• An excellent source of beta carotene and vitamin C
• May help relieve nasal congestion
• May help prevent blood clots that can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
• Require careful handling during preparation to prevent irritation of the
skin and eyes.
• May irritate hemorrhoids in susceptible people
A popular ingredient in Southwestern cooking, chilies, or hot peppers, and
spice and interest to many foods; some of the milder varieties are consumed
as low-calorie snacks.
The heat in chilies comes from capsaicinoids, substances that have no odor
or flavor themselves but impart their bite by acting directly on the mouth's
pain receptors. This results in the teary eyes, runny nose ("salsa
sniffles"), and sweating experienced by most people who indulge in the
hotter varieties. For those with a cold or allergies, eating chilies can
provide temporary relief from nasal and sinus congestion. Capsaicin and
other capsaicinoids are concentrated mainly in the white ribs and seeds,
which can be removed to produce a milder flavor.
Handle chilies with care. Wear thin gloves and wash all utensils well with
soap and water after use. Even a tiny amount of capsaicinoids causes severe
irritation if it is transferred to the eyes. Be sure to avoid handling
contact lenses after chopping chilies.
Packed with Nutritious Properties
Chilies are more nutritious than sweet peppers, and the red varieties
generally have a higher nutritional content than the green ones. They are
very good sources of antioxidants, especially beta carotene and vitamin C.
Just one raw, red hot pepper (11/2 oz/45 g) contains about 105 mg of vitamin
C, more than 100 percent of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA). Chilies
also contain bioflavonoids, plant pigments that some researchers believe may
help prevent cancer. In addition, recent research indicates that capsaicin
may act as an anticoagulant, perhaps helping to prevent blood clots that can
lead to heart attack or stroke. Incorporated into creams, capsaicinoids
alleviate the burning pain of shingles and can help with the pain of
arthritis. They may also reduce the mouth pain associated with chemotherapy.
Commercially available poultices for relief of lower back pain also contain
Contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence that chilies cause ulcers
or digestive problems; however, they may cause rectal irritation.