Burnin’ Love: Peppers and Their Nutritional Benefits
by Samantha Wilkinson, MS, RDN, LD
Chili peppers are especially popular to add to dishes to give an extra kick of flavor. They are part of the nightshade family, which includes potatoes, tomatoes and eggplant. They actually have no relation to black pepper, which is derived from the peppercorn plant.
The main ingredient, capsaicin, is what gives peppers their “heat” level, which ranges from sweet to fiery. Capsaicin produces endorphins, which naturally reduce stress and pain. Capsaicin has also been said to increase metabolism and fat oxidation. Most people think that the capsaicin is located in the seeds of the peppers, when actually most of it sits in the ribs or membrane of the pepper.
TIP: You should use gloves when handling especially hot peppers and avoid rubbing your eyes.
The heat levels of peppers is measured in Scoville Heat Units (SHU). The hottest reported pepper is the Carolina Reaper with a Scoville rating of 1.5 million units. A jalapeno scores between 2500 and 5000 units. The Carolina Reaper borders on impossible to eat and could cause severe damage to gum and mouth tissues based solely on its heat level. Some remedies for highly spicy peppers is consuming milk, dairy, bread or rice.
MYTH BUSTER: Alcohol only magnifies the burn, so DO NOT try to mask it with beer!
Peppers are a great source of vitamin C and beta-carotene, potassium and vitamin B6. They also contain decent amounts of fiber and vitamin K, and are generally low-calorie.
Here’s a list of peppers ranked from least to most spicy for you to try in your Dolce-Approved recipes:
Peppers and their Scoville Heat Units (SHU)
1 Sweet Bells, Sweet Bananas, Pimento (negligible SHU)
2 Anaheim, Pepperonicini, Cherry (100 – 1000 SHU)
3 Ancho, Poblano (1000 – 1500 SHU)
4 Rocotillo (2500 – 5000 SHU)
5 Serrano, Jalapeno (5000 – 15,000 SHU)
6 Hidalgo, Puya, Chipotle (15,000 – 30,000 SHU)
7 Chile De Arbol, Manzano (30,000 – 50,000 SHU)
8 Cayenne, Santaka (50,000 – 100,000 SHU)
9 Thai, Bohemian (100,000 – 350,000 SHU)
10 Habanero, Devil’s Tongue (350,000 – 855,000 SHU)
11 Ghost Pepper, Carolina Reaper (855,000 – 1.5 million SHU)