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Do you ever wonder where peppers come from? Well perhaps not, but peppers and health have a great connection! Capsicum, also known as peppers, are the genus of the nightshade family. Found as spices, and vegetables the pepper has many uses. The fruit of the capsicum plant has a variety of names from the spicy ‘chilli’ to the mild bell pepper to black pepper and even paprika. This article will perhaps open your eyes to the possibilities when it comes to adding a little more spice to your diet. The health benefits are quite spectacular. But make sure to read to the end, peppers and health don’t go hand in hand for everyone.
Peppers and health – Where’s the connection?
So what’s so great about peppers anyway you ask? Well in sum, this fruit (technically speaking because it is the part of the plant that develops from a flower) has quite some nutritional value. For one, did you know that a yellow pepper has more vitamin C than an orange?
“All bell peppers—green, yellow, red, and orange—contain more vitamin C than an orange, ranging from 95 mg in a green to a whopping 341 mg in a yellow. They’re also super low-cal fruit, containing just 45 calories per cup, making them the perfect snack to quell a case of the munchies.” – source
And it’s not just vitamin C. Let’s explore a few varieties and their specific benefits in a little more detail….
Chilli Pepper Benefits
Not only does the spicy chilli help to add depth of flavour to a dish, it also boasts some wonderful medicinal and health promoting properties. The chili is native to South America but today cultivated globally. The region dictates the chili size, shape, colour and potency. The spiciness is measured in units called ‘Scoville heat units” (SHU). A a sweet bell pepper scores 0, a jalapeño pepper might range 2,500-4,000 units, and Mexican habañeros may have up to 200,000 to 500,000 units (source). In terms of health benefits:
- Peppers contain anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, analgesic and anti-diabetic properties due to the compound that gives the pepper its spice – capsaicin.
- They are a rich source of vitamin C which supports heart, skin, bones and immunity
- They are a rich source of vitamin A
- Chilli contains antioxidants which help protect the body from free radicals that may generate during stress
- This spicy pepper is a source of minerals like magnesium, manganese, iron, potassium.
- The chilli is a good source of B vitamins to help give you a kick of energy!
Cayenne Pepper Benefits
A small pinch is mighty! Cayenne is a common spice, used in medicine and cooking for thousands of years. Some benefits include:
- Helps digestion
- Stimulates circulation in the body and in this way supports detox
- Lower high cholesterol
- It can reduce pain both when consumed (toothache or stomach cramps for e.g.) and when used topically (for rheumatoid arthritis for e.g.)
- One teaspoon provides up to 44% daily vitamin A, 8% vitamin E, 7% Vitamin C, 6% Vitamin B6, 5% Vitamin K along with manganese and potassium
Black Pepper Benefits
Assumed as only a table condiment, black pepper is actually a potent health promoting spice! Originating from India and once the most traded spice in the world, black pepper has been used both for cooking and medicinal purposes. Health benefits include:
- Anti-bacterial which is why it is used as a food preservative
- Source of manganese, iron, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin K and dietary fibre.
- Good for digestion helping to eliminate toxins, reduce gas and keep things running smooth
- Bio-availability – black pepper helps to absorb and transport other herbs, most notably turmeric! This is a big reason why we included it in our range of products including the raw beauty snack.
- Source of antioxidants to protect from free radical damage caused by toxins, poor diet, stress etc
Sweet Pepper Benefits
A wonderful crunchy and sweet flavour plus the bonus of nutrient density! The bell pepper is a source of over 30 different members of the carotenoid nutrient family. It is advisable for you to consume your peppers raw. Consequently, heating this vegetable can kill off some of the sensitive vitamins, like for example vitamin C. One cup of chopped bell pepper provides:
- 157% of Vitamin C
- 16% Vitamin B6
- 16% Vitamin A
- 10% Vitamin E
- 5% Vitamin K
- Alongside potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and manganese
- Rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients
Peppers and health – Bad for you?
From reading the above you might find it surprising to hear that peppers and health don’t go hand in hand for everyone. At the start of the article specifically, we noted that peppers belong to the nightshade family of foods. This botanical family of plants is more technically called Solanaceae. These plants all have certain characteristics in common and include chilli pepper, ashwaganda, goji berry, cayenne pepper, eggplant, tomatoes and potatoes (except sweet potatoes and yams).
Nightshades can be problematic for many people due to their lectin, saponin and/or capsaicin content. They can also be problematic for anyone with an autoimmune condition. You can learn more on via this in depth post or this one. The best evidence around this tends to be for nightshades as linked to arthritis and joint pain, especially the autoimmune disease of rheumatoid arthritis. If you are unsure, you can simply cut out nightshades for 30 days and see how it impacts your health. For most, however, nightshades do not pose a problem and in fact the health benefits make it a family worth eating more of.
Chocolate and Peppers – The perfect match?
At iRaw, we are all about peppers and health! Specifically, we use chilli, cayenne pepper, bell pepper and black pepper in many of our products. The one that might surprise you most is our Spicy Chocolate Rawl Up! A gentle finishing flavour of cayenne pepper which enhances the chocolate and makes this energy bar much more exciting not to mention being super healthy.
The story is quite interesting…..
“Our Raw Ups are a group of 3 decadent flavours. Again, iRaw was rebelling against many existing energy bars on the market. The founder has been a raw foodie for over 13 years and energy bars don’t really excite anymore. Mostly due to the high quantity of sugars and lack of creativity in combination ingredient.
Creamy Caramel is aimed to give you a lasting energy – slow release of sugar if you like and Green Superfood is the beautifying energy bar which contains spirulina which also is the highest source of protein found in any food. Finally, our Spicy Chocolate has a fantastic boost of antioxidants and vitamin C in its goji berries it also has a little kick from the cayenne pepper right in the end The Spicy Chocolate was tested in couple of cafes in Bristol during the development period and quickly became very popular with a cup of coffee.
The Rawl-ups have up to 32% less sugar and 58% less calories than many similar bars on the market.”