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Delicious in mango salsa, stuffed with cream cheese or often enjoyed as poppers, most everyone knows the jalapeño pepper can be one serious pepper. Even though jalapeños are usually fairly small in size coming in around two to four inches in length, they carry a rather powerful taste of fire — and it’s that powerful taste that makes them a power pepper nutrition-wise.
Jalapeños contain a compound knowns as capsaicin. This compound gives way to its ability to help you fight cancer, lose weight, prevent bacterial growth, fight the common cold through its antioxidants, help stop migraine attacks and can improve eyesight. Let’s dig in to this hot pepper and explore the benefits of jalapeños.
One cup of sliced jalapeños (about 90 grams) contains about:
1. May Help Fight Cancer
Jalapeños contain a special natural plant compound called capsaicin. This compound is pretty unique in that it puts the jalapeño as medium in heat on the Scoville scale, which lends itself to a good bit of healthy benefits.
A study conducted at Luohe Medical College in China identified capsaicin as a possible natural treatment for cancer since it stops the growth of tumors by turning off the protein that promotes their growth. Specifically, breast cancer cells were tested using capsaicin to see if it would inhibit growth. The study found that it did, indeed, inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells, which may be one way to keep cancer at bay.
Further research from the Department of Nutrition and Food Science, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Maryland notes:
Capsaicin has been shown to alter the expression of several genes involved in cancer cell survival, growth arrest, angiogenesis and metastasis. Recently, many research groups, including ours, found that capsaicin targets multiple signaling pathways, oncogenes and tumor-suppressor genes in various types of cancer models.
2. Aids Weight Loss
If losing weight is something you’re trying to do, you may want to give jalapeños a try. The capsaicin found in the peppers has the ability to help boost your metabolism by raising the core body temperature, according to a June 2008 study in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Additionally, the hot flavor of jalapeños may diminish your appetite a bit, causing you to eat less at meals.
Another study reported the same thing, though it used the capsaicin from a different, milder source. Apparently, it works by burning more calories after a meal — about 100 calories for a 110 pound woman. Though the calorie burn is not significant and more studies are needed, it may help some lose weight by boosting metabolism and decreasing the appetite.
3. Prevents Bacteria Growth
Capsaicin is gaining attention due to its potential as an antimicrobial. It was evaluated for its effect on the growth of bacteria, specifically Bacillus subtilis. Bacillus subtilis, known as the hay bacillus or grass bacillus, is found in soil and the gastrointestinal tract of humans and plant-eating mammals. According to the study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, bacterial growth was greatly inhibited due to capsaicin. The study also noted that the growth of E. coli was slower when treated with capsaicin.
More research evaluated capsaicin and its effect against Streptococcus pyogenes (GAS), a major human pathogen. The study, published in Frontiers in Microbiology, showed that by “inhibiting intracellular invasion and haemolytic activity, capsaicin could thus prevent both formation of a difficult to eradicate intracellular reservoir, and infection spread to deep tissues.” This is great news and more evidence of its antimicrobial and antibacterial abilities.
4. Prevents Colds and Promotes a Strong Immune System
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that can help reduce the damage caused from free radicals found in the body. It’s most famous for its ability to help prevent or reduce the effects of the common cold. The jalapeno pepper lays claim to having more vitamin C than an orange, making it one of the top vitamin C foods. One serving of jalapeños contains 66 percent of the daily recommendation of vitamin C. Vitamin C gives the immune system a boost by producing white blood cells, which helps the body stave off illness.
Studies show that vitamin C may eliminate and even prevent infections, such as the common cold, caused by bacteria, viruses,= and protozoa. While we know that vitamin C does not necessarily decrease the number of colds, it actually reduced the number of colds in physically active people by about 50 percent according to one study, and consistent intake of the powerful antioxidant shortened the duration of colds. It can even help loosen up mucous caused by colds.
Historically, a lack of vitamin C is associated with pneumonia. In terms of research, three controlled trials found that vitamin C actually prevented pneumonia, while two controlled trials found that it helped patients who had pneumonia recover faster as well.
5. Treats Migraine Headaches
The capsaicin found in hot peppers may help get rid of migraines. Capsaicin can release pain peptides, and when topically applied by way of a capsaicin jelly-like product, it’s been found to reduce and even eliminate neuropathic pain.
Studies show that greater than 50 percent of those tested had pain reduction during attacks of mild to moderate intensity. Topical capsaicin may relieve arterial pain during a migraine attack in those experiencing scalp arterial tenderness as well.
6. May Boost Eyesight
Just one jalapeño pepper contains 17 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A for men and 22 percent for women, making it a great option for enhanced eye and skin health. One way to get it is by way of the chipotle pepper, which is a smoked jalapeño. This spicy little gem contains important phytonutrients called lutein and zeaxanthin.
They’re important because they make their way to the retina, offering good health for the eyes, and according to the American Optometric Association, getting a healthy dose of these nutrients could help reduce the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, chronic eye diseases and cataracts.
There several types of jalapeños out there. Here are the some of the most common:
Senorita Jalapeño Pepper
Fresno Chile Jalapeño Pepper
Sierra Fuego Jalapeño Pepper
Mucho Nacho Jalapeño
If heat gives you anxiety, you may want to cook your jalapeño peppers before eating them. Cooking helps reduce the fire. Roasting them is a great way to add a little smoky flavor. However, finely chopped, adding a little bit to your favorite salsa recipe, is a great way to put just the right touch.
What part of the jalapeño pepper is most spicy? It is the white membrane found on the inside, which is also where the majority of the nutrition-packed capsaicin is found.
Know your pepper! Keep in mind that some jalapeños are not for the faint at heart. What I mean is that it’s best to stay on the safe side if spicy foods cause any negative reactions for you. Most peppers are safe to eat, but since everyone tolerates different levels of heat, they can cause various reactions.
Make sure to be extra careful with children as the jalapeño can cause unexpected reactions for them. Their taste buds may not be prepared to experiences such heat that some peppers may carry.
Be careful not to touch your eyes when handling peppers. Wash your hands after handling, and you may want to wear gloves while working with hot peppers as it can burn the skin, often referred to as pepper burn. You may try to wash your hands or the burning area in white vinegar, milk or yogurt.
While time may be the best option, if you experience any reaction of concern or this does not help, see a doctor immediately.
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