Chile Chili Festival

Eating Red Chile Makes You Healthier

By Jane Butel

With fall’s arrival, green chiles ripen to become red.  The amazing phenomenon is that the nutrition also changes.  In green chiles the flesh is very rich with Vitamin C, whereas when the slant of the sun signals Fall—the flesh becomes very rich with Vitamin A, the sight vitamin.

Eating chiles—any type, red or green  arms oneself with myriads of healthful properties.  Studies have shown that if people eat chiles 24 out of every 30 or so days in a month—they are much healthier.   Jin Y. Kang, MD of the National University of Singapore, studied the effects of chiles on digestion.

“Kang discovered that ulcer-free patients ate 2.6 times more chile than those with ulcers.  The ulcer-free patients ate chile more often—24 times per month, compared with 8 times per month for those with ulcers.”

Another report in the Nutrition Reporter by Jack Challem said, “People suffering from ulcers are usually warned to avoid spicy foods.  But new research suggests that capsaicin is the opposite—that capsaicin might actually protect against peptic ulcers.”

The seasonal cold and flu season brings another reason to enjoy indulging in chiles.  Chiles cure colds—even the ancients knew this.  John Heinerman’s book, The Healing Benefits of Cayenne, published in 1997, reflects that a Mayan Curandera or Medicine Woman
recommended a combination of the local sour orange juice combined with a pinch of cayenne.  This was drunk and gargled and cured the flu symptoms in 24 hours.

In New Mexico, a major chile growing state, the red chiles are dried for future use.  Traditionally they were dried in space-saving strings or ristras.  These allowed the sun to evenly reach all of the chiles.  Once dried, they are best kept cool or even refrigerated or frozen for later cooking.

Grinding the chiles has become a popular and space-saving method for storing chiles.  They are then best stored chilled in the refrigerator or freezer.

If it is hard to remember the healthful properties of eating chiles—try keeping a small bowl of crushed or ground chiles on the dinner table.  Sprinkle on foods instead of black pepper or in addition—a little bit goes a long way towards better health and they are an amazing flavor accent.  Crushed chiles coupled with fresh lime wedges are great on nearly anything.

Another way to add chiles to your diet is to create a chile tea or tisane for days when you are not eating chiles.  Steep ground red chiles in hot water until the color of the water is a deep red hue, then strain and reserve the chile water.  Serve hot or cold – add honey and lemon, lime or vinegar to taste.

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