The recent introduction of our Chili Beet smoothie sparked my desire to write about the wonders of this fiery fruit. I am personally a big fan, applying chili to almost all my meals. But what is it and what does it do to my body?
The chili has been consumed by people in the Americas since 7500 BC and has since grown immensely in popularity across the globe. Thought to have originated in Mexico, it broke into Europe via Spain as Christopher Columbus was on his exhibitions in the 15th century. Soon after, Spanish explorers introduced chili to the rest of the world.
The growth in popularity is not surprising as it stimulates endorphin in the brain thus releasing a feeling of pleasure through the body. For this reason, it is known to be addictive. Chili lovers (myself included) will admit the relaxed feeling they get after eating a spicy meal.
The active ingredient in chili is called capsaicin. Capsaicin is known to alleviate muscle, joint and nerve pain while also clearing nasal congestion. This alkaloid desensitises pain receptors in the brain and is also an anti-inflammatory. By reducing swelling around an injury, it allows better blood flow to the area and can increase your recovery time. Chili peppers also contain a heap of potassium. Potassium opens the blood vessels and allows better blood flow to the brain and body.
As well as pain relief capsaicun relieves a blocked nose. You may have realised the feeling of a running nose during a spicy meal. Many Asian and Indian restaurants will have a box of tissues situated on every table. This occurs because capsaicin causes the cells to produce and discharge a substance in the nose, clearing the mucus. This can also be used as a treatment for chronic sinus infections as capsaicim also has antibacterial properties.
Chili contains over 7 times more vitamin C then an orange and is a good source of vitamins A and E, beta-carotene, folic acid and potassium. While I wouldn’t recommend using chili to cover your vitamin and mineral needs for reason of their spice. They do possess an impressive amount considering their size and should be consumed for their variety of carotenoids. The strongest carotenoids are responsible for the colour of chili. Capsaicin makes up for 50% of red chili and Violaxanthin makes up for 37-68% of carotenoids in yellow chilis. Keeping in mind that a green chili is under ripe and will contain fewer of said carotenoids but will be higher in Lutein shown to be good for our eyes.
The leading alkaloid is the powerful antioxidant Capsaicin. Capsaicin is the most researched and provides the most benefits to our health. Particularly impacting our blood. Capsaicin opens our blood vessels allowing the blood to flow easier and transport valuable oxygen and nutrients around the body. This elevated flow of blood can also reduce blood pressure, high cholesterol, and the formation of blood clots.
If you are not a chili lover, the idea of including chili in your cooking or smoothies could be rather unappetizing. As a large majority of the fiery compounds are found in the seeds, removing the seeds can create a more pleasurable taste. Remember, green unripened chili is much tamer. If, however you are faced with an accidental feeling like your mouth is on fire. Milk is the answer. Milk contains a protein called casein. Washing the spice away with casein is like cleaning that dirty oily pan. Water does not bond to the oil and will not wash it away unless you use soap. Casein acts like the soap, bonding to the capsaicin and is able to clean the spice from your taste buds.