Get Your Hot Healthy On With Chilies

By Julie Murphree, Arizona Farm Bureau

Arizona can claim to be one of the best places to breed hybrid chili plants. Rumor has it that one of our Arizona Chili farmers (see video) produces the chili seed that has made New Mexico chili farmers famous for their hatch chilies.

A perennial, the chili plant is mostly known to be native to the Central American region. The chili plant bears flowers that ultimately develop into the hot fruit pods of variable size, shape, color, and pungency that people around the world love to eat. Based on the type, a pepper’s heat level ranges from mild, fleshy (Mexican bell peppers) to fiery, tiny, Nag Jalokiya chili peppers of the Indian subcontinent.


And speaking of hot, the hotness of chili is measured in “Scoville heat units” (SHU). On the SHU scale, a sweet bell pepper scores 0, a jalapeño pepper around 2,500-4,000 units, and a Mexican habañeros may have 200,000 to 500,000 units.

Even if you can handle only the sweet bell pepper SHU score of zero, you’ll still reap the health benefits of this pepper. So what are they? According to the Nutrition and You website, you’ll find a variety of health benefits from eating peppers. Their list follows.

Red Hot Health Benefits of the Chili Pepper

  • Chili pepper contains an impressive list of plant derived chemical compounds that are known to have disease preventing and health promoting properties.
  • Chilies contain health benefiting an alkaloid compound in them, capsaicin, which gives them strong spicy pungent character. Early laboratory studies on experimental mammals suggest that capsaicin has anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, analgesic and anti-diabetic properties. It also found to reduce LDL cholesterol levels in obese individuals.
  • Fresh chili peppers, red and green, are rich source of vitamin-C. 100 g fresh chilies provide about 143.7 µg or about 240% of RDA. Vitamin C is a potent water-soluble antioxidant. It is required for the collagen synthesis inside the human body. Collagen is one of the main structural protein required for maintaining the integrity of blood vessels, skin, organs, and bones. Regular consumption of foods rich in vitamin C helps protect from scurvy, develop resistance against infectious agents (boosts immunity), and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals from the body.
  • They are also good in other antioxidants such as vitamin-A, and flavonoids like ß-carotene, a-carotene, lutein, zea-xanthin, and cryptoxanthin. These antioxidant substances in capsicum help protect the body from injurious effects of free radicals generated during stress, diseases conditions.
  • Chilies carry a good amount of minerals like potassium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
  • Chilies are also good in B-complex group of vitamins such as niacin, pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), riboflavin and thiamin (vitamin B-1). These vitamins are essential in the sense that human body requires them from external sources to replenish.
  • Chili peppers have amazingly high levels of vitamins and minerals. Just 100 g provides (in % of recommended daily allowance):
  1. 240% of vitamin-C (Ascorbic acid),
  2. 39% of vitamin B-6 (Pyridoxine),
  3. 32% of vitamin A,
  4. 13% of iron,
  5. 14% of copper,
  6. 7% of potassium,
  7. but no cholesterol.

Our family has had a long tradition of cooking with fresh peppers whether to make a hot chili sauce or simply to add to our favorite recipes. The Murphree family is so in love with peppers, we roast fresh ones on the grill whenever we grill steaks.

For a variety of recipes that include chili peppers, go to Fill Your Plate and select chili peppers.

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