24-Hour Crisis Hotline: (877)SAFEGBC or (877)723-3422 Mental Health & Substance Abuse Issues

6502 Nursery Drive, Suite 100
Victoria, TX 77904
(361)575-0611
Fax: (361)578-5500
Regular Hours: M-Fri 8am - 5pm
Every 3rd Thurs of the Month - Extended Hours Until 7 pm

Nutrition
Resources
Basic InformationLatest News
AHA News: Want a Personalized Diet to Prevent Disease? Nutrition Scientists Are Working on ItFDA Says Gene-Edited Cattle Are Safe to EatAHA News: Plant-Based Diet May Slow Cognitive Decline in Black Adults as They AgeAHA News: Eating Too Many Sulfur Amino Acids May Boost Cardiovascular Disease and Death RiskCould the Keto Diet Help People With MS?Sudden Reaction to a Food? It Could Be Adult-Onset AllergyGetting Rid of Meat in Your Diet May Lower Cancer RiskStudy Finds No Heart Benefit From Veggies. Nutritionists Disagree.Poor Labeling Dangerous to People With Sesame AllergyValentine's Chocolates May Do Your Heart Good — ReallyStudy Hints That Cutting Daily Calories Could Extend Healthy Life SpanSpice Up Your Meal to Avoid More SaltHow Calling a Food 'Light' in Calories Can BackfireGruesome Warning Images on Soda Labels Could Cut ConsumptionMeat-Heavy Diets Might Have Link to MSAHA News: Sound the Fiber Alarm! Most of Us Need More of It in Our DietOrdering Groceries Online? Good Luck Finding Nutrition InfoAHA News: Today's Hot Topic: Should You Let Chile Peppers Spice Up Your Meals?Celebrities' Social Media Promotes Junk Food, Often for FreeMore Olive Oil May Bring Longer Life: StudyWant to Avoid Glaucoma? Look at What You EatBeyond Chicken? KFC to Serve Up Plant-Based Meals'Few-Foods' Diet Could Be Recipe for Easing ADHD SymptomsDid Adding Calorie Counts to Restaurant Menus Make Meals Healthier?Packaged Salads Tied to E. Coli Outbreak in 6 StatesLove Black Coffee & Dark Chocolate? It Could Be in Your DNAWeight Loss Your Resolution? Experts Look at Fasting, Keto and Whole 30Science Reveals How Red Meat Harms the HeartCould a High-Fiber Diet Help Boost Cancer Survival?Most of Restaurant Menu Must Be Vegetarian Before Meat Eaters Make the SwitchFresh Express Salad Mixes Tied to Multi-State Listeria OutbreakBig Review Confirms Power of Fasting Diets for Weight LossJunk Food Ads Reaching Kids Through Livestream Gaming PlatformsWith Certain Oils Gone, Margarine May Now Be Healthier Than ButterOver 234,000 Pounds of Ham, Pepperoni Recalled Due to ListeriaAHA News: Foraging for Food Connects You to Nature – But Do Your Homework Before You Eat'Ultra-Processed' Foods Up Odds for a Second Heart Attack or StrokeYour Plant-Based Diet Could Really Help the PlanetKraft Recalls Powdered Drinks Over Metal, Glass ConcernsAHA News: Is Turkey Healthy for You? Read This Before You Gobble AnyCDC Warns of E. Coli Outbreak Linked to Baby SpinachSalmonella Outbreak Linked to Salami Sticks Rises to 31 Cases in 10 StatesLess Salt, More Potassium for a Healthier Heart: StudyYour Morning Cup of Coffee Can Affect Your Heart's RhythmsAdult 'Picky Eaters' on What Parents Did Right and WrongMany People May Be Eating Their Way to DementiaAHA News: Two Omega-3s in Fish Oil May Boost Brain Function in People With Heart DiseaseGet Your Dietary Fat From Plants, Cut Your Stroke RiskLet Babies Eat Eggs to Avoid Egg Allergy Later: StudyFish on Your Plate May Keep Your Brain Sharp
Questions and AnswersLinks
Related Topics

Wellness and Personal Development

AHA News: Today's Hot Topic: Should You Let Chile Peppers Spice Up Your Meals?

