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Chili Peppers: Tasty, Hot And Healthy, But Be Careful


Fans of red and green chili peppers rejoice. The taste and heat you savor also comes with some health benefits.  Sharon Cox, a dietitian with Parkland Hospital System, has some details.

Highlights of Cox’s interview:

Health benefits of red and green peppers: “Peppers are plants. They’re vegetables. So the more colorful vegetables we can eat, the more vitamins and minerals we get. They have vitamin C and vitamin E in them. But you do need to be careful when you pick them up or chop them because the capsaicin – the hot part of it – can burn your eyes and burn your skin.”

But capsaicin has health benefits, too: “Health benefits as far as being an antioxidant, which reduces cell damage. And we want to reduce risk for heart disease, cancer and upper respiratory problems.”

Other spicy foods with health benefits: “There’s turmeric that’s used in Indian dishes. It’s being studied now and reported to have health benefits. Everything from ginger to cinnamon. Those type of spices – the fresh ones, too, like cilantro, rosemary – give our food great taste. But also you get some good vitamins from them.”

For more information:

British Medical Journal: Consumption of spicy foods and total and cause specific mortality 

Pepper Power: Nutrition and Other Benefits 

Spicy food: The pros and cons of added heat in your meal 

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.