Chili (Capsicum annuum)

Chili peppers (Capsicum annuum) are the fruits of Capsicum pepper plants, notable for their hot flavor. They are members of the nightshade family, related to bell peppers and tomatoes. Many varieties of chili peppers exist, such as cayenne and jalapeño. Chili peppers are primarily used as a spice and can be cooked or dried and powdered. Powdered, red chili peppers are known as paprika. Capsaicin is the main bioactive plant compound in chili peppers, responsible for their unique, pungent taste and many of their health benefits.

Chili peppers are rich in various vitamins and minerals. However, since they are only eaten in small amounts, their contribution to your daily intake is minuscule. These spicy fruits boast:

Vitamin C. Chili peppers are very high in this powerful antioxidant, which is important for wound healing and immune function. Vitamin B6. A family of B vitamins, B6 plays a role in energy metabolism.

Vitamin K1. Also known as phylloquinone, vitamin K1 is essential for blood clotting and healthy bones and kidneys. Potassium. An essential dietary mineral that serves a variety of functions, potassium may reduce your risk of heart disease when consumed in adequate amounts.

Copper. Often lacking in the Western diet, copper is an essential trace element, important for strong bones and healthy neurons. Vitamin A. Red chili peppers are high in beta carotene, which your body converts into vitamin A.

Despite their burning taste, chili peppers have long been considered a healthy spice. Pain relief: Capsaicin, the main bioactive plant compound in chili peppers, has some unique properties. It binds with pain receptors, which are nerve endings that sense pain. This induces a burning sensation but does not cause any real burning injuries. Even so, high consumption of chili peppers (or capsaicin) may desensitize your pain receptors over time, reducing your ability to sense the burning flavor of chili.

It also makes these pain receptors insensitive to other forms of pain, such as heartburn caused by acid reflux. One study found that when 2.5 grams of red chili peppers were given daily to people with heartburn, the pain worsened at the beginning of the 5-week treatment but improved over time. This is supported by another small, 6-week study showing that 3 grams of chili each day improved heartburn in people with acid reflux (12). The desensitization effect does not seem to be permanent, and one study noted that it was reversed 1–3 days after capsaicin consumption stopped.