Many advantages of eating red and green chillies but one must be very careful, too hot to handle.

Anybody can cook like our “kussi amma” who cooks nice tasty food due to long experience. Those days there were no modern facilities like gas and electric cookers, microwaves, ovens, fridges, freezers, electric gadgets to cut, grind and slice and no extractor fans either just smoking firewood stoves. When I think about the past I cannot really understand how she managed to stay for a long time inside a hot, dusty and smoky kitchen and do all those tasks by   herself. A kerosene lamp sits by the stove as if it watches whatever she does. As there was no electricity, the only light was that humble kerosene lamp that gives out a trail of black soot and the yellow flame dance and shakes all the time like a sexy dancer shaking the hips. That was her only television and no radio either. Sometimes it helps her to use some kerosene to light up the firewood. She occasionally fries red chillies, sprats and papadams as well. One must try and see what happens when these things are fried. The smell given out by frying red chillies stimulates some glands in the nose and throat, makes you drool and cough. Once you started to blow the nose and clear the throat, perhaps some stress is released.

 Medically chillies are really good

Eating chillies can have a very positive impact on people that are overweight or suffer from diabetes, say a team of researchers at The University of Tasmania, whose research was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, in July 2006.
The study carried out yielded that the normal eating of chillies can help significantly control insulin levels after eating a meal. The people with type 1 and type diabetes know exactly why they take insulin. The actual data they collected was able to show that after eating chillies, the amount of insulin needed to lower the body’s blood sugar level following a meal was reduced by a staggering 60%. The exact way in which chillies act to reduce the need of insulin by this amount is not fully understood yet, but it certainly spells good news for people who have diabetes, as the effects produced by consuming a low amount of chilli are easy to achieve in everyday cooking. I was wondering why some people like Sri Lankan breakfast such as “Lunumiris” and hoppers and string hoppers and red “Polsambol”.

Hot and spicy but taste nice

I have seen how our servants back home in Sri Lanka cooked various dishes with red chillies ground together with other spices. In the past they had to grind them in a motor and pestal or on real grinding stones called “Mirisgala”. They are highly experienced in these preparations due to years of practical experience, not by looking into any cookery books or influenced by TV cooking programmes. When red chillies, onions, curry leaves and mustard seeds are fried together and added to red lentil curry, it tastes delicious. Fried red chillies are eaten with meals because they taste just nice with rice and curries as someone said, they are rice pullers that is tend to eat more rice. There are numerous ways of adding and using red chillies as whole and ground form.

More health benefits of eating chillies

Chilies contain health benefiting an alkaloid compound in them, capsaicin, which gives them strong spicy pungent character. Early laboratory studies on experimental mammals suggest that capsaicin has anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, analgesic and anti-diabetic properties. It also found to reduce LDL cholesterol levels in obese individuals no wonder there are hardly any obese people in Sri Lanka unlike in England. In Western countries they eat fried bacon and sausages which are full of saturated fats and oils, salt, additives and colouring. The World Health Organisation has ranked processed meat as a cause of cancer; putting it in the same category as asbestos, alcohol, arsenic and tobacco. A processed meat is any meat that has been cured, salted, smoked, or preserved in some way, to change the taste or extend the shelf life. Bacon, sausages, ham and salami are all processed meats. How exactly processed meat can cause cells to become cancerous is still being researched, but the chief culprit seemed to be chemicals involved in the production of processed meat, which can be converted into cancer-causing compounds once in the body. Chief among these are nitrates and nitrites, salts which help kill bacteria in products like bacon, and which also lend them that distinctive pink colour without them, bacon would actually be grey. MSG or monosodium glutamate or Ajina Motto is a kind of salt that is full of nitrites and nitrates. A pinch of it on some dishes tastes nice but not quite healthy. In most restaurants and takeaways this MSG is added to make their food very tasty.

Fresh chili peppers, red and green, are rich source of vitamin-C. 100 g fresh chilies provide about 143.7 µg or about 240% of RDA. Vitamin C is a potent water-soluble antioxidant. It is required for the collagen synthesis inside the human body. Collagen is one of the main structural protein required for maintaining the integrity of blood vessels, skin, organs, and bones. Regular consumption of foods rich in vitamin C helps protect from scurvy, develop resistance against infectious agents (boosts immunity), and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals from the body.

