Chili Peppers — Nature’s Spice
Known for their hot flavor, chili peppers (Capsicum annuum) are primarily used for culinary purposes, as a spice added to various dishes and sauces
Chili doesn’t just offer culinary and health uses, but it can also be used for self-defense
Chili pepper contains a bioactive plant compound called capsaicin, which is responsible for its hot and spicy kick. Capsaicin is concentrated in the seeds and white inner membrane; the more capsaicin it contains, the spicier the pepper. Whether eaten fresh, dried or powdered (known as paprika), chili peppers can put fire on your tongue and perhaps even a tear in your eye.
Chili also offers these benefits:
•Helps Fight Inflammation
Capsaicin has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and it has shown potential for treating inflammatory diseases and cancer. In fact, a research published in Future Oncology indicated that it can suppress the growth of human prostate cancer cells.
Chili peppers are rich in beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body. This vitamin is essential for maintaining healthy mucous membranes to help protect the body from invading pathogens (microorganisms that cause disease).
Chili is also rich in vitamin C, and this helps the body produce white blood cells that fight germs.
•Helps Reduce Insulin Levels
Another known benefit of eating chili peppers is how they help with blood sugar level management. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN) concluded that the regular consumption of chili may help reduce risk of hyperinsulinemia (high insulin levels in the blood).
•Protects Your Heart
The compound capsaicin can help reduce triglycerides, cholesterol and platelet aggregation. Some studies have shown that it may assist the body in dissolving fibrin, which prevents the formation of blood clots.
Additionally, cultures that use hot peppers regularly in cooking have significantly lower heart attack and stroke rates.
•Prevents Sinusitis and Relieves Congestion
Another health effect of the compound capsaicin is its ability to address nasal congestion by helping clear mucus from your nose. It has antibacterial properties as well, and can help fight chronic sinus infections
You Should Try Chili Oil too
A staple condiment of Chinese, Thai and Korean cuisine, chili oil is commonly used as a condiment. Its deliciously fragrant, reddish orange infusion of chili peppers in a base oil can make almost any humdrum dish sing. Chili oil comes in handy when your palate craves for a little more heat, kicking up your taste buds a notch.
The good news is that you can easily make chili oil at home, so you can be sure that it is pure and hygienic. Note that some commercial chili oils are adulterated with synthetic dyes, which can be detrimental to your health.27 If you want to learn how to make chili oil, here’s a recipe adapted from The Woks of Life:
Chili Oil Recipe
1 ½ cups extra-virgin coconut oil
5 pieces of star anise
1 cinnamon stick (preferably cassia cinnamon)
2 pieces bay leaves
3 Tbsp. Sichuan peppercorns
¾ cup Asian red pepper flakes (crushed)
1 to 1 ½ teaspoons Himalayan salt (to taste)
Gently warm the oil, star anise, cinnamon stick, bay leaves and Sichuan peppercorns in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. When the oil starts to bubble slightly, turn the heat down to medium.
Let the oil simmer for 30 minutes. If you start to see that slight bubbling die down, periodically turn the heat back up to medium-high, then back down to medium if it gets too hot.
You’ll know the oil is done cooking when the seeds and pods turn darker in color.
Allow the oil to cool for five minutes, and in a separate heat-proof bowl, measure out the crushed red pepper flakes and Himalayan salt.
Remove the aromatics from the oil, slowly pour it over the chili flakes and then stir well. When completely cooled, transfer to a sealable, sterilized glass bottle using a funnel.
Seal the bottle then store it in the refrigerator and use within six months.
This recipe makes about 2 ¼ cups.