Guest Post by Jane Muthoni

Chillies are some of the most misunderstood spices. They are blamed for health
issues of many sorts including causing ulcers.  It is understandable though, why people would think that way. There are some chillies that feel so hot in the mouth that you could cry just from eating them.  Most of the time, I get a runny nose.

There are more than 200 varieties, coloured anything from yellow to green to red to black, and varying in heat from mildly warm to mouth-blisteringly hot.  However, the truth is that chillies are very beneficial to our health. Whenever I take salsa or kachumbari at fast food joints, I am keen to know if they have chillies. That is because I found out that when they contain chillies, there are less likely to cause stomach upsets. The heat causing component called Capsaicin is responsible for most of the magic in chillies. It is mostly found in the seeds and veins. If you prefer milder chili, try the green ones and remove the seeds before chopping it up.  Make sure to wash your hands properly as the capsaicin cause a burning sensation on skin. That same component is used in pepper spray as an irritant.

Lets start with nullifying the old myth.  Chillies have for a while have been believed to cause ulcers. Nothing has ever been further from the truth than this. Chillies are actually part of the treatment for ulcers. By killing bacteria ingested and causing stomach walls to produce protective juices, chillies make conditions unfavorable for developing ulcers.

Red chillies contain beta carotene, a proof that they contain vitamin A and vitamin C. They have    almost 7 times more Vitamins C than citrus fruits.  Vitamin A helps the production of mucous membranes which lines lines various cavities in the body and surrounds internal organs such as our respiratory tracts and which protect our bodies from pathogens that could cause diseases.

Chillies have also been proven to reduce pain in arthritis patients due to its anti inflammatory properties. Meanwhile, studies are underway to check if they could actually heal arthritis, psoriasis and diabetic neuropathy. Prostate cancer is also unable to spread where chillies are used
mainly because of the antioxidant properties found in chillies.

Cardiovascular disease and conditions like heart attacks and stroke are not common in regions of the world where chillies are an essential part of their food because the heat produced by chillies burn cholesterol and also help in clearing blood clots by dissolving fibrin which causes the clotting. Red chili peppers, such as cayenne are good for this.

Lastly, chillies help in weight loss because the heat produced requires energy to be produces which in turn helps in the quick digestion of some of the food consumed.

Though fresh chillies are the best option, you can also use powdered chilli which you can get in the spices section of any supermarket.

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