Red peppers can actually refer to a number of varieties that belong in the capsicum genus. There are the mild and relatively mild ones such as bell peppers, cayenne and jalapenos. Then there are the really hot and spicy types like tabasco, Thai peppers and habanero.
The one substance they all have in common but contain in varying degrees is capsaicin. This is the compound that gives red peppers their particularly hot taste. It’s the biochemical interaction of this pepper compound with neurons that produces the hot or burning sensation.
The Scoville scale is the standard measurement of how “hot” a red pepper (or any other spice) can get. Jalapenos for example have at least 2,500 Scoville Heat Units (SHU) while habaneros go up to 350,000 SHU. The more capsaicin a particular pepper contains the hotter it tastes.
There are a number of benefits to including red peppers in your diet. But there are certain risks as well which is why the Superhuman Food Pyramid recommends moderate use of this spice.
Keep reading to learn the pros and cons of red pepper…
Red Pepper Benefits:
Whether you’re using dried and powdered cayenne or fresh Thai peppers, here are the advantages that any type of red pepper can give you.
Lose weight – You’re probably going to sweat a lot when you eat a particularly spicy meal flavored with red pepper. That means your body is producing more heat and you’re burning calories. More than that capsaicin has the effect of increasing the feeling of satiety which leads to eating less.
Prevent diabetes – There is a condition called hyperinsulinemia where there is too much insulin in the blood. This condition when untreated can develop into type 2 diabetes. In a 2006 study, it was found that dishes containing red pepper did not trigger as much insulin release as non-spicy food.
Reduce inflammation and pain – The capsaicin in red pepper inhibits a particular substance in nerves that’s part of how inflammations occur in the body. Nerve endings tend to get temporarily overwhelmed by the burning or hot sensation that red pepper induces and thus is unable to transmit signals for pain. Some pharmaceutical topical analgesics like Zacin cream contain small concentrations of capsaicin.
Gain Vitamins A and C – The berries of the various types of capsicum plants considered to be chili peppers turn red when they ripen. This is the point where they’re dense with Vitamins A and C. Two teaspoons of dried red pepper can provide 10% of your daily need for the former and 6% of the latter.
Red Pepper Risks:
While in small amounts capsaicin can serve as a counter-irritant to pain, large or concentrated doses can produce an actual painful and burning sensation. This is why this substance is one of the main ingredients in pepper spray. It’s important to avoid touching your eyes after chopping up fresh red peppers. You should also be careful not to inhale dried and powdered forms of this spice.
The hot flavor of red pepper isn’t for everyone. Too much at one time of the hottest types of red pepper can make a person nauseous, cause abdominal pain, and induce vomiting. Go with the milder varieties and consume only small amounts if you’re body is not used to hot spice.
Red Pepper Practical Uses:
It’s said that the ancient Mayans use to spice up their chocolate drink with ground red pepper. This can work for your adventurous taste buds and serve as an alternative to coffee to perk up your day. It’s recommended that you use organic cocoa for this concoction to avoid artificial additives.
If you can recall the article on curry, red peppers are one of the main ingredients of this spice mix. You can make your own wet or dried curry mixture and perhaps increase the proportion of red pepper a little bit to make it hotter.
There are chili powders available commercially but you can always make your own. You can sun dry fresh red peppers and grind them by hand with mortar and pestle or use more convenient appliances like a small kitchen dehydrator and coffee grinder. Remember to take out the stem and seeds before you grind.
Dried but whole red peppers are easier to store. You can however reconstitute or make them “fresh” again by steeping them in hot water for around 15 minutes. Cooking experts recommend that fresh raw red peppers are better for salads while sautéed and roasted are for cooked dishes. Some Thai and Indian recipes may require you first fry dried red peppers in oil, remove the spice and then use the flavor-infused oil with the rest of the cooking.
In the next post, I’ll tell you about the pros and cons of black pepper and how it should be used in moderation in your quest to Become Superhuman.
In the meantime, if you care to jump ahead, here is a complete listing of the herbs, spices and sweeteners on Superhuman Food Pyramid:
If you have questions, comments or feedback about the pros and cons of red pepper, the Superhuman Food Pyramid, this website, or other aspects of Becoming Superhuman, then leave your thoughts below, as well as any tips you have on the pros and cons of red pepper.