We love chilli. Whether it’s in your face as part of a pokey chilli con veggie or just the subtlest little kick in an otherwise cooling cucumber and mint raita, it is has a taste personality all of its own. It also has a range of nutritional properties which can help slow down the body’s ageing process. Nutritional therapist Sally Beare, author of The Live-Longer Diet and 50 Secrets of the World’s Longest Living People explains.
The amazing anti-ageing properties of chilli
“Chilli peppers are a clever way to add flavour and interest to dishes whilst dramatically enhancing their nutrient content.
The active ingredient which makes chilli peppers hot and is of most interest to nutrition scientists is capsaicin. It is the capsaicin in Birds Eye chillis which gives them their number one ranking amongst ‘Sirtfoods’ – foods which activate our sirtuin genes, which have an anti-ageing effect on our cells similar to that of exercising and calorie restriction. Capsaicin has significant anti-cancer action and has been shown in studies to support tumour-suppressor and metastasis-preventive genes in different types of cancer, to induce cancer cell death, and to reduce the action of cancer-causing agents. 1, 2
Much promising recent research also shows that capsaicin may be a valuable tool in helping prevent obesity, since it is thermogenic, causing us to burn fat. Chillis also reduce appetite: when study subjects were given chilli pepper with breakfast they ate less at lunch time. 3
Capsaicin has anti-inflammatory properties, giving it the potential to lower risk of chronic disease, with a recent large study of over sixteen thousand adults showing that those eating chilli regularly over a six-year period had a thirteen per cent lower risk of mortality across a wide range of causes. 4Capsaicin is also an effective form of pain relief.
Chilli peppers are high in beta-carotene, an anti-ageing antioxidant which boosts immunity and protects lung health, and eye-protective lutein and zeaxanthin. A further benefit for those who suffer from colds and congestion is that capsaicin helps break up mucus in the respiratory tract.
Chillis are a popular herbal remedy against bacterial infections in Mayan medicine. Research has shown that they can destroy Helicobacter Pylori which can cause stomach ulcers as well as a range of other bacteria. 5″
Chilli in Miller Green dishes
Chilli is one of our favourite ingredients and can really bring a dish to life. We use it in a number of our dishes, including our chilli con veggie, our curries and very subtly in our cooling cucumber and mint raita. We even use it finely chopped with mint as a garnish on our moussaka. Blended with turmeric, coriander and garam masala it adds real depth to our nine jewel korma, a delicious, lightly spiced, tomatoey and very nutritious curry. The sauce takes some time to cook but it’s worth it. It freezes well so you could make up a big batch a freeze some for another curry. Here’s the recipe.
Nine jewel korma
1 small onion, finely grated
40ml rapeseed oil
2 tsps ginger, finely grated
2 tsps finely minced garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp chilli powder
2 tsp grd coriander
1 tsp garam masala
1 tin chopped tomatoes
500ml non-dairy milk
60ml soya cream
1/2 small cauliflower
250g baby potatoes
75g frozen peas
100g cashews, lightly toasted
Pour the vegetable oil into a large, heavy based saucepan and heat up.
Add the grated onion and cook on a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it is pale gold in colour. This can take up to half an hour
Add the garlic and ginger and cook until light brown and then add the salt and spices. Stir to combine and cook together for one minute.
Add the chopped tomatoes and cook over a medium heat, stirring from time to time, for about 30-45 minutes until the oil separates slightly from the rest of the sauce.
Add the non-dairy milk, bring to the boil and simmer for another 10 minutes, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens little.
While the sauce is cooking, cut the cauliflower into small florets and the potatoes and carrots into 1cm cubes and place in boiling water. Cook till tender (approx 10 minutes) then drain and set aside.
Slice the mushrooms and then split the courgettes lengthways and slice finely into half and set aside.
Lightly toast the cashews in a heavy based frying pan and set aside.
When the sauce is ready, add the courgettes and cook for 5 minutes before adding cashews, mushrooms and frozen peas and cooking for another 5 minutes.
Add the boiled vegetables and cook for a couple of minutes to warm them through.
Finally stir through the soya cream and cook for another minute or so and serve with rice and yogurt or maybe nice a cucumber and mint raita.
- Ramos-Torres A (2016). The pepper’s natural ingredient capsaicin induces autophagy blockage in prostate cancer cells.Oncotarget 12;7(2):1569-83.
- Clark R & Lee SH (2016). Anticancer Properties of Capsaicin Against Human Cancer. Anticancer Res36(3):837-43.
- Yoshioka M (1999). Effects of red pepper on appetite and energy intake. Br J Nutr.82(2):115-23.
- Chopin, Mustafa & Littenberg, Benjamin (2017). The Association of Hot Red Chili Pepper Consumption and Mortality: A Large Population-Based Cohort Study. PLOS January 9th.