In the desert southwest, the tiny chili pepper is mighty in flavor and cultural significance. From packing heat into salsa and sauces to hanging decoratively on the walls of homes and restaurants, these bright, shiny-skinned peppers are the spice of life in Arizona.
Part of the plant genus Capsicum, the chili pepper is a flowering plant in the nightshade family. Some common varieties include ancho peppers, banana peppers, bell peppers, cayenne peppers, jalapenos, ghost peppers and habaneros. While they vary in size and color, the heat of each pepper is determined by one shared chemical component: capsaicin.
Whether you prefer your food scorching or subdued, the burning feeling you get from chowing down on your favorite spicy Mexican dish is good for you.
Nutrients in Hot Peppers Are Good for Your Mouth
Chili peppers are rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Specifically, chilis contain Vitamin A, which protects your bones and teeth. Vitamin A also helps reduce inflammation and infection in the tissues of your gums. Some other beneficial vitamins include:
- Vitamin K1: Essential for healthy bones and kidneys
- Potassium: Improves bone mineral density
- Vitamin C: Strengthens gums and soft tissues in the mouth. It can protect against gingivitis.
Other Benefits of Eating Hot Peppers
The health benefits of chili peppers don’t stop with your smile. Here are a few more unique ways eating hot peppers is good for you:
- Boosts metabolism. When you pop a hot pepper into your mouth, your brain sends signals to your body to remove the hot substance, this results in increased circulation, helping to boost your metabolism. And, there is some evidence to suggest that capsaicin can promote weight loss by reducing appetite and increasing fat burning.
- Cools the body. For those battling hot summer temperatures in the desert, this is good information. Eating spicy foods can cool you down on a hot day. When you eat spicy foods, it raises your internal temperature to match the temperature outside. Your blood circulation increases, you start sweating and once that sweat evaporates, your body cools down.
- Pain relief. Eating high amounts of chili peppers may desensitize your pain receptors over time. Also, when capsaicin is used in a lotion or cream, nerves in the hands and feet can grow accustomed to the feeling of heat and lower the body’s ability to process pain.
- Release endorphins. If you’ve ever felt a bit buzzed when eating spicy food, science says there’s a reason for it. When eating spicy foods, the compounds in the spice send a message to your brain to make it think it’s in pain. As a response to this perceived pain, your brain releases endorphins and dopamine to block the pain signals.
If a bit of heat in your meal makes you happy, pile on the spicy peppers. However, if you find you have a sensitivity to hot peppers or spicy food, be mindful that this has the potential to cause blistering and irritation to the lips, tongue and even the gums.