Chilli, fresh or dry, is full of benefits: here are properties, uses

Chilli is a spice rich in properties and capable of giving taste and spiciness to dishes, supporting our cardiovascular system and relieving annoying pains. Discover the benefits and characteristics of chili.

Chilli is an aromatic plant used since ancient times. It is part of the Solanaceae family and in particular of the Capsicum genus, which also includes pepper, another vegetable commonly found on our table during the summer season.

The history of chilli dates back several millennia, when it was known and used above all in Central America, as evidenced by various archaeological finds. It was Christopher Columbus who transported this precious plant to Spain, thus allowing it to spread throughout Europe.

The fruits of this plant, which is sown in late winter or early spring, can be harvested in summer or early autumn, depending on the variety grown. They are used in the kitchen both fresh and dried, thus remaining available all year round to embellish many dishes.

There are many different kinds of chilli peppers in nature, from the sweetest to the hottest. The spiciness of the fruit, which depends on the amount of capsaicin contained, is measured by the Scoville scale. Among the hottest and best known peppers we can mention the habanero, while the cayenne, Calabrese and Mexican jalapeno varieties are considered only moderately spicy.

Variety of hot peppers

As just mentioned, the spiciness of chili peppers is a typical characteristic of each species, which depends on the capsaicin content, and is measured using the Scoville scale. This scale starts from a score of 0 up to scores above 2000000. Let’s see the ranking of the hottest peppers, starting from the least spicy up to the most spicy of all.

  • Low spiciness: at the lowest place of the scale, between 0 and 100 we find sweet pepper, at the upper level the cigarette chilli, very well known and widespread in Italy: it is considered to have a low level of spiciness;
  • Intermediate spiciness: at an intermediate degree of spiciness we find other well-known species: the Calabrian pepper called diavolicchio and the jalapeno typical of Mexican cuisine: the latter, less spicy, has a value between 5000 and 15000 in the Scoville scale, while the diavolicchio has a value between 15000 and 30000. Even more spicy, but always among the chillies of intermediate grade, we find the Tabasco pepper and the Cayenna pepper, both between 30000 and 50000 SCH;
  • High spiciness: on the upper step, which marks the transition from moderate to high spiciness, we find the thai Pepper, also called thai scorpion (with a value between 50000 and 100000 SCH) and subsequently the famous habanero, whose degree of spiciness it can vary from 100000 to 350000 in the Scoville gradation, although there are some even more spicy species, such as the habanero red Savina;
  • Very high spiciness: among the hottest peppers of all we can mention the raga morich and the raga Dorset with a spiciness value between 855000 and 1050000; the Trinidad scorpion moruga, such as the Trinidad scorpion butch Taylor, the Raga Viper and the infinity Chili with a value between 1050000 and 2000000.

Finally, at the top step of the podium we find the Carolina Reaper, whose degree of spiciness can vary between 2000000 and 2200000 and seems to be the hottest pepper ever.

Chilli: characteristics and nutritional values

The benefits of chillies are numerous. First of all, remember that they are low in calories (about 30 per 100 g) and consist mainly of water, a good amount of carotenoids, capsaicin and vitamins.

Among the latter, the most represented is vitamin C : a 10 g chilli pepper can contain 30% of the daily requirement of vitamin C of an adult man. But beware of dried chillies, whose content of this vitamin is practically zero due to its volatility.

This food is also rich in polyphenols, antioxidant substances that give the chili pepper beneficial properties for human health, which we will illustrate in more detail in the next paragraphs.

