Everybody who has ever tried a green chili is familiar with the mild bitterness and intense, sinus-clearing heat, but a lesser known fact is the myriad of health benefits that green chilies provide to those who consume them. Rich in vitamins and low in fat and cholesterol, green chilies are a super food with super flavor. The heat that the capsaicin provides is even a health benefit, so when you feel the heat, you know it's working. Available fresh, dried, ground, canned or pickled, there are a number of ways to enjoy the taste and health benefits of green chilies.
Green chilies are rich in vitamins A and C with the dried version higher in vitamin A and the fresh version higher in vitamin C. They can contain as much as six times the amount of vitamin C as a single orange. Their vibrant color signal high amounts of the antioxidant beta-carotene, which supports the cardiovascular system, as well as helps maintain the health of the skin, eyes and immune system. Green chilies also contain vitamins B and E, and are a good source of iron and potassium. They do not contain fat or cholesterol and help block the body's absorption of cholesterol while remaining low in calories.
Though the vitamins and minerals are certain advantages to eating green chilies, the greatest health benefit comes from the pain you feel when you bite into one. Capsaicin, the active chemical stored in the veins and seeds that gives them their heat has many nutritional and health benefits. It helps dissolve blood clots and aids in digestion. Capsaicin as a drug has be prescribed to treat wrinkles, heart health and facial twitching. It actually burns calories by increasing your metabolism, as well as curbing your appetite. Capsaicin also releases endorphins in the brain and puts chili eaters in a better mood. Capsaicin creams have also been used as anti-inflammatory medicine and in the treatment of arthritis.
Be careful not to touch your eyes, nose, mouth or other sensitive parts of your body after handling chilies. The capsaicin will stick to your fingers and hands and burn very badly. Make sure to wash your hands many times after touching chilies.
In some countries, spicy dishes with a lot of chilies and fiery capsaicin are eaten during summer months. Though this seems counter-intuitive, the heat from the chilies makes you sweat and the process of sweating cools the body down.
The bhut jolokia, or "ghost chili," comes from India and is the hottest chili pepper in the world. On the Scoville Scale (a scale that measures relative hotness of chilies), it measured at over a million Scoville Heat Units. A mere jalapeno measures around 2,500 to 5,000 units.