Naturopathic Kitchen: Chili Peppers

Green, yellow, and red chili peppers on a white background.

Chili peppers are all of the peppers in the Capsicum genus, which includes many varieties such as jalapeno, serrano, habanero, and cayenne peppers. Chili peppers are members of the Solanaceae or nightshade family. They are all spicy, but different varieties have different levels of heat. Chili peppers are popular additions to salsas, curries, chilis, and any other recipes that can benefit from a kick of heat. Chili peppers also have a high nutritional value and a number of health benefits.

 

The Health Benefits of Chili Peppers

 

Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Chili peppers contain carotenoids, beneficial antioxidants that are responsible for the red, yellow, and orange color of the peppers. Carotenoids have powerful anti-inflammatory properties and may help reduce the symptoms of various inflammatory conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis. 1 

 

Weight Management

Capsaicin is the active compound in chili peppers that gives them their distinctive spicy flavor. 2 While more research is needed, initial studies suggest that capsaicin can be an effective weight management aid because it accelerates fat burning and reduces appetite. 3 The addition of chili peppers into the diet in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle may help to promote weight loss. 4 

 

Pain Relief

Although a diet heavy in spicy foods can aggravate heartburn, some studies suggest that regular consumption of hot chili peppers in small amounts can actually reduce pain caused by acid reflux. 5 If you experience painful heartburn on a regular basis, adding chili peppers to your diet in moderation may help to reduce the discomfort. 6

Note that the consumption of chili peppers and other spicy foods can exacerbate stomach pain and intestinal issues in some people. Those with IBS and other stomach conditions should avoid eating chili peppers. 7 

One very simple way to integrate chili peppers into your diet is to make jalapeno-pineapple infused water. Simply add sliced jalapeno pepper and cubed fresh pineapple to cold water and let steep before sipping. This is a deliciously refreshing beverage with a bit of spice.

If you’re up for a slightly more complex recipe, try this fermented hot chili-garlic sauce:

 

Fermented Hot Chili-Garlic Sauce

This versatile spicy chili-garlic sauce, is a great way to add a kick to all sorts of foods. Add it to stir-fries, rice bowls, burritos, meat dishes, and more. 

Recipe courtesy of Bastyr University.

 

Ingredients

6  serrano peppers

4  jalapeno peppers

1  habanero pepper (optional for extra spicy sauce)

4  garlic cloves

2  limes, juiced

2 tsp. salt

 

Instructions

Wash chili peppers thoroughly and chop into 1-inch pieces using food handlers’ gloves to avoid letting the capsaicin come in contact with your skin. Discard the stems and place chopped peppers in a blender or food processor (using the pepper seeds will increase the heat content of your final product). Pulse to break down the peppers. Add garlic, lime juice, and salt, and pulse a few more times until a chunky paste forms. Transfer the sauce to a clean canning jar and close the lid tightly. Leave on the counter at room temperature and let it ferment for 2 to 3 days. During the fermentation time, check in with your sauce twice a day. Open the lid and mix the contents thoroughly, as the solids will separate from the liquid. After 2 days, check for taste. If you prefer a tangier sauce, prolong the fermentation time by one day at a time, mixing and checking for taste each day, for up to 5 days. Once the desired taste has been achieved, store it in the refrigerator between uses.

If you are considering a career in integrative or holistic medicine, becoming a naturopathic doctor may be the right choice for you.

 

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