Chile stethoscope

Hot and Healthy Chile Peppers

Kelli Bergthold Chiles and Health Leave a Comment

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Capsaicin as a Pain Reliever

Capsaicin, the substance that gives chiles their fire, is being studied as an effective treatment for sensory nerve fiber disorders, including pain associated with arthritis, psoriasis, and diabetic neuropathy.  A recent study at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas indicated that the capsaicin in chile peppers, and a related compound called resiniferatoxin, appeared to kill skin cancer cells by damaging the cell membranes and limiting the amount of oxygen that reached the cancer cells. In another study at the Research Institute for Production Development in Kyoto, Japan, researchers found that capsanthin and related carotenoids isolated from red paprika showed potent anti-tumor-promoting activity. According to the Department of Food Science in Nonoichi, Japan, hot peppers show antihyperlipidemic and hypocholesterolaemic activity (which may lower heart disease risk), as well as antibacterial activities.

Chopping Up Chiles into a Healthy Lifestyle

Chiles have been an important part of such diverse ethnic cuisine as Mexican, Latin, Asian, Southwestern, Caribbean, Chinese, Thai, Indian, Turkish, Japanese, and African.  Can you imagine a Szechwan, curry, or salsa without the zesty addition of chiles? Recently, health experts have been digging into the roots of the traditional Latin American diet, as this pattern of eating has been associated with lower rates of chronic disease and higher life expectancy.  One of the primary characteristics of this diet is its emphasis on plant foods, such as chiles. The American Heart Association, the American Dietetic Association, and the American Institute for Cancer Research are pushing a diet rich in a variety of colorful plant foods.

Chiles offer their health benefits in many shapes and forms.  You can call upon on fresh chiles, chile pepper oil, canned chiles, dried chiles, chile sauces, and ground chile seasonings to infuse your cuisine with health and flavor.  Why not chop fresh chiles into your dinner salad, bean soup, macaroni and cheese, rice, barbecue, chicken salad, or artichoke dip?  Stir chile sauce into spaghetti sauce, grill marinades, tortilla soup, pasta salad, and tuna salad.  Sprinkle chile powder, paprika, or red pepper into your beef stew, goulash, taco meat, poached salmon, cornbread, or salad dressing.  Conjure up a fiery pepper oil whisked with lime juice and drizzled over a Southwestern salad of chopped romaine, corn kernels, tortilla crisps, chopped tomatoes, and Monterrey Jack cheese.  Roast a handful of chile peppers, marinate them in olive oil and fresh garlic and serve them with warm tortillas as an appetizer.  After all, chiles know no boundaries.  So if you were looking for one more reason to toss them into your favorite recipe, look no more.  Chiles add zest for life in more ways than one.

Hot and Healthy Recipes Starring Chiles

Puerto Rican Chicken, Shrimp, and Steak Skewers with Sofrito

This light ensemble of grilled chicken, shrimp, and steak skewers is marinated in a fresh  sofrito, a different take on an indispensable cooking base found  in every Puerto Rican kitchen.  Note:  This recipe requires advance preparation.

1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thigh meat, cut into 20 segments

1 1/4 pounds beef skirt steak, cut into 10 segments

20 medium –sized fresh shrimp, peeled

1 green bell pepper, cut into 20 strips

1 red onion, peeled and cut into 20 wedges

1 papaya, peeled and cut into 20 cubes


1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1/4 red bell pepper, chopped

1/4 yellow bell pepper, chopped

1/4 green bell pepper, chopped

3 mild chile peppers, such as banana or yellow wax, seeds and stems removed, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Place the chicken, beef and shrimp together in a shallow dish.  Combine all sofrito ingredients in an electric blender and blend into a coarse purée.  Pour the mixture over the chicken, steak, and shrimp.  Cover and marinate for 24 hours.

To assemble the skewers, remove the meat from the marinade and discard the extra marinade.  On each metal skewer, place two segments of chicken, one segment of steak, two shrimp, two strips of green pepper, two wedges of red onion, and 2 cubes of papaya (alternating for color and variety).

Place the skewers on a hot grill and cook thoroughly, turning to heat evenly, for approximately 15 minutes until chicken and beef segments are cooked through.  Serve immediately.

Yield: 10 servings (1 skewer per serving)
Heat Scale: Mild

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