For ten thousand years, cultures throughout the world have known about the medicinal properties of chile peppers. In more recent times, there has been a growing body of scientific and medical evidence that indicates a correlation between the consumption of chile and health benefits. In this page, we hope to bring forth the facts so that you may discover for yourself a world of healthy living while enjoying the delicious chile pepper.
Today we will feature guest author Heidi Allison who has written The Chili Pepper Diet (Health Communications, Inc., 2002). She has appeared on ABC news and has been featured in Fitness magazine, Delicious Living magazine, Restaurant and Institutions magazine and The Austin Chronicle. She is a frequent guest on radio talk shows across America and a lecturer to culinary and healthcare professionals.
Weight Loss and The Chili PepperBy Heidi Allison
- In the chili pepper diet study, weight loss increased by ten-fold when chilies were added to low-fat meals!
- Chilies help you lose weight by increasing your metabolism.
- Chilies curb your appetite-especially for fatty foods and sweets.
- Chilies make you feel good by releasing endorphins.
- Chilies make it easier to stick to a healthy diet because the food has more flavor.
Nutritionists and health practitioners agree that eating a diet packed with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and lean proteins is the best strategy for losing weight. This style of eating also reduces your risk for degenerative diseases such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes. However, if the idea of going on a low-fat diet makes you groan--thinking you'll be eating bland, boring food--think again. Spicing up your meals not only makes your food taste better... it helps you lose weight!
The biggest stumbling block to losing weight is feeling hungry. In fact, most pharmaceutical approaches to weight loss have been geared toward appetite suppression. Trouble is, most diet drugs work on a short-term basis only. And these drugs have side effects. The good news is, research has uncovered that chilies can help you lose weight in two ways: Chilies decrease your appetite and increase your metabolism.
Exactly how chilies decrease your appetite remains unclear. Research has shown that capsaicin, the substance that makes chilies "hot", increases activity in the sympathetic nervous system. This in turn ups your metabolism, and appears to curb appetite--especially for fatty foods and sweets. Other scientists have found that nerves in the appetite centers in the brain (hypothalamus) and pleasure pathways (dopamine) respond to capsaicin. Moreover, chilies (like fats and sugar) prompt the body to release endorphins. These natural opiates promote a feeling of calm, and make you feel satisfied--a key component often missing in low-fat diets. A feeling of satiety helps us lose weight because the more satisfied we feel, the less likely we are to go for second and third helpings simply because a food smells, looks, and tastes good.
There is scientific evidence that capsaicin revs up your metabolic rate by 30 percent for several hours after you eat a meal. This temporary metabolic boost helps you lose weight by burning calories at a faster rate. However, to keep your metabolism running in a higher gear, you need to eat 5 to 6 smaller chili-spiked meals (rather than 3 large meals) per day. Also, caffeine will enhance the metabolic boost derived from capsaicin. You can add a strong cup of coffee, or a large glass of unsweetened ice tea (about 200 mg. of caffeine) to your chili-spiked, low-fat meals.
Although the hotter the chili, the greater the effect - it's best to start slowly. The amount of chili "heat" you can tolerate is determined by number of taste buds on your tongue and your medical history. For instance, women tend to be "super-tasters", which means they have more than the average amount of taste buds per centimeter on their tongue. This in turn means they will be more sensitive to hot peppers. In contrast, it's usually men that enter jalapeño-eating contests since they tend to be "non-tasters" and have fewer taste buds. However, anyone can increase their tolerance to chilies by eating them frequently. Gradually work your way up the Scoville scale to fiery jalapeños, New Mexico (hot) chilies, etc. If you're new, or sensitive, to chilies, start with the mild, raisin-flavored ancho chili. There's no point in eating a meal that's so hot you're left wondering if you taste anything but pain. How to use and choose chilies is outlined in my book, The Chili Pepper Diet.
So... between eating fewer calories and burning more, chilies make that difficult task of shedding those unwanted pounds a lot easier.
If you would like to purchase Ms. Allison's book, The Chili Pepper Diet, follow the link at the left and click on the book.
Note: Guest author Heidi Allison spells chile with an "i" throughout the article. Bueno Foods uses the "e", preferring to maintain the traditional Spanish spelling. However, both chili and chile refer to the chile pepper (the genus Capsicum)