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Benefits of Chilies
Chili peppers nutrition facts
Chili peppers, despite their fiery “hotness” are one of very popular spices known for medicinal and health benefiting properties. The chili is actually a fruit pod from the plant belonging to the nightshade family of Solanaceae, within the genus; capsicum. Scientific name: Capsicum annum. Some common members of nightshade family are tomato, aubergine, potato, etc.
Several cultivars of peppers are grown all around the world. The chili plant is native to Central American region where it was used as the chief spice ingredients in Mexican cuisine for centuries. It was introduced to the rest of the world by Spanish and Portuguese explorers during 16th and 17th centuries and now grown widely in many parts of the world as an important commercial crop.
Chili plant is a perennial small shrub with woody stem growing up to a meter height and bears white colored flowers. The pods are very variable in size, shape, color, and pungency. Depending on the cultivar type, they range from the mild, fleshy, Mexican bell peppers to the tiny, fiery, finger-like chili peppers, commonly grown in Indian subcontinent. The hotness of chili is measured in “Scoville heat units” (SHU). On the Scoville scale, a sweet bell pepper scores 0, a jalapeño pepper around 2,500-4,000 units, and a Mexican habañeros have 200,000 to 500,000 units.
Interiorly, each fruit features numerous tiny, white, or cream colored, circular and flat seeds. The seeds are actually clinging around the central white-placenta.
To harvest, chilies can be picked up while they are green or when they reach complete maturity and dried in the plant. Usually, the fruits are picked up by hand when they are matured and turned red. They are then left to dry, which causes them to shrivel. Chilies have a strong spicy taste that comes to them from the active alkaloid compounds: capsaicin, capsanthin and capsorubin.
Health benefits of chili peppers
Chili pepper contains an impressive list of plant derived chemical compounds that are known to have disease preventing and health promoting properties.
Chilies contain health benefiting an alkaloid compound in them, capsaicin, which gives strong spicy pungent character. Early laboratory studies on experimental mammals suggest that capsaicin has anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, analgesic and anti-diabetic properties. It also found to reduce LDL cholesterol levels in obese individuals.
Fresh chili peppers, red and green, are rich source of vitamin-C. 100 g fresh chilies provide about 143.7 µg or about 240% of RDA. Vitamin C is a potent water-soluble antioxidant. It is required for the collagen synthesis in the body. Collagen is the main structural protein in the body required for maintaining the integrity of blood vessels, skin, organs, and bones. Regular consumption of foods rich in vitamin C helps the body protect from scurvy; develop resistance against infectious agents (boosts immunity) and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals from the body.
They are also good in other antioxidants like vitamin A, and flavonoids like ß-carotene, α-carotene, lutein, zea-xanthin, and cryptoxanthin. These antioxidant substances in capsicum help to protect the body from injurious effects of free radicals generated during stress, diseases conditions.
Chilies contain a good amount of minerals like potassium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
Chilies are also good in B-complex group of vitamins such as niacin, pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), riboflavin and thiamin (vitamin B-1). These vitamins are essential in the sense that body requires them from external sources to replenish.
Chili peppers have amazingly high levels of vitamins and minerals. Just 100 g provides (in % of recommended daily allowance):
240% of vitamin-C (Ascorbic acid), 39% of vitamin B-6 (Pyridoxine), 32% of vitamin A, 13% of iron, 14% of copper, 7% of potassium, but no cholesterol.
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