From Mild to Mind-Blowing: 10 Chilis For Your Health

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Mild to mind-blowing, chiles are one hot culinary ingredient.

It’s the ultimate oxymoron, but also speaks the truth: chiles are hot. Chiles are known for their heat and it’s due in large part from a special phytonutrient compound called capsaicin (cap-SAY-sin) that brings the fire to the party from your plate to your mouth.

There are some 3,000 varieties of chiles and typically the smaller and brighter red it is, generally the hotter it is, too. And many varieties are making it increasingly on menus and into recipes in cookbooks and online today: they’re one hot culinary trend.

Chiles offer flavor to your meals and also antioxidants and other health-promoting properties to your body. Research ranging from the mild paprika and hotter cayenne have linked red peppers with increasing metabolism and decreasing appetite. It might even help burn fat. Other research has looked at promoting healthy digestion, heart health, and cancer prevention. Capsaicin from chiles is also used in topical products to ease muscle and joint pain.

Chili peppers are rich in various vitamins and minerals.

However, since they are only eaten in small amounts, their contribution to the daily intake is very small.

  • Vitamin C: Chili peppers are very high in vitamin C. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, important for wound healing and immune function.
  • Vitamin B6: A family of B-vitamins, some of which have important functions in energy metabolism.
  • Vitamin K1: Also known as phylloquinone, vitamin K1 is essential for blood clotting and healthy bones and kidneys.
  • Potassium: An essential dietary mineral that serves a variety of functions in the body. Adequate intake of potassium may reduce the risk of heart disease (2).
  • Copper: Often lacking in the Western diet, copper is an essential antioxidant trace element, important for strong bones and healthy neurons.
  • Vitamin A: Red chili peppers are high in beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in the body.

Bottom Line: Chili peppers are rich in various vitamins and minerals, but they are usually eaten in small amounts so they do not contribute significantly to the daily micronutrient intake.

Chiles are ranked according to their heat on what’s called the Scoville heat scale. Fans will often challenge each other to move up the scale that ranges from 0 to over 1 million. The scale can go higher yet when the capcaisin is extracted and put into controlled products like police-grade pepper spray.

Here are some more common chiles you might encounter and a couple others so you’re sure to steer clear:

Chile Scoville Heat Score
Bell pepper 0
Pimento, Peperoncini, Banana peppers, Ground paprika 100-500
Anaheim (red or green) 500-1,000
Ancho 1,000-2,000
Jalapeno, Hungarian Paprika 2,500-5,000
Serrano 10,000-20,000
Chipotle 15,000
Cayenne pepper, Tobasco 30,000-50,000
Habanero 100,000-350,000
Jolokia pepper (ghost chile) > 1,000,000 !
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