After reading a fascinating article by my friend Anjula Devi Spice for Life it made me think of all the health benefits of eating chillies. Scientists have only recently started to discover the many potential medical uses of chillies and their heat giving capsaicin. A recent article in the New York Times Eating Spicy Food Linked to a Longer Life even suggests eating chillies may help us to live longer !
“…Consuming spicy food six to seven times a week reduced the risk by 14 percent.
Rates of ischemic heart disease, respiratory diseases and cancers were all lower in hot-food eaters. The authors drew no conclusions about cause and effect, but they noted that capsaicin, the main ingredient in chili peppers, had been found in other studies to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.”
The article admits that further studies are needed but the fact that chillies are good for us in a number of ways is not disputed. Chillies are packed with Vitamin C and are also a good source of most B vitamins, vitamin B6 in particular. They are very high in potassium, magnesium and iron. Their high vitamin C content can also substantially increase the uptake of iron from other ingredients, such as beans and grains.
Thats not to mention that chillies are the ultimate feel-good ingredient! It is the capsaicin in chillies that provoke the sensation of heat and the body defends itself against these effects by releasing endorphins, the body’s natural pain killers, which in turn trigger a positive feeling.
I am sure there health giving benefits were well known to the Aztecs who often mixed chillies with that other ancient endorphin boosting ingredient chocolate (or more precisely Coco Beans) to make a a thick drink called “Cacahuatl”, hot chocolate with a real kick! (Do read this excellent blog post on this subject How Cacahuatl Became Chocolate )
All this being said I grow and eat chillies because they are delicious, but it is nice to know they are good for you too!