Is cayenne pepper good for you?

Cayenne pepper, a spicy red-hot pepper originating from South and Central America and brought to the New World by Christopher Columbus himself, is a popular addition to many foods and can be used as a natural medicine. Related to jalapeños and bell peppers, cayenne pepper is usually ground into a powder and sprinkled onto foods to make them spicier and more flavorful.

cayenne pepper
Cayenne pepper is a healthy addition to your diet and may also have health benefits when used medicinally. (BestReviews)

Cayenne pepper basics

According to Healthline, cayenne pepper boosts flavor and nutrition and can have health benefits beyond food. Capsaicin is the compound that gives cayenne both its spiciness and medicinal properties. The more capsaicin, the spicier the pepper is, and the more it can potentially help your health.

Nutritional benefits

When eaten as part of a well-balanced diet, cayenne pepper boasts many nutritional benefits. A serving is a tablespoon, which is a lot at once if you’re not a spicy food super fan, so keep that in mind when calculating the benefits.

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Vitamins: Cayenne contains many vitamins, but the one with the highest percentage is vitamin A. One serving contains 44% of your daily requirements. There are several other vitamins in lower percentages including vitamins B6, C, E and K. These help your body ward off disease and maintain the health of your skin and eyes.

Minerals: Cayenne pepper also has several vital minerals including manganese, which helps the body form connective tissue, bones, blood-clotting factors and sex hormones; potassium, which helps your blood pressure; and riboflavin, aka vitamin B2, which helps you produce energy.

Metabolism: Spicy foods make you hot, right? Turns out that sweaty feeling is good for your body the same way working up a sweat in exercise is, because it makes you burn more calories faster, increasing your metabolism speed. People who eat cayenne also feel fuller longer and less hungry overall, so they eat less and maintain a healthier weight and metabolism.

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Blood pressure: In studies on pigs, cayenne pepper relaxed blood vessels, which lead to lower blood pressure. Another way cayenne pepper might lower blood pressure is by using it as a flavoring instead of salt, which raises blood pressure.

Stomach health: It’s a myth that spicy foods cause ulcers. In fact, cayenne pepper consumption can help strengthen the walls of the stomach and help prevent ulcers, defend against infection and aid digestion.

Medicinal herb

Cayenne pepper is often used as a medicinal herb, said to help with pain relief, sinus issues and even weight control. As with starting any new regime, consult your healthcare provider before adding in a new product or drug containing cayenne pepper.

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Pain relief: Capsaicin’s main power is that it can be a potent but natural pain reliever. When people use cream containing cayenne pepper, they find relief from joint and back pain and even feel less pain after surgery or when suffering from nerve issues like shingles. Some people want to go drug free but still need pain relief, and a product with cayenne pepper might do the trick.

Sinus care: Some people claim that eating spicy foods can clear your sinuses. Some people also use nasal spray containing cayenne to clear their stuffy noses and help relieve allergy symptoms without the use of steroids. If you have severe allergies, you may need something stronger, but cayenne pepper nasal spray might do the trick.

Related: Foods Proven to Lead to High Blood Pressure, Say Dietitians

Warning

Cayenne pepper can be harmful if you use too much. If you eat too much at once, it can give you a stomach ache or other digestive issues. People who take ACE inhibitors for high blood pressure should speak to their healthcare provider about whether they should avoid cayenne pepper or creams containing it as it can interact with the drug and cause coughing.

Similarly, check with your healthcare provider if you take a blood thinner. Cayenne pepper can cause bleeding in some people who are susceptible. Finally, because of its spicy properties, do not use a cream or nasal spray containing cayenne if you risk using it on an open wound or cut—it will hurt terribly.

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How to get the most out of your cayenne pepper

Salads

Cayenne pepper makes a healthy addition to salad dressing. Whole, chopped peppers can be sprinkled on top of your salad for a nutritional boost and a huge flavor kick. Try small amounts of cayenne to make sure you can take the heat.

Savory

Cayenne pepper or powder tastes great in stir-fry, so break out your instant potpan or wok and add some cayenne to taste either during the cooking or as a garnish after it’s done. You can also sprinkle cayenne pepper powder on top of soup, chili or side dishes when they’re done to give them a kick. Cayenne is one of the key ingredients in many Mexican dishes. As mentioned, it’s best to start small when it comes to cayenne pepper since it is very spicy. Sometimes, including it as a last-minute addition is a good idea or letting each person add it to their own comfort level.

Related: Power Spices to Make Food Taste Nicest

Baked goods

Use a nonstick bakeware setloaf pan or muffin pan to make quick breads that use cayenne pepper to create a delightful mix between savory and sweet. Cayenne pepper tastes particularly good when mixed into cornbread and topped with butter. In savory dishes, include cayenne pepper in your casseroles and starchy vegetable dishes like mashed potatoes or cooked corn.

Source: Harford Journal

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