American Heart Association Says Eating Chili Peppers Could Lengthen Life

chilies may have qualities that reduce risk of heart disease, cancer

By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer

The American Heart Association said chili pepper consumption may help you live longer, Fox News reported. The group of fruits could have qualities that reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. Their spiciness can be reduced in the kitchen.

Chili on a cutting board
By cutting the ribs and seeds out of chili peppers, their heat is greatly reduced before adding them to other ingredients in a recipe. Photo By Jiri Hera / Shutterstock

According to Fox News, the spice of life may be in the chili pepper family. “Preliminary research has suggested that regular chili pepper consumers could have longer lifespans due to the fruit’s anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-cancer, and blood-glucose regulating properties,” the article said. “These factors play a role in reducing a person’s risk of dying from a cardiovascular disease or cancer, according to the [American Heart Association].

“Researchers who have come to this determination analyzed 4,728 studies related to chili peppers and the aforementioned illnesses.”

Many eaters have an aversion to very spicy foods, and chilies are a significant factor of spicy cuisine. However, their heat can be reduced considerably during preparation and they make for delicious eating.

Take Out the Fire, Leave in the Warmth

Before his unfortunate passing, Chef Bill Briwa, a chef instructor at The Culinary Institute of America, taught a lecture series for The Great Courses about cooking with vegetables. It included Chef Briwa’s material on chilies, “a fruit that is masquerading as a vegetable,” which is used in this article.

Chilies range in their heat content, from poblano chilies to jalapeños and habaneros,” Chef Briwa said. “Chilies contain an oil called capsaicin, which is what makes them hot. About 60% of the heat of a chili is in the ribs, the white portion that supports the seeds. The remaining 40% is equally divided between the seeds and the flesh.”

This means that by carefully removing the ribs and the seeds from any chili pepper with a knife during preparation, its heat can be reduced by as much as four-fifths, or 80%, before it ever comes in contact with another ingredient. While that leaves some spiciness in the pepper, it pales in comparison to using the entire chili.

The Spice Extends Life

One dish that will help you seize upon the life-extending properties of chilies is the popular chiles rellenos. These are chilies that have been stuffed, dipped into a batter, then fried.

“Start by roasting poblano chilies over an open flame [and] keep turning them until the outside is blackened,” Chef Briwa said. “Once they’re blackened, wipe them clean with a paper towel; the skin will wipe off easily. For the stuffing, combine Monterey Jack cheese and crumbled Mexican oregano.

“To stuff the poblano chilies, start by opening them down one side and remove the seeds and rib, keeping the rest of the chilies firm, without any new cuts or breaks. Stuff the chilies with the seasoned cheese and close them with bamboo skewers.”

Chef Briwa said that to make the batter, separate the eggs into whites and yolks, then whip the whites with salt until they increase in volume sevenfold and “hold a firm, slightly dry peak.” Then whip the yolks with salt and fold them into the whites. Then heat oil in a pan, dip the chilies into flour, then dip them into the batter—making sure they’re fully coated—and drop them into the hot oil. As the chilies cook, he said, the batter will brown.

“The chilies will heat up, and the cheese on the inside will become very soft,” he said. “Once the chilies are puffy and brown on the first side, turn them over to let them brown on the other side. Put the fried chilies on a pan covered with paper towels to drain any excess fat [and] turn the oil off.

“Add green salsa, Mexican rice, and black beans to a plate; twist the skewers out of the chiles rellenos and add them to the plate.”

Chiles rellenos are a great way to add chili peppers into your diet without suffering from too much heat—and it seems they may reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer.

Edited by Angela Shoemaker, Wondrium Daily

This article contains material taught by Chef Bill Briwa. Before his passing, Chef Briwa was a popular chef-instructor at The Culinary Institute of America (CIA). For more than 30 years, he worked in the hospitality business as a professional chef and culinary instructor for experts and laypeople around the world.