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Health Benefits of Chillies

Health Benefits of Eating Chillies

 Chillies have been used as a medicinal plant since pre-Colombian times. Today, chillies are one of the most widely used of all natural remedies. It is these reasons why the indigenous peoples of the Americas started to domesticate chillies all those years ago.

Chillies are excellent for your immune system because they are rich in both vitamin A (said to be the anti-infection vitamin) and vitamin C.  Chilli peppers' bright red colour signals its high content of beta-carotene or pro-vitamin A. Vitamin A is essential for healthy mucous membranes, which line the nasal passages, lungs, intestinal tract and urinary tract and serve as the body's first line of defence against invading pathogens. Just two teaspoons of red chilli peppers provide about 6% of the daily value for vitamin C and more than 10% of the daily value for vitamin A. The US Department of Agriculture’s National Nutrient Database lists red capsicum as having 143.7mg of Vitamin C per 100g, while oranges contain only 45mg per 100g.  Vitamin C is an anti-oxidant used by the body to soak up free radicals. Chillies also contain other anti-oxidants: lutein is found in red chillies, while alpha-carotene is found in yellow and orange chillies as well as capsicums. Other vitamins found in chillies include the vitamin B group (mainly B6) and vitamin E. They are also high in potassium, magnesium and iron. 

Eating chillies can help with the common cold as they clear congestion. Capsaicin’s peppery heat stimulates secretions that help clear mucus from your stuffed up nose or congested lungs, so try adding Fire Dragon Chilli Xtra Hot or Deadly to your lemon and garlic hot toddy!

Chillies are great for diabetics as when you digest a meal which has chilli in it, your body doesn’t need as much insulin to break down the food, as proved in a study published in July 2006 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Chillies reduce the amount of insulin the body needs to lower blood sugar levels after a meal by up to 60%.  When chilli-containing meals are a regular part of the diet, insulin requirements drop even lower. Plus, chilli's beneficial effects on insulin needs get even better as body mass index (BMI, a measure of obesity) increases. In overweight people, not only do chilli-containing meals significantly lower the amount of insulin required to lower blood sugar levels after a meal, but chilli-containing meals also result in a lower ratio of C-peptide/ insulin, an indication that the rate at which the liver is clearing insulin has increased. It is the capsaicin, the antioxidants, and the carotenoids in the chillies which are thought to help improve insulin regulation. And finally, chillies have been shown to influence glucose levels, which also impact on diabetes.

Chillies have a wonderful impact on cardiovascular functioning.  Red chilli peppers, such as cayenne, have been shown to reduce blood cholesterol, triglyceride levels, and platelet aggregation, while increasing the body's ability to dissolve fibrin, a substance integral to the formation of blood clots. Spicing your meals with chilli peppers may also protect the fats in your blood from damage by free radicals—a first step in the development of atherosclerosis. In cultures where hot pepper is used liberally, the populations have a much lower rate of heart attack, stroke and pulmonary embolism. In 2006, a pilot study in Tasmania found people may sleep better if they eat chillies regularly and as quality of sleep is important for cardiovascular health, this is also good news.  It must also be great news to the millions of insomniacs and frequent flyers around the world!

Due possibly to the high level of anti-oxidants found in chillies, they have also been proven to help fight bowel cancer and prostate cancer. A study printed in “Cancer Research” magazine in March 2006 claims capsaicin pepper extract actually causes human prostate cancer cells to undergo cell death. 

Chilli peppers have a bad–and mistaken–reputation for contributing to stomach ulcers. Not only do they not cause ulcers, they can help prevent them by killing bacteria you may have ingested, while stimulating the cells lining the stomach to secrete protective buffering juices.

Chillies can be used as natural pain killers, and topical capsaicin is now a recognized treatment option for osteoarthritis pain. Reviews of recent studies of pain management for diabetic neuropathy have also listed capsaicin as being helpful with the full-on pain associated with this condition.  Similarly, pain associated with psoriasis has also been shown to be abated with regular capsaicin consumption. Pain relief occurs because the chilli stimulates the release of endorphins. That burning sensation you get when you eat chillies is what is triggering the release of these famous feel-good chemical neurotransmitters in our brains.  After the pain of the heat, you get what is generally described as an improved sense of well being.  For a bigger endorphin rush, the hotter the chilli, the better! The chilli is often described as addictive, but this is not entirely true since no deep cravings develop and they do not induce a chemical dependency.  However, over time your tolerance will increase and you need hotter and hotter chillies to get the same effect.

Chillies are also good for losing unwanted weight.  All that heat you feel after eating hot chilli peppers takes energy–and calories to produce. Even sweet red peppers have been found to contain substances that significantly increase thermogenesis (heat production) and oxygen consumption for more than 20 minutes after they are eaten.

Chilli peppers are also good for fighting inflammation as the capsaicin is a potent inhibitor of substance P, a neuropeptide associated with inflammatory processes.

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