Nutritional values ​​per 100g of chillies:

  • Waterfall: 97.8 g
  • kcal: 30
  • Proteins: 1.8 g
  • Fat: 0.5 g
  • Carbohydrates: 3.8 g
  • Fibers: 1.9 g
  • Iron: 0.5 mg
  • Soccer: 18 mg
  • Potassium: 395 mg
  • Phosphorus: 18 mg
  • Sodium: 11 mg
  • Zinc: 0.27 mg
  • C vitamin: 229 mg
  • Vitamin E: 0.8 mg
  • Vitamin: A 824 ugr
  • Beta carotene: 4944 ugr

Chilli: nutritional properties

The properties of chilli are many as they are an excellent source of some vitamins and other substances that are particularly important for health. Among the vitamins, in addition to the aforementioned vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin A are also present in moderate quantities. All these substances [ 1 ] are essential for the well-being of our organism thanks to their different properties , which we list in detail below.

  • Vitamin C: chili pepper, as we have seen, is very rich in this vitamin with antioxidant properties which, as we know, is essential for our immune system. It is also involved in the synthesis of collagen and is important for the assimilation of iron by red blood cells;
  • Vitamin A: important for the correct functioning of the visual system, for the maintenance of intestinal epithelial cells and for the functioning of the immune and genital systems;
  • Vitamin E: Another natural antioxidant found in chili peppers, which contributes to the maintenance of cellular integrity.

As we have anticipated, chilli is also an excellent source of carotenoids which give its fruits their characteristic color and are important for protecting us from various pathologies. We also find various polyphenols such as campferol and phytoalexin. Finally, capsaicin is responsible not only for the spiciness, but also for many analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties of chilli.

In general, dried chillies are spicier than fresh ones as they contain a greater amount of capsaicin than their fresh counterpart. Furthermore, the degree of ripeness of the fruit also determines its spiciness. Generally, in fact, capsaicin increases with ripening, therefore it is possible to find a higher degree of spiciness in ripe fresh fruits (often red in color) than in unripe fresh fruits.

Red, green, yellow and purple chillies: differences

As we have seen, chillies can have different colors : the most common ones, belonging to many different species, are red or yellow; however some species have fruits of different colors, ranging from yellow, to red, to green, up to purple. Some of these plants are also used for ornamental purposes, thanks to the bouquet of colors they give. There is no evidence that different colors correspond to different properties, which are mostly related to the capsaicin content and the degree of ripeness of the fruit, as already seen in this article.

Chilli: health benefits

Chillies are often recommended in case of gastro-intestinal or dermatological problems, in case of arthritis or wounds or to purify the blood. Furthermore, there is scientific evidence that demonstrates the properties of chilli even in case of acute and chronic pain, inflammation, obesity and oncological pathologies. Now let’s see in detail all the benefits that the consumption of this food brings.

✓ Pain management

Capsaicin treatment is globally known to be able to relieve various pains. Chilli is in fact a good natural pain reliever. In particular, some authors recall that in America and Asia the use of the fruits and leaves of chilli has long been used in case of painful menstruation, toothache and muscle pain.

✓ Anti-ulcer remedy and gastro-protective effect

Despite popular beliefs and advice to avoid spicy foods, clinical studies seem to show that chili peppers can have beneficial effects on ulcers . For example, it appears to have a gastro-protective effect in gastric lesions induced by aspirin administration.

✓ Anti-obesity treatment and weight control

In some studies, the administration of chillies resulted in a reduction in abdominal fat and a consequent decrease in total weight. In addition to this slimming effect, a decrease in blood cholesterol, triglyceride and glucose levels was also observed in some animal studies.

✓ Oncological prevention: anti-tumor effects of chilli

Once again the main actor is capsaicin which, on a preventive level, has a powerful anti-tumor effect in some of the most common oncological diseases (breast, prostate, stomach, colon and lung cancer).

✓ Heart health

Currently, the habit of consuming spicy food seems to be linked to a lower risk of ischemia and moreover the chili pepper is able to reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Fresh chili or powder: which one to prefer?

You can use fresh or dried chilli according to your needs. Fresh chilli obviously has major conservation problems; dry or powdered is easier to keep at home. From a spiciness point of view, chili powder is hotter than fresh chili because capsaicin is mainly contained in the seeds, which are usually more concentrated in the powder.

