Saturday, 2 February 2013

Some Like it Hot and Healthy!

In my previous post about Chai oats ( I touched upon the health benefits of certain spices.  When you get guidance about the importance of certain foods in your diet (5-a-day, vitamin and mineral charts,etc) there is never really any mention of herbs and spices so I wanted to expand on this a little more here.  The fact also remains that Phil is very fond of his chili hits so I knew it wouldn't be too long before we included chili in one of our posts!

Herbs and spices are not only extremely important in adding flavour to our food but it seems they are the hidden heroes.  They are some of the most potent sources of antioxidants.  Often people are extremely keen to grab for the nearest pill or supplement to sort out health issues but what about looking to add more of the natural and readily available benefits of herbs, spices and other flavourings in the first place? 

Take simple onions and garlic for instance, which luckily many people do naturally include when cooking; they both help the body produce gluthathione, a powerful antioxidant and the main detoxifier of the body.  If you don't cook from 'scratch' often and you rely on pre-made conveniences then maybe you are missing out on the good stuff more than you think.

Then there's chili.  Phil adores it and I like it to a certain degree.  I never really understood how something that burns your mouth and can make you perspire profusely could be good for you but research has shown chili to have surprising health benefits.  Actually it isn't that surprising that it can help clear congestion but it has also been shown to lower blood sugar levels, boost circulation and thin blood.  Chillies contain capsiacin, which is a potent inhibitor of substance P, a neuropeptide associated with the inflammatory process. The greater the capsiacin content, the hotter the chili.  Capsiacin can also provide pain relief, and there is currently a lot of research into this aspect of chili, with the use of creams to help the pain of rheumatoid  arthritis.  I even found research that indicated that chili can help prevent and treat prostate and gastric cancers. No doubt this is just scratching the surface of the benefits of this amazing little plant, as is the case with many other offerings that Mother Nature has naturally provided for us.  It is also no coincidance that chili is added to a lot of food from the tropics, as it is anti bacterial and helps the food keep for longer in the warm tropical climate.

There are so many different varieties of chili to explore too.  Like fine wines they each have their own regional qualities; from the smoky heat of mexican chipotle, to the intense heat of cayenne, to the game of "pot luck" played with spanish Padron peppers, where their lovely mild taste can lull you into a false sense of security as you bite into the 1 in 20 peppers that are really quite hot!  Some may 'blow your head off' but some of the less hot ones can have their own unique subtle flavour revelations to discover and enjoy.  We've only recently started to explore this area more and shall be looking forward to growing and eating varieties we've never tried before over the coming months (watch this space).

Our journey in chili exploration will probably begin at the Dartmoor Chilli Farm in neighbouring Devon. They farm naturally and holistically without the use of herbicides or pesticides and use the bio dynamic cycle to grow their plants.  Sounds like the right place to start our 'health kick'!

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