Well, if it isn’t everyone’s favorite spicy pepper, Capsicum annuum. Or just plain old jalapeño, as it’s more commonly known.
But besides providing a flavorful, fiery kick, do these little green peppers boast any bona fide health benefits?
Here’s the lowdown.
Before we dig into the longer-term potential benefits of eating these picante peppers, here’s a full nutritional rundown of what can be found inside one raw jalapeño:
|% of Daily Value
|Vitamin K (potassium)
|3.78 µg (micrograms)
We all love ’em, but is it a match made in heaven… or the fiery depths of hell? 🔥
1. They’re packed with immune system-supporting vitamins
Don’t be fooled by these green peppers’ tiny size. In addition to giving you a spicy slap around the chops, they pack a serious nutritional punch.
As you can see above, they contain a fair amount of vitamins C and K.
Vitamin C is a powerhouse nutrient with antioxidant properties. Your body uses it to make collagen, which helps with wound healing. Vitamin C also helps your body absorb more iron from the food you eat. One raw jalapeño pepper has a whopping 16.7 milligrams of vitamin C, around 18.5 percent of your total Daily Value.
Vitamin K — aka potassium — plays an important role in bone health and the production of proteins involved in blood clotting.
2. They may promote gut health
This might sound counterintuitive, given how your bowels may feel the day after eating too many. But there’s a growing body of evidence that spicy chiles like jalapeños can promote gut health.
This looks like another occasion to roll out the red (or in this case, green) carpet for our hero molecule, capsaicin.
According to the same review, a diet high in capsaicin might actually help relieve bowel pain associated with inflammatory bowel disease.
However, since the data from the study comes mostly from experimental models, more human testing is needed to really show adequate effects in this context.
3. They may help you live longer
A bold claim to be sure. But can it be true?
Participants who consumed spicy foods 6 or 7 days per week showed a 14 percent reduction in relative risk of mortality when compared with those who ate spicy foods less than once a week.
It’s unlikely that they were all munching on jalapeños, so this isn’t concrete evidence. But it’s solid enough to make you feel just a little bit smug the next time you pop one into your mouth.
4. They may help keep your heart healthy
Do you know what three of the biggest risk factors are for heart disease? Diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
A 2015 review found that capsaicin may have important potential for promoting vascular and metabolic health. In rodent studies, there was also evidence of a positive effect on diabetes-related illness.
A 2018 study of 1,549 volunteers ages 65 and up found that increased spicy food consumption could help decrease some risks of cardiovascular disease.
However, this study took place in China. So while the results are promising, more research is needed to find out whether these effects happen in other populations as well.
Well, peeps, the real question is… how hot can you handle?
If you’re used to subjecting yourself to the fiery torments of hot chiles, then you can probably handle eating jalapeños raw.
They rate anywhere from 2,500 to 8,000 on the Scoville scale, which is used to measure the heat found in chiles.
They’re not the spiciest ones out there. But certain varieties, like the purple jalapeño, are much, much hotter.
Here are a few ways you can eat them:
If spicy food ain’t your jam, or if you’re very sensitive to spicy peppers in general, then jalapeños might not be for you.
The most obvious side effect is the burning sensation you get in your mouth after eating them. And, uh… what goes in must come out, if you catch our drift.
Spicy foods have also been known to trigger symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome in some people — particularly those who don’t regularly eat them.
Despite all this, if you still can’t resist their wily ways, there are a few things you can do to ease the burn:
- Remove the seeds and membranes. This is where all the heat is stored. Removing them can help lessen the burn, and you still get to enjoy all their flavor.
- Know your
enemyjalapeño. Remember, some varieties are hotter than others. Find a milder variety if that better suits your constitution.
- Get some gloves. Wearing gloves can help you avoid any chil-incidents in the kitchen. They will keep you from transferring capsaicin to sensitive areas like your face and eyes.
- When all else fails, grab some milk. Since the magical compound capsaicin is fat-soluble, full-fat milk can help dissolve it and ease the pain. A 2019 study suggests the protein in milk could also be responsible for cooling the burn from spicy foods.
Got a hankering for jalapeños? Here are a few of our favorite spicy recipes to get your fix:
- Pico de gallo salsa with jalapeños
- Baked jalapeño poppers
- Green goddess jalapeño cocktail
- Slow-cooker chili with jalapeño cheddar cornbread
- Roasted jalapeño hummus
- Sticky honey jalapeño island chicken
- Pea shoot, radish, and fermented jalapeño tostadas
- Candied jalapeños
- Taco salad with jalapeño ranch
- Cajun chickpea fries with cilantro jalapeño lime dip
Jalapeños may be small, but they’re packed with a surprising amount of vitamins and nutrients for their size.
They’re also loaded with capsaicin, the spicy molecule that boasts numerous health benefits for your body.
So if you can handle the heat, these picante peppers can be an awesome addition to your diet. Just remember that you’ll only have yourself to blame if you eat too many. 🌶️