As for the properties, it should be emphasized that capsaicin is not a volatile molecule and therefore remains present in both fresh and dry chili peppers and, therefore, also in powdered chili peppers: all the properties of this food linked to the presence of capsaicin are therefore preserved in all forms.

What changes is certainly the content of vitamins, in particular vitamin C, of ​​which fresh chilli is rich. This vitamin is mainly present in fresh fruit and is lacking in dry fruit. Furthermore, fresh chilli preserves that typical pepper flavor that is lacking in the dried version.

Chillies: how many to eat and how to use them in the kitchen

First let’s see the quantities. In general, it is advisable not to overdo it and not to consume more than 8-10 grams of chillies per day.

Chilli is commonly used in cooking to flavor many dishes: one of the typical dishes of Italian cuisine is spaghetti with garlic, oil and chilli. In addition to first courses, it can be used in soups and second courses, especially to flavor fish.

In addition, the larger and less spicy peppers can be eaten raw, in salads, or stuffed with breadcrumbs, rice or cheese and baked in the oven. Accompanying the chili pepper with a fatty food allows you to decrease the burning sensation. The same effect is obtained by drinking milk after the consumption of this food. On the contrary, however, water does not help relieve the sense of spiciness.

Herbal tea with chili pepper and ginger

Thanks to its properties, chili pepper is also one of the ingredients of anti-inflammatory herbal teas and useful for stimulating the metabolism. For this purpose it is possible, for example, to prepare an herbal tea of ​​ginger and chilli.

For the preparation proceed as follows: boil 3 slices of peeled fresh ginger for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and add a piece of fresh chilli peeled. After another 5/10 minutes filter and drink. If you wish, you can also add lemon juice (a wedge is enough).

Chillies in oil: how to make them and characteristics

Anyone who has tried to grow a pepper plant will have found that this plant is particularly generous and allows us to harvest a large amount of fruit at the end of the season. We will hardly use so much chilli pepper for our preparations and therefore a good alternative is to prepare a few jars of chillies in oil, so as to guarantee a longer storage time. Their preparation is very simple, however it is important to carry out it carefully to avoid the possible risk of bacterial contamination.

First of all, the peppers must be clean and deprived of the stalk, so it is important to let them dry very well, in the air and with the help of a clean cloth. Once they are perfectly dry we can proceed to cut the peppers into small pieces and treat them with salt and vinegar. In fact, we will have to sprinkle them with fine salt, to limit bacterial and mold growth, and with vinegar to improve their conservation. Mix well and leave the peppers in salt for about 24 hours, so as to eliminate all the vegetation water.

Once this step is finished we can start with the preparation of the jars, which we have previously sterilized in boiling water: we will add a little oil to the base, then the peppers, which we will finally cover with more oil, making sure that they remain completely covered. At this point the procedure is finished and we recommend waiting about 1 month before their consumption.

The peppers can then also be stored at room temperature and will retain most of the characteristics of fresh peppers (however, losing part of the vitamin C). On the other hand, we will have increased the storage time and will be able to enjoy them even in winter.

Chilli: contraindications and potential negative effects

The consumption of hot peppers is not associated with particular contraindications, however it may be advisable to moderate its consumption in case of gastritis or gastro-oesophageal reflux. In these particular cases, however, we advise you to ask your doctor or trusted nutritionist for advice. In case of excessive and continuous consumption, hemorrhoids and diarrhea can sometimes appear. Furthermore, its consumption could interfere with some drug treatments, such as those based on warfarin.

Curiosity: When the chili pepper arrived in Spain it was welcomed with pleasure by the kings, who thought they had a rich treasure in their hands. However, its spicy flavor did not appeal to the rich or the nobles, neither Spaniards nor Europeans. In fact, in the first Italian cookery books dating back to the mid-19th century there is no trace of this spice. Its flavor in those days was mainly liked by the lower classes of the population and for this reason the pepper was called “spice of the poor”.


Leave a Comment