Chilli has been a ‘hot’ topic of research in recent years, with the fiery little red and green guys being linked to appetite suppression, weight management, fat burning and blood pressure lowering effects to name but a few.  Now, a new study carried out by researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong has added more weight to the evidence of their potential health benefits with news that that the spicy compound capsaicain, and related capsaicinoids found in chilli peppers may help to protect against heart disease.

The results of this latest study showed that the cardio-protective compounds in chillies work by:

  • Helping to lower both total and ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol levels in addition to increasing its breakdown and excretion
  • Helping to reduce the size of deposits that may have already formed in blood vessels
  • Blocking the action of a gene that makes arteries contract, therefore allowing more blood to flow through blood vessels

Dr Zhen-Yu Chen, Professor of food and nutritional science at the University said,

“Our research has reinforced and expanded knowledge about how these substances in chillies work in improving heart health.”

“We now have a clearer and more detailed portrait of their innermost effects on genes and other mechanisms that influence cholesterol and the health of blood vessels.  It is among the first research to provide that information.”

The research team added that the findings do not mean that they recommend people start consuming excessive amounts of chillies, and that “a good diet is a matter of balance.”

Here’s a couple of easy ideas for including a bit more heat in your diet – taken from one of my all-time favourite cookbooks – Riverford Farm Cook Book – Tales from the fields, recipes from the kitchen.

Easy ideas for chillies…

  • Mix 2 chopped deseeded red chillies with 1 crushed clove of garlic, 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  This is a great sauce to serve with scallops, squid, fish or lamb.
  • To make chermoula (a Moroccan spice paste), mix 4 finely chopped deseeded red chillies with the juice of 2 lemons, 2 crushed garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon of roasted and ground cumin seeds, ½ tablespoon of roasted and ground coriander, 1 tablespoon of paprika, a pinch of saffron, 100ml olive oil, 1 tablespoon fresh coriander and some salt and pepper.  Whizz to a paste in a food processor.  Toss with root vegetables before roasting, or use as a marinade for fish, lamb or chicken before grilling.


Research findings presented at 243rd National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) –

Guy Watson & Jane Baxter.  Riverford Farm Cook Book – Tales from the fields, recipes from the kitchen.

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