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The Aztecs considered chili an aphrodisiac and invigorating. Now it is known that in adequate doses, once the pain is overcome, the spice induces the production of endorphins in the brain, related to the sensation of well-being. It also activates blood circulation, stimulates the genito-urinary tract and improves male fertility.
This summer vegetable is a true champion in vitamin C, as well as a good ally for the skin and eyesight. With its color and flavor it captivates the table.
Peppers were already harvested wild more than seven thousand years ago in what is now Bolivia, southern Brazil and Peru. But it was in Mexico and Central America where the Aztecs developed an authentic chili culture, to which they had also found military, economic, spiritual and, of course, medicinal applications. From there, the peppers have shown their ability to adapt to virtually any culinary preparation.
The king of vitamin C
It would be difficult to gain kilos from peppers, since more than 90% of their weight corresponds to water. Virtually lacking in fat, its meager calories (about 30 per 100 grams) come from a few carbohydrates and minimal protein. They provide small amounts of many minerals, with potassium leading the way. They are considered ideal for those who want to control their weight. Its reputation as indigestible is not very justified, since its compounds stimulate gastric juices and exert, when eaten raw, a cholagogue effect, that is, they facilitate the emptying of the gallbladder
The nutrients that stand out among the usual vegetables in our diet are vitamins. They are the best source of vitamin C, especially the yellow ones, and the red ones when they are ripe: a single pepper - even green - more than covers the daily needs, especially if it is consumed raw.
Red bell peppers also contain abundant carotenoids, such as beta-carotene or precursor of vitamin A, and another fat-soluble and antioxidant vitamin that is often scarce in low-fat vegetables: vitamin E. In addition, this antioxidant and protective cocktail is accompanied by other nutrients valuable, such as vitamin B6, folic acid, flavonoids, organic acids and salicylates with anti-inflammatory effect.
For all of the above, regularly including pepper in the diet helps protect eyesight, digestive system and cardiovascular health; promotes diuresis and the elimination of toxins, and strengthens the body's antioxidant defenses, which can help prevent the onset of degenerative diseases and certain types of cancer.
Spicy against pain
The Aztecs considered chili an aphrodisiac and invigorating. It also activates blood circulation, stimulates the genito-urinary tract and improves male fertility.
The substance responsible for the burning and spicy effect of some varieties of pepper is capsaicin, a substance that is difficult to dilute in water, so drinking hardly relieves itching.
Doctors David Julius, Linda Watkins and Baruch Minke won the 2010 Prince of Asturias Award for Scientific and Technical Research for their work on neurobiology and pain mechanisms and how capsaicin influences them. It does so without the side effects of other drugs and is reversible, that is, when the treatment is stopped, substance P accumulates again and sensitivity is restored.
Versatility in the kitchen
Greens are usually softer than reds. Generally those of fine meat are used raw, in quick cooking or elaborations in which delicacy, the sweet touch is sought. Those with thick meat are suitable for any technique.
Purchase and conservation
For your purchase, it is best to respect the natural harvest season, which runs from June to September. The rest of the year its forced cultivation produces perhaps nondescript results, lacking in flavor and nutrients. In the fridge, the vegetable drawer is the most suitable.
By Luciano Villar (cook)