In one of his travel reports, Christopher Columbus talks about a spice widely used in Espaniola, today's Haiti, where he had landed a few days before. This spice, writes Christopher Columbus, was characterized by a much higher quality than pepper and was added in all culinary preparations, none excluded, as it was considered curative. This spice was chilli. So, the fact that chilli is not just a way to enrich dishes with taste was well known, centuries ago. Today on our side we also have the science that has been able to demonstrate the incredible properties of chilli. Let's look into the healing effects of chilli pepper and in a moment it will be easier to add this spice to our dishes, aware of giving character and health!
Chilli, nutrients and properties
Chilli is one of the main sources of carotenoids, precursors of vitamin A and vitamin C, which are powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant substances, capable of counteracting free radical damage and aging processes. Very interesting to know is that the more ripe the chili pepper is, the higher its spiciness, but also the vitamin C content! Its active ingredients, especially capsaicin, which increase the antioxidant power of the chili pepper, have a pain-relieving, antidiabetic and anticancer action (Azlan et al, Molecules, 2022).
Chilli against overweight
Thanks to its active ingredients, chilli pepper is able to counteract overweight, obesity and their effects. Studies have shown that, even in the presence of a high-fat diet, the intake of the active ingredients of chili pepper has allowed to counteract the accumulation of body weight and fat thanks to the inhibition of lipogenesis, the process by which the body synthesizes fats, and to the increase of thermogenesis, which is the process by which heat is produced from adipose tissue. Not only that, the chili pepper extracts have decreased triglycerides and insulin resistance (Mariwala et al, Food Sci Nutr, 2021).
Chilli against tumors
Beta carophyllin, one of the active ingredients of chilli, shows an important antitumor action, especially with regard to some types of lung cancer. In particular, studies have shown that beta carophyllin is able to induce apoptosis, that is, the programmed death, of diseased cells (Lei et al, Int J Gen Med, 2021).
Garlic, ginger and chilli, the combination that saves the brain
This combination can be found in curry and is the basic ingredient of various Thai and Indian dishes. But the point is that the combination of garlic, ginger and chilli is not only a concentrate of taste, it is also a precious source of health for the brain. In fact, studies have observed that these spices, when combined together, act in synergy, maximizing their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory power and carrying out a powerful neuroprotective action. The intake of extracts of this mixture allowed, in just over two months, to improve cognitive function even in the presence of deterioration of brain functions due to the accumulation of beta amyloid proteins, which are one of the characteristics of the Alzheimer's disease (Pannangrong et al, Exp Anim, 2020).
Chilli, uses in the kitchen, warnings and contraindications
Chilli, as we have seen, is healthy and can bring important benefits to the heart, brain and the entire body. Examples of how to include it in your preparations can be found in the Healthy Food section of the app, such as the chocolate of the Aztecs, penne with broccoli and Brazil nuts or even pasta with cannellini beans or Sicilian style pasta. However, never overdo the consumption of chili peppers as, in high doses, it could cause abdominal pain, diarrhea or nausea. Not only that, pay attention even if you suffer from irritable bowel as in this case the intake of chili pepper could exacerbate some symptoms. Limit or avoid chili in case of hemorrhoids as it may increase the burning sensation (Gupta et al, Arq Gastroenterol, 2008).