Spice Of Life

New research says that eating chilli peppers could help you live longer. Data analysed from 450,000 people revealed that generally the ones that like their food hot had a longer life. Over 7 years it revealed that people eating hot food, this being mainly with chillies, more than once a week reduced their risk of death by 10%. By eating spicy food six or more times a week, could reduce death by 14% compared to those who ate none.

The Professor at the Harvard School of Public Health who carried out the research said that some of the preliminary animal studies and very small human studies found that spicy foods and their active components – like capsaicin which is found in chilli peppers – might lower inflammation, improve metabolic status and have a positive effect on gut bacteria and weight but did point out that more works needs to be done in this area.

Although the other side of the debate points out that future research needs to establish whether spicy food consumption has the potential to improve health and reduce mortality directly or it is merely a marker of other dietary and lifestyle factors.

Meanwhile chillies do contain up to seven times the vitamin C level of an orange and are also said to have a range of health benefits, including fighting sinus congestion, aiding digestion and helping to relieve migraines and muscle, joint and nerve pain. It’s also a good source of vitamins A and E, beta-carotene, folic acid and potassium.

So get adding those fiery little fruits to your meals, they are certainly a good source of vitamins even if their ability to lengthen your life isn’t guaranteed.

So if you fancy trying some, here is a guide to how to buy them –

Chillies are available fresh, dried (whole, as flakes or ground into chilli powder), preserved in oil (where the heat from the chilli will infuse the oil) or made into condiments such as Tabasco. Fresh chillies sold in packets in supermarkets usually have a heat scale on them as a guide. When shopping for more interesting chilli varieties, farmers’ markets and ethnic stores are the best hunting grounds. Look for a smooth, glossy skin that is deep in colour and firm to the touch. Discard any chillies with shrivelled skin, brown marks or watery bruises.

And here are a few of the most common chilli varieties –

  • Poblano – mildly hot, dried chilli used in the Mexican mole poblano sauce
  • Mulato Isleño – mildly hot chilli with a deep, sweet flavour
  • Ortega – elongated mildly hot New Mexican chilli, ideal for use in stews and salsas
  • Chipotle – mild, dried smoked chilli commonly used in Mexican cooking and commercially produced chilli sauces
  • Pasillas – long, very dark brown chillies, usually sold dried, then ground and added to sauces
  • Jalapeños – fiery chillies, used either fresh or pickled; can be dried and smoked to make chipotles towards the end of the growing season
  • Tabasco – hot chillies with a distinctive flavour that comes from a fermentation process in which the chillies are combined with vinegar and salt
  • Bird’s-eye – tiny but powerful green and red chillies, especially common in Thai and South-east Asian cooking
  • Habañero – lantern-shaped, blow-your-head-off hot chilli, usually orange, with a slightly fruity flavour
  • Scotch Bonnet – lantern-shaped red-hot chilli related to the habañero, usually yellow, green or red in colour