A global trend for the past few decades is the increased use of chilis and hot peppers in western diets. Capsaicin is the active ingredient which causes us to sweat and tear, but then reach a “high” as the result of the release of endorphins. The Economist, of all publications, provides interesting insight:
Hot chilies, once the preserve of aficionados with exotic tastes for cuisine from places such as India, Thailand or Mexico, are now a staple ingredient in everything from ready meals to cocktails. One reason is that globalisation has raised the rich world’s tolerance to capsaicin. What may seem unbearably hot to those reared on the bland diets of Europe or the Anglosphere half a century ago is just a pleasantly spicy dish to their children and grandchildren, whose student years were spent scoffing cheap curries or nacho chips with salsa.
What you need to know:
Lets start with spelling – Chili, chilli, or chile are all acceptable.
Red peppers in general are considered very healthy, containing twice the vitamin C as oranges. While chilis are not quite as loaded, they do purport to provide the following health benefits:
* Effective in reducing pain from arthritis by “numbing” a part of the nervous system
* Keeps arteries unblocked, thus reducing cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.
* Prevents growth of some cancerous cells, reducing the risk of prostate cancer.
* Speeds up metabolism, thus helping in weight loss.
* Lowers risk of Type 2 diabetes by controlling the blood sugar levels.
Can too much chili cause any harm?
Certainly capsaicin can be painful, causing stress: in itself a potential health risk. A big dose incapacitates. But as far as permanent physical damage is concerned, the evidence is negligible to non-existent.
If you wish, you can build up your chili stamina slowly, starting with a tiny sliver of hot pepper in your soup or stir fry, and increasing the amount over time. Bon apetit.