion with hot spices such as chili. It is best to approach it with milder types of chili such as Tequila Sunrise or Anaheim if you want to eat chili despite fructose intolerance.

Chili for histamine intolerance

In the case of histamine intolerance, hot spices such as pepper or chili are usually not recommended. This is not because hot spices are particularly rich in histamine. As with fructose intolerance, the symptoms of histamine intolerance also affect the digestive system, which you do not want to burden with hot spices.

If you cook yourself, you can of course dose how much chili you use and use milder varieties or try out how you react to it with small amounts – after all, everybody and every histamine intolerant is different.

Chili as a medicinal plant

As a medicinal plant, the pod from the nightshade family has been under scientific scrutiny for several years. Above all, numerous positive health effects are ascribed to the hot active ingredient in chili – it is called capsaicin – due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

Capsaicin – a much-studied substance

Capsaicin is a secondary plant substance from the group of alkaloids and there in turn from the group of capsaicinoids. Capsaicin is one of the hottest known substances. Ingested through food or applied locally (topically) in the form of ointments and patches, the active ingredient in the chili pepper is traditionally recommended for digestive problems, circulatory problems, circulatory disorders, skin diseases, muscle pain and as an aphrodisiac.

Studies on capsaicin show amazing things, such as how the substance kills cancer cells, regulates blood sugar, and protects the liver. In the following, we present studies that are dedicated to the effect of the entire chili pepper, i.e. not just the capsaicin it contains.

Chili can lower cholesterol

In 2006, an Australian study was published in the British Journal of Nutrition examining the possible impact of chili on oxidized cholesterol. Oxidized cholesterol is formed when the “bad” LDL cholesterol is oxidized by free radicals. It is believed that oxidized cholesterol is one of the main risk factors for atherosclerosis.

The participants in the randomized study ate 30 grams of chili paste consisting of 55 percent cayenne (a type of chili) daily. The control group, on the other hand, was not allowed to eat chili. After four weeks, oxidized cholesterol in the chili group was 10.4 percent lower than in the chili-free group.

The researchers assume that the antioxidant effect of capsaicin, but also of the contained beta-carotene, vitamin C, and possibly other substances could be responsible for this.

Chili protects the stomach

You probably know that chili promotes digestion – the capsaicin in chili stimulates the activity of the digestive enzymes, as studies have shown. The fact that chili can even protect the gastric mucosa may be new to you:

In a study by researchers at the National University Hospital in Singapore, nine people in the test group took 20 grams of chili powder with 200 ml of water once. The control group only drank the water. Half an hour later, both groups swallowed 600 mg of aspirin, which is a clearly stomach-irritating dose.

Six hours later, participants underwent a gastroscopy. The condition of the gastric mucosa was evaluated using a point system. The higher the number of points, the more severe the damage to the gastric mucosa.

While those who only took aspirin received four points for their damaged gastric mucosa, there was hardly any gastric mucosal damage in the chili group and therefore the lucky participants in this category could only be given an average of 1.5 points.

Chilies, therefore, seem to protect the gastric mucosa from damage caused by e.g. B. Aspirin or other irritating substances.

Chili – spicy makes you slim

As a spicy flavor in food, chili not only boosts health, but the small pod can also contribute to a slim figure.

In a 2011 study by researchers at the American Purdue University, 25 normal-weight study participants received 0.3 g to 1.8 g of cayenne pepper daily for six weeks, depending on their personal tolerance. Cayenne pepper is the name given to the dried, ground fruits of the Cayenne chili variety, which is one of the most commonly used spices in the world.

In all test subjects, the consumption of chili led to an increased core body temperature and increased calorie burning due to increased calorie consumption. “As a dietary measure that doesn’t require much effort and effort, chili could be a valuable aid in weight management,” said Prof Richard Mattes, who was involved in the study.

Chili works better if you only eat it every now and then

Surprisingly, those who did not consume chili regularly experienced a reduced feeling of hunger and less craving for fatty, salty, and sweet foods.

The reason for this, the researchers suspect, is that you can get used to the spiciness that triggers the stimulus in your mouth so the effect is possibly greater if you don’t consume chili regularly.

Chili is a nightshade plant

Peppers and thus also the chili belong to the nightshade family (Solanaceae) – just like tomatoes and potatoes, for example. As you can see from our article on nightshade plants, these foods contain lectins that some people cannot tolerate.

Lectins are mainly found in the seeds and skin of various types of vegetables. If you eat a diet low in lectins but don’t want to do without chili, you should peel the pods and remove the seeds.

The fact that lectins are really harmful has also not been proven without a doubt – it seems as if the health benefits of tomatoes, peppers, and co. outweigh the potentially harmful effects of lectins, as you can read under the two links (nightshade plants; lectins). be able. Due to its spiciness, chili is usually only eaten in small amounts anyway, so people who are sensitive to lectins can generally tolerate it.

Chili seeds are edible

Basically, the seeds of the chilies are not poisonous and can be eaten without any problems.

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Written by Bella Adams

I'm a professionally-trained, executive chef with over ten years in Restaurant Culinary and hospitality management. Experienced in specialized diets, including Vegetarian, Vegan, Raw foods, whole food, plant-based, allergy-friendly, farm-to-table, and more. Outside of the kitchen, I write about lifestyle factors that impact well-being.

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