HealthDay News
by American Heart Association News
Updated: Jan 14th 2022

new article illustration

FRIDAY, Jan. 14, 2022 (American Heart Association News) -- For thousands of years, people have picked up chile peppers to provide their diets with pizazz.

There's no doubt chile peppers are packed with flavor. They also provide a little fiber without salt, sugar, saturated fat or many calories, said professor Linda Van Horn, chief of the nutrition division at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

Indeed, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one raw, red chile pepper – 45 grams, or about 1.6 ounces – has a mere 18 calories.

But chile peppers as a vegetable are relatively low in nutritional value, Van Horn said. "They offer a little beta carotene, but nothing comparable to carrots."

It's true that ounce for ounce, a pepper has more vitamin C than an orange. But, Van Horn said, vitamin C is typically not a nutrient of concern in the United States. And even in cultures where chiles play a larger role, other vegetables – tomatoes, onions, cabbage, kale, spinach – can be easy sources.

If you prefer your peppers as flakes or powders, be aware that raw foods tend to be more potent, nutritionally speaking, than dried versions, Van Horn said.

It's also a case where spelling matters. (More on that in a moment.) Red chile powder, or flakes, is made of dried chiles. The flakes have virtually no nutritional value.

Chili (with an "i") powder is actually a mix of red chile, other spices and salt. So although one tablespoon still provides beta carotene (which your body uses to make vitamin A), it adds 230 milligrams of sodium. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams a day, with an ideal limit of 1,500 mg for most adults.

Most commercially grown red peppers are of the species Capsicum annuum, which is nothing if not versatile. That Latin term covers hundreds of common names, including cayenne pepper but also jalapenos and Thai peppers.

The roots of modern chile peppers are tangled, with evidence that a common ancestor plant evolved in South America, then was domesticated as far back as 10,000 years ago at multiple sites across the hemisphere. Red peppers are not related to black pepper, though. For that bit of linguistic confusion, we can thank Christopher Columbus, who introduced peppers to Europe. They rapidly spread around the world from there.

Also a hot topic: How to spell "chile." The debate could fill an entire article, but the latest guidance from the Associated Press, which sets the standards for journalists, says the vegetables are "chiles."

The really burning issue with peppers is the substance capsaicin. It doesn't actually burn you, but it tricks your brain into feeling that sensation. It's what distinguishes a sweet pepper from a hot one.

It might do more. A new analysis published in the American Journal of Preventive Cardiology combined the results of previous studies on the benefits of capsaicin and found that regular consumption of chile peppers was associated with "significantly" lower rates of overall mortality, including deaths from cardiovascular disease and cancer, compared to rare or no consumption.

That review, however, attempted to draw on data from more than 4,700 scientific papers – and found only four that met the standards for inclusion. More studies are needed to identify what's happening and how it might impact adding chile peppers to your diet, the authors wrote.

Van Horn said other research has looked at capsaicin's potential use as a weight loss aid. But adding extra peppers to a Tex-Mex platter or sprinkling flakes on your orange chicken is not going to do much good, she said. Eating too many peppers, she pointed out, can even trigger an inflammatory response and stomach problems in sensitive individuals.

For her, chile peppers are best used to help add flavor to healthy things you might not otherwise enjoy. She regularly uses them in guacamole, meatless chili and other bean dishes.

"Overall, chiles should be viewed as flavorings like garlic, basil or oregano that enhance the taste of other foods but are not a meal in themselves."

American Heart Association News covers heart and brain health. Not all views expressed in this story reflect the official position of the American Heart Association. Copyright is owned or held by the American Heart Association, Inc., and all rights are reserved. If you have questions or comments about this story, please email editor@heart.org.

By Michael Merschel