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What makes hot peppers hot is a group of six acids called capsaicinoids, primarily capsaicin. These compounds likely evolved because they discourage animals from eating the peppers and act as anti-fungal agents. But they have such a powerful and unique effect on the nerves and tissues of mammals, including humans, that they are being studied for a variety of possible health benefits.
Both in the laboratory and in animal studies, capsaicin has been shown to kill prostate cancer cells and to inhibit the onset of tumor growth and cell mutations that might lead to cancer. Some studies have also suggested that capsaicin may have a role to play in curbing obesity and treating type 1 diabetes, because it appears to reduce the amount of insulin needed to lower blood sugar after a meal. It also appears to inhibit the growth of Helicobacter pylori, the bacterium that causes 80 percent of stomach ulcers. Because of its profound effect on nerves, it is used in a variety of pain-relief therapies. And because it acts on Substance P, which is involved in the body’s inflammatory response, it may turn out to be a strong anti-inflammatory.
Studies have shown that countries where the cuisine includes a lot of hot pepper have lower rates of heart disease and stroke.
Hot peppers are also high in vitamins A and C, the B vitamins (especially B6), and the minerals potassium, magnesium, and iron.Nutritional Facts
One raw hot chili pepper provides 18 calories, 4.3 g carbohydrate, 0.9 g protein, 0.1 g fat, 0.7 g dietary fiber, 347 IU vitamin A, 109 mg vitamin C, 11 mcg folic acid, 153 mg potassium, 3 mg sodium, 21 mg phosphorus, 8 mg calcium, 11 mg magnesium, and 0.14 mg zinc.