I’ve been eating chillies for nearly 50 years, you could say I’m addicted to them, so when I came across a whole load of research about the active ingredient in chillies called capsaicin, showing that my favourite flavour sensation had health benefits my heart soared. My chilli journey
It all started quite innocently as a child when I discovered cayenne pepper, which in the UK in the 1960’s was as hot as it got.
In my teens I graduated to searing hot vindaloo curries (to me at the time) it was like eating razor blades! And birdseye chillies from my local Asian ingredient shop, sprinkled on everything.
Jump to the late 90’s when I worked in California for a while and I discovered the habanero chilli, the hottest chilli in the world at the time.
Back in the UK I found the Scotch bonnet which my wife’s auntie Bibi made into a mind numbingly, red hot sauce of which a dessertspoon with a curry would have me hopping around the room. Chilli eating contests
Then around 2010 I entered a chilli eating competition in Brighton and munched on chillies from the Naga family weighing in with twice the heat of the hottest habanero or Scotch bonnet!
Shortly after this I had a curry made for me made with a whole Scorpion chilli, the name says it all, from these experiences, I was awakened to a whole new level of chilli eating.
They get hotter
By now my obsession had really taken off, they’re addictive and I was visiting chilli shops checking out all the different flavours and heats.
I then discovered sauces made from the Trinidad Scorpion chilli and the now world’s hottest chilli the Carolina reaper chilli, coming in a staggering 4 times hotter than the hottest habanero!
I am now hooked on these two and spread a little on at least one meal a day.
So, you could say I’m addicted and when I came across the research about capsaicin I had to share. Here’s what I found out:
Capsaicin the phytochemical which gives chilli its heat has been shown in studies to:
Provide protection against cancer causing chemicals, specifically NNK a potent carcinogen present in tobacco smoke.
Have multiple mechanisms contributing to the prevention of cancer.
Be an effective pain reliever when applied to the skin.
Reduce the appetite for subsequent meals, when eaten, good news for dieters.
Enhance the breakdown of fats during low intensity exercise, more good news for dieters.
Reduce inflammation in the digestive tract of rats (gut calming)
Cure mice of type 1 diabetes.
Capsaicin is not really hot!
And what I find fascinating is that capsaicin is not hot, it just tricks your brain into thinking it’s hot, and only if you are a mammal does it do this trickery.
Birds don’t find chillies hot, this is because birds don’t chew the seeds enabling them to exit and germinate, whereas us mammals crush up the seeds with our molars and stop them germinating – isn’t evolution great!
If you’re a chilli head or just discovering them then you can eat them in the knowledge that not only do they taste fantastic but they are good for you as well, and with all of the varieties of chilli sauce out there, there’s one for everyone.
Find out more about the capsaicin content of chillies by clicking hereand scroll down to find the chillies highest in this all round amazing chemical.
Director - Nutrient expert, researcher & data miner
I am responsible for the scientific research and data oversight at the CheckYourFood Group. A great journey of discovery for me as I uncover the myriad of goodness that natural food contains and facilitate others to promote health and wellbeing.