If you can take the heat, cayenne pepper comes with several nutritional benefits.
food for thought Cayenne pepper
Cayenne pepper may be too hot for some, but research suggests that this spicy chilli pepper from Central and South America can do a lot for your health and well-being – it’s linked with several nutritional benefits that have the potential to heal certain illnesses.
Focal to Native American medicine for thousands of years, and long used within both Chinese and Ayurvedic traditional medicines, this pepper’s spiciness comes from the active ingredient capsaicin, and herein lie many of the health benefits. Cayenne was regularly used in the treatment of aches and pains for muscles and joints, and evidence published in the British Medical Journal, specifically for the treatment of chronic pain when applied topically, substantiates the claims of traditional medicines.
Capsaicin is also a powerful inhibitor of a neuropeptide that is associated with the inflammatory response; cayenne pepper has been found to fight inflammation that, in turn, will allow more pain relief, especially in the joints.
Rich in both vitamins A and C, cayenne pepper is a powerful boost for the immune system, especially when you consider the high antioxidant value from flavonoids. And the heat helps in gaining relief from congestion associated with colds and flu, according to The World’s Healthiest Foods resource. Cayenne pepper is also rich in vitamins E, K, B6 and the minerals manganese and potassium, according to nutritional analysis, which makes it helpful for bone health, hormonal balance, blood-sugar regulation and free-radical protection.
Thermogenesis, or heat production in the body, is certainly a hot topic when it comes to cayenne and weight loss. The heat produced in your body when you eat chilli requires energy, so you’re actually burning calories as you eat. A study undertaken by Purdue University in the US and published in the journal of Physiology and Behaviour suggests that “consuming just half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper along with a meal can help suppress appetite and burn calories”. But beware: too much heat in the body also causes health problems – for example, by putting undue stress on the heart and blood pressure.
Two easy ways to use fresh cayenne: thinly slice a pepper and add to your stir-fry, or put a pinch of the powder in your mug of hot chocolate.
Laura Holland is a well-being consultant and nutritional therapist. For more information, go to www.beutifulyou.com