How to Pick Your Peppers for Health

Updated on January 5, 2018
Tim Truzy info4u profile image

As a counselor, Tim has taught independent living skills (shopping, cooking, etc.) to his clients and students with disabilities.

Hot peppers get their heat from a compound called capsaicin
Hot peppers get their heat from a compound called capsaicin | Source

Peppers and Their Many Uses

People enjoy flavorful peppers. They also bring beauty to gardens with their diverse colors: orange, green, brown, or yellow. Some peppers can even have a gorgeous, purplish hue. They also pack a wallop, spicing up dishes for the dinner table. Peppers can be mild or extremely hot, and because of their rich varieties in tastes and shades, people can select flavors and colors from all over the world for their various culinary needs.

Today, milder peppers are eaten more frequently than hot peppers according to some research, but the hot substance in chili peppers, capsaicin, has been shown to have several medicinal properties. When choosing to use capsaicin, consult with a physician because the active ingredient in chili peppers could be detrimental to your health if not monitored appropriately. Indeed, the active, irritating substance in modern pepper spray is capsaicin—it irritates the respiratory tract and the eyes.

The Health Benefits of Capsaicin

Some major health benefits of peppers include:

  • Capsaicin has been found to alleviate symptoms of arthritis when applied as a cream to the skin.
  • Capsaicin may reduce pain in soft tissue such as the gums when applied directly.
  • Adding peppers to soup or other foods may be a good idea if a person is experiencing a cold. Peppers have a high Vitamin C content.
  • Capsaicin has been shown to eliminate or reduce headaches when used under the guidance of medical personnel.
  • Using peppers over the long-run has been associated with increased longevity of life.
  • Capsaicin may help reduce the intake of fatty foods by sending the body signals that it is no longer hungry

These Scotch Bonnet Peppers pack a lot of heat
These Scotch Bonnet Peppers pack a lot of heat | Source

Peppers Past and Present

Peppers are members of the nightshade family of plants, which includes egg plants, tomatoes, and potatoes. Peppers are the fruit of one particular plant species, capsicum annuum. These are the peppers common in gardens. But black or white peppers, what is mostly put in salt shakers, comes from the ground up seeds of the piper nigrum, found in the tropical climates, especially, in places like India. Because of their extraordinary taste and usefulness, men searched the world to find peppers.

However, evidence has been found suggesting peppers were cultivated as early as 6,000 B.C. Thousands of years ago, cultures in Asia were using peppers in food according to some findings. Chemical residues and artifacts in Central and South America show these ancient civilizations were harvesting peppers before Europeans came to the Americas. In 1492 A.D., Christopher Columbus set out for India from Europe to acquire spices and other goods. One of the items he wished to obtain were the “pepper corns,” valued as much as money in certain instances. Although he did not reach India then, he did come across peppers in the Caribbean, returning with his cargo to Europe.

In the 16th century, sailors from Portugal brought chili peppers from Central America and Mexico to Europe. Trade between Portugal, Spain, and Great Britain helped to popularize chili peppers in the United States during the colonial period. The fondness for chili peppers also expanded directly from Mexico into the U.S. Today, all sorts of peppers may wind up on our plates.

Bell peppers are usually sweet in taste.
Bell peppers are usually sweet in taste. | Source

Types of Peppers

Whether for medicinal use, food, or some other purpose, peppers have benefitted humanity. They are interesting and tasty as well as providing health related benefits. Researchers are still exploring the possibilities for using peppers as remedies. However, here is more information about different types of peppers for your scrutiny. Then you can better select the pepper that fits your needs.

  • Bell Peppers: These peppers are known as “sweet peppers.” They have no heat and are considered the mildest of peppers. They grow in shades of green, yellow, red, and orange. A bell pepper will have well-formed “cells or little sections when you cut it open. These peppers are great straight from the garden or cooked and stuffed with meat or vegetables. (A photo of a bell pepper is shown.) A bell pepper is rated usually at 0 on the Scoville Scale. It doesn’t have heat.
  • Black Pepper: This pepper comes from the piper nigrum. It is ground up and often used to fill pepper shakers. Black pepper has a mild heating sensation when placed on food. It is traditionally seen as an aid with digestion by some folk. Mixed with honey, black pepper is traditionally taken for colds or flu by some people.
  • Chili Peppers: These are some of the hottest peppers. Chili peppers are members of the nightshade family, solanaceae. They are part of the genus capsicum. Chili peppers are used in sauces and spicy meals in the United States; often, these peppers give a punch to Asian dishes, too. Chili peppers can have a variety of hotness when consumed.
  • Carolina Reaper: This pepper is used in sauces and has held a record for heating up things. This pepper hits the Scoville Scale at nearly 1.00,000. It grows well in gardens at temperatures near 69 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s called the reaper because of the tail’s shape. The Carolina Reaper is a cross between a Bhut jolokia and a havanero.
  • Naga Viper: This pepper was created from three other hot peppers. The naga viper was created in the United Kingdom. It is the fifth hottest pepper on record. It’s used in a variety of foods.

Do you use peppers in your food?

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These Chocolate Habeneros are a color variation of the well known hot pepper.
These Chocolate Habeneros are a color variation of the well known hot pepper. | Source

The Scoville Organolettic Test

One of the main ways of determining how hot peppers are involves using the Scoville Organolettic Test. It was invented by the American pharmacist, Wilbur Scoville (1865-1942). The standardized test measures the amount of capsaicin in peppers. Known as the Scoville Scale, the measurements can be as low as zero all the way up to the millions, depending on the type of pepper. The Scoville Scale also measures items made from peppers such as sauces. Consult the Scoville Scale when planning a future meal or garden which includes peppers to fully enjoy the flavor and colors of this spicy fruit.

Which type of peppers do you prefer?

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Cubanelle peppers are sweet and good for stuffing with meats or cheeses
Cubanelle peppers are sweet and good for stuffing with meats or cheeses | Source

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Comments

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  • Tim Truzy info4u profile imageAUTHOR

    Tim Truzy 

    3 months ago from U.S.A.

    Sprinkling red pepper on a meal can bring it to sizzling life. This morning I made a scramble with eggs, onions, pepper jack cheese and a dash of red pepper to spice it up. Pepper is flexible enough to be a part of almost any meal. Thanks for reading.

  • Tim Truzy info4u profile imageAUTHOR

    Tim Truzy 

    21 months ago from U.S.A.

    Thanks for your feedback. I enjoy all kinds of peppers. They do have wonderful taste, and recent research suggests now and then adding peppers to your diet may help with controlling salt related issues.

    Thanks again.

    Sincerely,

    Tim

  • Ebonny profile image

    Ebonny 

    21 months ago from UK

    Hi Tim

    I;m normally not one for hot peppers, preferring mild ones, but bearing in mind the benefits, I'm more inclined to try them that bit more often. Many thanks for this information.

  • Tim Truzy info4u profile imageAUTHOR

    Tim Truzy 

    23 months ago from U.S.A.

    One interesting benefit scientists have found related to capsaicin is the ability of the substance to reduce the size of prostate cancer cells. I didn't include this particular finding because research continues on its usefulness for patients dealing with that cancer. Research goes on for peppers and their powerful health related benefits.

  • Tim Truzy info4u profile imageAUTHOR

    Tim Truzy 

    2 years ago from U.S.A.

    Thanks, I'll read that right now. I'm a big fan of peppers.

  • revmjm profile image

    Margaret Minnicks 

    2 years ago from Richmond, VA

    Good article, Tim! I recently wrote an article on why green peppers are less expensive in the supermarket than the other colors.

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