THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF CHILI
The health benefits of chili? According to Smithsonian scientists, chili peppers have been cultivated and traded throughout the Americas for about 6,000 years. Today, these spicy fruits prevail as much-adored flavorings for global cuisine—and ingredients for healthy eating.
Here are some of the health benefits, but be sure to consult your doctor before making them a part of your regular diet:
Need foreplay? Chef LaLa, nutritionist and author of Latin Lover Lite, says chili peppers “have vitamins and minerals that raise circulation and endorphins, causing one to experience the same effects as sex—a warming sensation, sweating and mouth watering.” Capsaicin, the substance that gives chili peppers their zest, “stimulates nerve endings, raises one’s heart beat and causes the body to release chemicals,” she adds.
The University of Nottingham researchers found vanilloids—capsaicin’s compound family—can prevent cancer by directly attacking the tumor cells’ energy source, making them a potential key ingredient in future anti-cancer drugs. The study’s leader, Dr. Timothy Bates, predicts cancer patients, or those at risk of developing cancer, might one day be advised to maintain a diet “richer in spicy foods.”
If you have an under-active thyroid, your body is not burning enough calories when you rest. Capsaicin can help since it may stimulate metabolism. A good thing, says Mary J. Shomon in her book The Thyroid Diet: Manage Your Metabolism for Lasting Weight Loss (Harper Collins, 2004), since “thyroid hormones…control our basal metabolic rate.”
Researchers Kiran Ahuja and Madeleine Ball from the University of Tasmania found a daily diet that includes chili (30 grams per day, 55% cayenne) over four weeks, without spices like cinnamon, ginger, garlic and mustard, can help reduce the rate of lipoprotein oxidation—a key early development stage of atherosclerosis.
Cardamom—a popular spice in Indian cooking—is a carminative, “an herbal medicine that can help dispel gas from the intestine,” says Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., C.N.S. in his book The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth (Fair Winds, 2000). This strong spice also “stimulates bile flow...and is known for easing stomach cramps.”
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