I like peppers. I like cooking with them. I like eating them. I like growing them. The best part about peppers, aside from the great taste, is how good they are for you. Peppers have a spicy image for a very good reason. They can make an otherwise bland dish tasty, and they come in such an array of colors, peppers also make an aesthetically appealing addition to any dish. Peppers also provide a decent amount of fiber, an important part of our diets.
All peppers are rich in vitamins A, C, and K, but red peppers are simply bursting with them. The antioxidants found in peppers help to prevent cell damage and diseases related to aging plus they support your immune function. Peppers also help reduce inflammation such as that found in arthritis and asthma.
Red peppers are a good source of lycopene (a carotenoid), which is earning a reputation for helping to prevent prostate cancer as well as cancer of the bladder, cervix, and pancreas. Another carotenoid found in peppers, beta-cryptoxanthin, during research has shown promise for helping to prevent lung cancer related to smoking and secondhand smoke.
The fire in hot peppers comes from capsaicin, which acts on pain receptors, not taste buds, in our mouths. We find capsaicin in the white membranes of peppers, as well as the seeds. Capsaicin in hot peppers can decrease blood cholesterol and triglycerides, boost immunity, as well as reduce the risk of stomach ulcers (hot peppers used to be thought to aggravate ulcers).
One other bonus to both hot and sweet peppers is they contain additional substances that have been shown to increase the body’s heat production and oxygen consumption for about 20 minutes after eating, thus helping your body to burn extra calories which translates into helping weight loss. (One of the reasons I like peppers!)
The “heat” in various peppers is measured using the Scoville Heat Unit. The number of Scoville heat units indicates the amount of capsaicin present. Numerical results for any variety of pepper can be dependent on many things: cultivation conditions, uncertainty of the laboratory methods used to assess the capsaicinoid content, seed lineage, climate (humidity can be a big factor), and even soil composition (this is especially true of habaneros).
The following list shows the ratings of some of the various peppers.
Scoville heat units — Examples
15,000,000-16,000,000 — Pure capsaicin
5,000,000-5,300,000 — Law enforcement grade pepper spray
855,000-1,463,700 — Infinity Chilli, Naga Jolokia pepper (ghost chili)
350,000-580,000 — Red Savina habanero
100,000-350,000 — Habanero chili, Jamaican hot pepper
50,000-100,000 — Bird’s eye chili
30,000-50,000 — Cayenne pepper, Ají pepper, Tabasco pepper
10,000-23,000 — Serrano pepper, Aleppo pepper
2,500-8,000 — Jalapeño pepper, Guajillo pepper, New Mexico varieties of Anaheim pepper, Paprika (Hungarian wax pepper), Tabasco sauce
500-2,500 — Anaheim pepper, Poblano pepper
100-500 — Pimento, Peperoncini, Banana pepper
0 No significant heat — Bell pepper
Regardless of the actual “heat” one feels when eating peppers, the addition to any dish when cooking is remarkably beneficial.
SPICY CHICKEN RIGATONI
6 ounces rigatoni
3 roma tomatoes, diced
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped, divided
2 small cans Spicy V-8 juice
8 ounces chicken (breast or thighs, boneless) cut in cubes
¼ cup onion, diced
1 jalapeno, chopped
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Black pepper, freshly ground to taste
Cook rigatoni per package instructions, drain and place in a casserole dish. (Keep warm.)
In a skillet sprayed with extra virgin olive oil, sauté the tomatoes, parsley, cilantro, basil and one chopped garlic clove. Cook on medium heat for 3 minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the V-8 juice and simmer on low heat for 12-15 minutes. Pour over rigatoni. (Keep warm.)
In another skillet sprayed with extra virgin olive oil, place the chicken, onion, jalapenos, and remaining chopped garlic clove. Sprinkle with cayenne pepper and cook on medium heat until check is almost done. Add freshly ground pepper and continue to cook for 3 minutes more. Combine with other ingredients in the casserole dish and either serve immediately. This dish can also be made ahead and reheated easily in a 350 degree oven.
I really like making (and eating!) this dish. The flavors of each ingredient go well together. It can be rather time consuming (45 minutes to 1 hour prep and cook time), but the effort is worth it! The best part is because of the agreement my husband and I have (I cook, he cleans up after me), making this gives me the opportunity to get lots of dishes dirty!