Eating chilli: A spicy and healthy activity

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The latest world development reports indicate that the past few decades have evidenced an increase in health gains not only in developed countries, but also in the developing countries, but the situation in Pakistan remains poor. Pakistan is one of the countries which are at the alarming stage of malnutrition and 24 per cent of the countrys population is undernourished. United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has reported 37.5 million people are not receiving proper nourishment in Pakistan.

Pakistan is an agriculture country and producing highly nutritive and health beneficial commodities including fruits, vegetables and other cereals. People should know about these commodities and their nutritional value and medicinal properties so that they will maintain and improve their health status. One of them is chili pepper that is one of very important spices as well as vegetables. In Pakistan, chili is grown in an area of 47.3 thousand hectare and production is about 70 thousand tons. Pakistan grows one of the best chilies of world.

World medical reports mostly show that food with low nutrition value causes severe physical and mental disorders. So we have a Chili pepper with high nutrition value, as it consists vitamins, minerals and active ingredients (phytochemical compounds) like Flavonoids B-carotene, a-carotene, lutein, zea-xanthin and cryptoxanthin and most important Capsaicin.

In case of vitamins it has vitamin-C, vitamin-A, vitamin-E, vitamin K and B-complex group of vitamin. These vitamins are essential in the sense that human body cannot synthesize them and required to take them from external source which plays an important role in the body like vitamin A important in vision, reproduction and bone growth. Vitamin-C promotes a healthy immune system and required for making chemical messenger in the brain. Vitamin-E prevents the diseases of heart and blood vessels. Vitamin-K helps clot blood and maintains bone health, while B-complex group of vitamins helps in regulation of blood pressure and aids in digestion and Chili is the best source to enjoy all the benefits of these vitamins

Chili pepper contains a good amount of minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium while copper, zinc, manganese and selenium are present in trace amount. Calcium built and maintains the bones and teeth. Iron helps to transport the oxygen to all parts of body. Potassium helps in the function of nervous system and muscles, while magnesium and phosphorous aid the body to make energy.

A considerable amount of flavonoids like B-carotene, a-carotene, lutein, zea-xanthin and cryptoxanthin is present in chilies which have the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiallergenic, antiviral and anti-carcinogenic properties.

Chili has a hot sensation as phytochemical compound of chili pepper, Capsaicin, has most wonderful medicinal and pharmaceutical importance. It is too hot and produces a sensation of burning in any tissue of body with which it comes into contact. The Scoville scale is the measure of the hotness (capsaicin) of a chili pepper. A sweet pepper, that has no capsaicin at all, has a Scoville rating of zero, while hottest chili pepper like habaneros has a rating of 300,000 or more.

Latest scientific studies proved that Capsaicin has anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-diabetic properties. It kills the cancer cells by attacking the mitochondria of these cells which are the power plants of cancer cells, without harming other normal cells. Its anti-inflammatory property improves the circulation. It is anti-allergen and helps relieve allergies. It improves the saliva production, an important key to good digestion and maintaining oral health.

Research shows that capsaicin reduces the chances of heart attack as it stimulates the fibrinolysis activity and prevents the blood clot formation. It also promotes the heart health by reducing the high blood pressure and cholesterol level. It is used to treat wounds, snake bites and sores.

Studies revealed that capsaicin involve in burn fat and lose weight, provide pain relief, improve intestinal condition, fight against tooth and gums diseases. Chili peppers are also low in fat and cholesterol. So take chili in your daily diet and enjoy a healthy life.

The writer is a student of the Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan.


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