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For centuries, cayenne pepper has been chopped, dried and even powdered for multiple uses. While some natural health practitioners use it to make medicines, it is most commonly available as a spice in grocery stores. Whether you prefer the actual pepper or dried spice, adding cayenne pepper to your meals has many health benefits.
Types of Nutrients in Cayenne Pepper
Cayenne pepper is best known for its bright red color and fiery taste. When eaten, it usually heats up the body and might even cause you to sweat. These effects are caused by a nutrient called capsaicin. Capsaicin has been scientifically linked to everything from easing indigestion to weight loss. It is believed to be a powerful substance that helps break down and absorb the nutrients in food. It also supports intestinal muscles for smoother digestion.
Research on capsaicin has led many experts to believe that it helps improve blood circulation. Improved blood flow means that you are less likely to develop blood clots, which are major causes of strokes and cardiac arrests. Capsaicin is also a detoxifying agent because it eliminates bodily toxins through sweating and blood circulation.
Vitamins and Minerals in Cayenne Pepper
Other than capsaicin, cayenne pepper contains high levels of vitamins A and C. These vitamins are needed for healthy hair, skin and vision. Vitamin C helps to generate collagen, which is responsible for keeping organs and tissue in good condition as we age. Taking adequate amounts of these vitamins can prevent common ailments and speed up recovery from injuries.
In terms of minerals, cayenne pepper is a highly-rated source of potassium. Potassium can help counter the negative effects of too much sodium in the body, and keep fluids in balance. Other minerals present in cayenne pepper include copper, iron, manganese, magnesium, selenium and zinc.
Cayenne Pepper and Weight Loss
Since research on capsaicin began, many manufacturers have been producing weight loss products with cayenne pepper as a major ingredient. This is because some experts believe that it can speed up metabolism to quicken weight loss. Because cayenne pepper also heats the body, it is thought that it might help burn calories naturally.
Cooking with Cayenne Pepper
Incorporating cayenne pepper into your diet is very easy. It makes a tasty, hot seasoning for many foods. You can dice the pepper or add teaspoons of the spice to soups, stews, casseroles and vegetable side dishes. To make it a little milder, mix it with other herbs and spices, and use with dairy-based dressings and sauces. Another great cooking tip is to use it in a stir fry with pumpkin, butternut squash, potatoes and seeds for a nutritional treat.
Warnings and Precautions
Unfortunately, not everyone has the stomach for cayenne pepper and should instead avoid it. It is best to stay away from it if you suffer from frequent gastro reflux and ulcers. It is advisable to choose fresh, young cayenne peppers over the aged variety as they tend to contain mold that can cause cancers. Speak to your doctor about capsaicin supplements.