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Chili is a hot pungent fruit of the chili plant. An essential part of many cuisines across the world, chilies are believed to have originated in Mexico in 7000 B.C. It was not until 3500 BC that chilies were grown and cultivated.

Mexicans were the first to use the fruit to spice up their food. Chili was brought to the rest of the world by Christopher Columbus when he discovered America in 1493. Chili became extremely popular in India after it was first brought to India by Vasco-da-Gama. It also found its way in ayurveda, the traditional Indian medical system.


Why should I be aware of this?

  • According to ayurveda, chili has many medicinal properties such as stimulating good digestion and endorphins, a natural pain killer to relieve pains.
  • As a general rule of thumb, the larger the chili, the milder it is.
  • The usual glass of water is not as effective in reducing the buring aftermath as milk and dairy products.
  • Some experts opine that chilies enhance weight loss.
  • Raw chilies burn on contact with the lips, tongue etc. However after being cooked, the effect is felt while it is eaten and after it is swallowed, thus giving the 'nice' burning sensation.

All about chilies

There are over 400 types of chilies. Usually smaller chilies tend to be much hotter because they contain proportionally more seeds and veins than the larger varieties. Those seeds and veins can contain up to 80 per cent of a chili’s potency in the form of capsaicin, the powerful compound that gives chilies their fiery nature.

As neither cooking nor freezing reduces the intensity of capsaicin, removing the seeds and veins is the only way to reduce a chili’s heat.

Useful tips

  • During and after preparing chilies, great the chemical capsaicin that gives chili its heat will remain on hands and equipment for hours afterwards. It can taint other food. It can be very painful if the eyes, ears, nose, mouth or private body parts are touched.
  • Add fresh chilies, chili powder, etc at the start of the cooking process, this allows it to 'cook out', the flavour to develop and the heat to diffuse
  • Add chilies sparingly, as more can be added later after tasting the food.
  • Instead of adding more chilies, you can add Tabasco sauce to get the fierce heat.
  • In Thai cuisine, a little sugar and vinegar are added if the dish as hot chilies in it. This is done while stir frying the vegetables. This chemical combination reacts with the capsiacin and decreases the chilies heat.
  • Drink plain milk or a milky drink to reduce the burning sensation instead o water. The dairy fat has a soothing effect on the chemical. This is why most cultures that use a lot of chillies in their cuisine automatically serve a dairy side dish with it: the lassie drink with Indian meals or foods, or a raita made from yoghurt and sour cream on top of nachos are a few such examples.

Chilli pungency

  • The pungency of the chili is due to capsaicin present in the membrane placenta.
  • To store and make the chili powder more pungent, mix it well with oil.
  • The hottest chili 'Naga Jolokia' in the world is found in Tezpur, India. It is 855,000 in Scoville Scale.
  • The chilli's pungency is measured by Scoville scale which was named after Wilbur Scoville. With invention of computers, the pungency of chilli can be measured by HPLC.
  • To get rid of burning feeling, it is advisable to take fat or greasy content like milk, curd, sugar, or ice cream. Drinking water will not relieve the burning of your mouth because capsaicin is insoluble in water.

Chili and weight loss

  • Weight loss increased by ten-fold when chilies were added to low-fat meals, according to a study.
  • Chilies help you lose weight by increasing your metabolism.
  • Chilies curb your appetite-especially for fatty foods and sweets.
  • Chilies make you feel good by releasing endorphins.
  • Chilies make it easier to stick to a healthy diet because the food has more flavor.

Health benefits of chili

  • Chilies have vitamin C and vitamin A containing beta-carotenoids which are powerful antioxidant. These antioxidants destroy free radical bodies that damage the cells.
  • The antioxidant in chilies is said to destroy cholesterol.
  • Chilies act as detoxifiers as they removes waste products from our body and increases supply nutrients to the tissues. It also acts as gastrointestinal detoxicants helping in digestion of food.
  • Chilies stimulate the release of endorphins that are natural pain killers. *
  • When chili is eaten, it makes the brain to release endorphins, a natural painkiller present in the body. The endorphin lowers blood pressure and helps to fight against cancer.


It is usually believed that the seeds are hottest part of the chili. While they are hot, the worst part is the white placenta that holds the seeds to the inside of the pod. So both the seeds and placenta must be removed to decrease the heat.


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