Other chemicals in chillies

They are also good in other antioxidants such as vitamin-A, and flavonoids like ß-carotene, a-carotene, lutein, zea-xanthin, and cryptoxanthin. These antioxidant substances in capsicum help protect the body from injurious effects of free radicals generated during stress and diseases conditions.

Chilies carry a good amount of minerals like potassium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.

How about more reasons

Chilies are also good in B-complex group of vitamins such as niacin, pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), riboflavin and thiamine (vitamin B-1). These vitamins are essential in the sense that human body requires them from external sources to replenish. Try preparing some curries without green chillies actually they do not taste the same as with them. People often eat green sambal with things like “Wade”. One must try to believe the taste. The smaller version of green chillies or “Koch-chi” are really hot, again sambal made with them also have a unique taste.

Chili peppers have amazingly high levels of vitamins and minerals. Just 100 g provides (in % of recommended daily allowance): 240% of vitamin-C (Ascorbic acid), 39% of vitamin B-6 Pyridoxine, 32% of vitamin A, 13% of iron, 14% of copper, 7% of potassium, but no cholesterol whereas bacon and sausages are rich in cholesterol. Some people are recommended to take Simvastatin. It is in a group of drugs called HMG CoA reductase inhibitors, or "statins." It reduces levels of "bad" cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, or LDL) and triglycerides in the blood, while increasing levels of "good" cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein, or HDL). Simvastatin is in a group of drugs called HMG CoA reductase inhibitors, or "statins." It reduces levels of "bad" cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, or LDL) and triglycerides in the blood, while increasing levels of "good" cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein, or HDL). That means Simvastatin is used to lower cholesterol and triglycerides (types of fat) in the blood.

Medicinal uses

Chili peppers contain chemical compound, capsaicin and its co-compounds being employed in the preparation of ointments, rubs and tinctures for their astringent, counter-irritant and analgesic properties. These formulations have been in use in the treatment of arthritic pain, post-herpetic neuropathic pain, sore muscles, etc. Scientific studies on experimental mammals suggest that capsaicin has anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, analgesic and anti-diabetic properties. It also found to reduce LDL cholesterol levels in obese persons.

Culinary uses

 I have seen some British TV chefs just cut and put these green and red chillies in their preparations. Raw, fresh chilies should be washed in clean water before used in cooking in order to remove any residual fungicides, dust and traces of fertilizers and sand. Chilies, either fresh or ground, can cause severe burning sensation to hands and severe irritation to nasal passages, eyes and throat. Therefore, it may be advised in some sensitive individuals to use thin hand gloves and face masks while handling chilies. With all that difficulties our “Kussi Ammas” prepared red chillies paste on “Miris-gala|”.

Safety profile

Chili peppers contain capsaicin, which gives strong spicy pungent character. Capsaicin when eaten causes severe irritation and hot sensation to mouth, tongue and throat. Capsaicin in chilies initially elicits local inflammation when it comes in contact with mucosa of oral cavity, throat and stomach, and soon causes severe burning sensation that is perceived as ‘hot’ through free nerve endings in the mucosa. Eating cold yogurt helps reduce the burning pain by diluting capsaicin concentration and preventing its contact with mucosal walls. Avoid touching eyes with chili-contaminated fingers. Rinse eyes thoroughly in cold water to reduce irritation. Chilies may aggravate existing gastro-oesophageal reflux (GER) condition. When boiling chicken or beef curries are opened to add this and that then taste them, the cooking aroma given out also contains this chillies in the vapour form then it is likely to deposit on the fingers, hands, face, open chest, hair and also on clothes. I was wondering why these Sri Lankan ladies keep on opening the boiling chicken and beef curries, is it to have a secret aroma beauty therapy? I am sure you don’t get the answer, as it is a traditional secret beauty therapy. Have you changed your mind to try and eat things such as curries and “Polsambol” made out by adding chillies? May be you don’t know how to prepare them but now these readymade, bottled “Pol-sambol” and “Lunu-miris” are available in most Sri Lankan grocery shops and even in London as well as in leading supermarkets on the World Foods Section. Your comments are welcomed This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Dr Hector Perera


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