5 hot reasons to get more chilli in your life

Chilli. You either love it or loathe it, but eating this fiery ingredient can spice up your life in more ways than one.

The sizzling vegetable, notable for its hot flavour, is a popular ingredient in many parts of the world, and for good reason.

Not only can chilli really liven up a dish, but it also carries a number of notable health benefits:

A nutrient boost

Chillies have plenty of vitamin C, and are high in fibre and minerals like potassium, says Nutrition Australia dietitian Leanne Elliston.

“They do carry a fair bit of Vitamin C with 15g of fresh red chilli containing 30mg Vitamin C, which is comparable to a mandarin,” she says.

“And the red chillies also contain beta-carotene, a precursor to Vitamin A.”

But she adds that “we tend to eat small quantities so we shouldn’t rely on them as a prime source of any particular nutrient”.

Weight loss

A recent Victoria University review of chilli studies from around the world found a regular sprinkling of chilli on meals may aid weight loss.

Leanne says the capsaicin in chillies is known for kick-starting your digestive system.

“Capsaicin is known to increase metabolism which is partly responsible for why we might feel hot and sweaty after eating a chilli containing dish,” she says.

Heart health

Chilli has been associated with a lower risk of dying of a heart attack.

A study of Italian adults found that eating chilli four times a week reduced the risk of fatal heart attack by up to 40 per cent.

Live longer?

Some observational studies have linked chilli to a longer life.

A Chinese study in 2015 analysed the eating habits of 500,000 people and found that people who ate spice four times a week lived longer.

But similar research has since been carried out in the US and Italy with no definitive results.

Antioxidant kick

We all know the people who love to boast because they like it spicy, but this may be justified given more spice can increase the benefits, says The JCN Clinic clinical and functional nutritionist Jessica Cox.

“Hotter chillies have been shown to have higher capsaicin amounts, therefore higher antioxidants,” she says.

“Hotter chillies and red chillies also will then generally carry more of these bioactive compounds than green chillies.”

Can you have too much of a good thing?

Despite the health benefits, there is no good reason to go overboard when it comes to chillies.

“Chilli consumption is very individual as far as tolerance to the heat,” Jessica says.

“Generally, if someone has too much, they will know about it, experiencing diarrhoea with burning and potentially stomach cramps.”


A guide to chilli types

Bell Pepper – mild

The standard capsicum is also known as a bell pepper. While not spicy these are a nice addition to stews and salads.

Jalapeño – medium

These skinny green chillies usually turn up the heat slightly and are commonly associated with Mexican dishes.

Pimientos – hot

Also known as cherry peppers, these chillies are small, round, sweet, and give off little heat. They are commonly used in Mediterranean diets, stuffed with cream cheese.

Cayenne Peppers – medium

Considered to be on the middle of the heat spectrum, these chillies hail from South America and are commonly fired and used in cooking as well as herbal remedies.

Birds eye chilli – hot

Commonly found in the supermarket these small rest chillies pack a punch.

Habanero peppers and ghost pepper – hot

If you are looking for a challenge, these chilli varieties really turn up the heat.

Turn up the heat with these chilli recipes:

Written by Alex White.