Cayenne Pepper: Benefits, Nutrition and Uses
There are many recipes that call for cayenne pepper. They give the dish that kind of oomph that people want. This chili pepper has a mild spiciness to it, measuring about 30,000 to 50,000 units on the Scoville heat scale. It is perfect in egg dishes, seafood, casseroles, meats, stews, curries, hot sauces, and cheese dishes. Cayenne pepper also provides a number of benefits because of its nutritional profile.
Nutrition Profile of Cayenne Pepper
Many of the health benefits of cayenne pepper are due to the nutrients that it contains. A tablespoon of this spice contains 17 calories and 1.4 grams of dietary fiber. It also contains a gram of fat, 3 grams of carbohydrates, and 0.6 grams of protein. These numbers may not look much. However, they underscore the nutrient value of this spice.
Cayenne pepper also contains the fat-soluble vitamins A, E, and K. As a matter of fact, cayenne pepper has the highest Vitamin A content among all spices. An ounce of this spice is equivalent to 11,796 IU of Vitamin A. This is more than the upper limit of Vitamin A RDA of 10,000 IU.
This chili pepper is also rich in Vitamin C, folate, niacin, pyridoxine, riboflavin, and thiamine. It also contains potassium, iron, manganese, phosphorus, and copper. There are also trace amounts of calcium, selenium, zinc, and magnesium.
Not only is cayenne pepper nutrient-rich; it’s also rich in antioxidants. They include zeaxanthin, lutein, cryptoxanthin, and carotenes. It also contains the plant alkaloid capsaicin. This has anti-diabetic, analgesic, anti-carcinogenic, and antibacterial properties.
If you use a cayenne pepper substitute, you may not be able to obtain all of these nutrients, antioxidants, and plant alkaloids.
Benefits of Cayenne Pepper
The combination of nutrients, plant alkaloids, and antioxidants in cayenne pepper give it the ability to provide the following health benefits.
- Improves Metabolism
Capsaicin is one of the known substances in the world that has thermogenic properties. This results in an increase in metabolic rate. It allows the body to use energy a lot faster, making it ideal among people who want to lose weight.
- Reduces Hunger
Capsaicin can limit the body’s production of the hormone known as ghrelin. This is a compound that tells the brain that the cells are hungry. Limiting the production of ghrelin can make people feel less hungry. This can lead to less food consumption. Together with the boost in metabolism, cayenne pepper can be beneficial to people who want to lose weight or to maintain their ideal body weight.
- Improves Psoriasis Symptoms
There is no cure for psoriasis. However, there are substances that can help reduce the symptoms associated with the disease. One of these is capsaicin. There are interesting studies that show capsaicin as being effective in reducing redness, itching, and scaling among patients with psoriasis.
- Reduces Cancer Risk
The antioxidants found in cayenne pepper can help lower the risk of certain types of cancer. These substances work in different ways to affect the growth and proliferation of tumor cells. Some antioxidants work by inducing programmed cell death in cancer cells. There are also those that stimulate natural antibodies to kill cancer cells. Capsaicin can also enhance the anti-cancer properties of antioxidants.
- Relieves Pain
One of the effects of capsaicin is the reduction of the neuropeptide known as substance P. This neuropeptide carries pain impulses to the brain. Reducing the production of substance P can lead to a reduction in the intensity or severity of the pain sensation. Capsaicin can help alleviate muscle and joint pain, post-operative pain, low back pain, migraine, shingles, and other pain syndromes.
- Improves Digestion
The antibacterial properties of capsaicin can help improve overall digestion. It can boost the defense of the gastrointestinal tract, allowing small intestines to absorb the nutrients. Capsaicin can also neutralize the different microorganisms that may be present in the stomach. Cayenne pepper also has the ability to increase the production of gastric fluids. These can aid in the more efficient digestion of food particles.
- Relieves Congestion
There are no studies that can corroborate the current practice of using cayenne pepper in the management of nasal congestion. However, this does not mean that it is not effective. It thins the mucus secretions, allowing for improved drainage. It is a good remedy for those with sinus congestion and clogged noses.
Uses of Cayenne Pepper
Cayenne pepper can be used in many ways. Here are the three most important ones:
- As a Culinary Spice
Cayenne pepper is one of the most versatile spices that you can use in many dishes. It is great with seafood, egg dishes, and meats. You can also add it to curries, stews, and casseroles. Whenever a dish calls for some ‘heat’, cayenne pepper is always a good choice. If you do not have this type of spice, you can always use a cayenne pepper substitute. You can use 4 drops of Tabasco hot sauce for every 1/8 of a teaspoon of cayenne. You can also use 1/8 teaspoon of chili powder or red pepper.
- As a Health Supplement
One of the benefits of this chili pepper is that it can improve digestion. As such you can use it as a health supplement. People use it to support their weight loss efforts. It can boost one’s metabolism, allowing people to burn more calories. It can also be a great way to support detox efforts. It can enhance the flow of lymph to help clear toxins from the body.
- As a Home Remedy for Certain Health Conditions
Some people do not realize that cayenne pepper is also an excellent natural remedy for some health conditions. Its antioxidant effects are ideal in the management of pain syndromes, swelling, and inflammation. Of course, it would be wise to consult with your physician first, especially if you are also taking other medications.
Cayenne pepper is not only a great spice in the kitchen. It can also provide you with a number of health benefits. It is not surprising that many people consider this chili pepper as the king of spices.