Spicing up your diet: The benefits of chili peppers

capsaicin, chili peppers, diet, fruit, Olumia Life

chili peppers

 

From jalapeno to habanero and beyond, chili peppers often a wide variety of flavors and dishes. Even if you aren’t a big fan of spicy foods, it may be time to try out some new ones. Numerous studies have begun pointing at a surprising amount of health benefits from eating chili peppers. While some of this research is a bit too new to be written in stone, it’s important to know just how helpful adding some peppers to your diet could be.

What spice can do for you

As opposed to the many other fruits out there (yes, chili peppers are fruits, not vegetables), the main reason for the focus on peppers has been the presence of a chemical known as capsaicin, which is what gives peppers their spice.

Recent studies on laboratory rats have come up with a few different findings. So far capsaicin has been linked to:

Capsaicin is able to do this primarily by “spicing” up your metabolism. It stimulates thermogenesis in the body, which raises your metabolism, i.e., your body burns through calories more quickly. It also encourages the body to change white fat to brown fat, another way that you can improve your metabolism (and one that can be achieved through exercise as well).

What is capsaicin? Spiciness

Capsaicin is measured in Scoville Units: the more Scovilles, the spicier the pepper, and the more capsaicin present. For example, bell peppers are rated at 0 units, while jalapeno and cayenne peppers can range from 2,000 to 25,000 units.

Think that’s spicy? In 2013, The Guinness Book of World Records awarded the title of “world’s spiciest pepper” to the Carolina Reaper. It’s rated at a tongue-incinerating 2.2 million Scoville Heat Units.

Should you change your diet over this?

Not drastically. While the signs all look good, the research is still simply promising, not entirely solid. So don’t worry about trying to knock back a bowl of jalapenos just yet. Rather, the biggest takeaway from current research should be that hot peppers have health benefits, not just the ability to add flavor to a dish. They are much more than a garnish; although it’s worth mentioning that capsaicin is present in sauces made from chili peppers as well, like salsa and tabasco sauce. Be careful, though, you’ll can lose the some of the benefits of whole fruit in the process.

In fact, if you simply can’t handle the spice (it can take a bit of practice to develop a level of tolerance/appreciation), you can still get lots of nutrients from spicy and non-spicy peppers alike, such as plenty of vitamin C and dietary fiber.

Spicy, healthy suggestions

There are tons of ways you can add fresh chili peppers to your diet. Jalapenos are available everywhere and go great on lots of the foods you already eat. They make a great addition to pretty much anything made with a tortilla (tacos, burritos, etc.), and are also great on hamburgers, chicken and most other meats. You can chop some up and add them to salads as well! More mild peppers, like banana peppers, add some zing to sandwiches and salads, and aren’t very spicy.

Many Asian cuisines, including Chinese, Korean, Thai and Indian food, are made with lots of chili peppers as well. Also, remember that since peppers are fruits, you can eat as many as you like in the Olumia Life program.

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