Chillies: the health benefits
Adding chillies to your meal does more than just up the ante on the heat scale. Compared to the humble orange, chillies are an exceptional source of vitamin C, and recent studies show they have the potential to treat and prevent obesity, diabetes and cancer.
Carolyn Lister, Plant and Food research leader in phytochemicals and health, says chillies contain significant amounts of vitamins B6 and A and the phytochemical capsaicinoids.
“Capsaicinoids have various effects including pain relief, cancer prevention and weight loss, plus benefits for the cardiovascular and gastrointestinal systems.”
Napier Chilli grower Anne Prescott fromOrcona Chillis ‘n‘ Peppers says customers are buying chillies for their health benefits and credits them with keeping away common colds.
“Alot of people are buying them to help with their arthritis and making poultices out of them.We eat chillies every day and never seemto get sick.”
Lister says capsaicin is often included in topical creams and patches to treat chronic pain syndromes like musculoskeletal pain, diabetic neuropathy, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
And though there’s no scientific evidence indicating chillies help cure the common cold, “capsaicin may help with reducing pain, and the ‘heat’ may stimulate secretions that help clear mucus froma stuffed up nose or congested lungs.”
Lister says moderate inclusion of chillies in meals is beneficial, but it may not be a good idea to go “mind blowingly hot”, as some studies show high doses aren’t as beneficial as moderate amounts.
If you’ve ever wondered why eating chillies brings on a bout of the hiccups, Lister says it’s thought spicy food may cause irritation to the nerves that control normal contractions of your diaphragm: “The irritation causes the diaphragm to go into spasms, causing hiccups.