Spices for health and why it's best to turn up the HEAT

The Good Life Letter 
24th October 2010

  • Discover the guilty secret of mixing pleasure
    with pain
  • These spices for health could just save you from a life of misery and pain
  • How hot do you want it?

Every so often one of the papers run an expose of the
seedy private life of a celebrity.......... well I hope your are
ready for this, because I want to tell you all about my love

It's true, I have discovered that one of my favourite
experiences has more to do with pain, than purely a
pleasurable response.

Dungeons, whips, leather and chains? I hate to disappoint
you but my SECRET pleasure has nothing to do with any
of that!

It's about how I spend my evenings in the kitchen.

Let me explain.

My guilty secret revealed...

I love of hot and spicy food, in fact I even wrote a book
about how spices for health can help you live a better life. See here: http://www.spicehealer.co.uk/

Whether we venture down to our local tandoori restaurant
or break out the spices at home, I really enjoy the
sensations and tastes from a well prepared dish.

What I only discovered recently though, is that the way
chilli works on the body has as much to do with pain
pathways as it does to do with taste.

Around the mouth, in the nose and over the tongue there
are many nerve endings which provide us with the range
of sensory input which our bodies interpret as taste.

The nerves which are responsible for taste respond to
stimulation from the molecules in our food which the brain
determines as pleasurable  - or not.

Capsaicin, the main pungent ingredient in chillis, actually
stimulates a nerve which normally detects pain in the jaw,
and one which controls heart rate. As a result the body
reacts by firing off protective systems in the stomach and
digestive tract, as well as slowing heart rate.

Result? Improved digestion and lower blood pressure.
That's amazing.... just from eating one little bell pepper!

The role of chillis in lowering blood pressure was the
subject of a recent study reported in the Independent last
month. In their findings, the scientists also discovered
that capsaicin works by activating a special "channel" in
the lining of the blood vessels called the transient receptor
potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1). When the channel is
activated, it increases the production of nitric oxide in the
blood vessels that is believed to protect against
inflammation and other vascular problems.

Initially the researchers were alerted to the potential of
chillis by examining the levels of hypertension in various
regional populations in China, where it was found to be
greater than 20 per cent in the north-eastern regions of
the country, but between 10 and 14 per cent in south-
western regions such as Sichuan where spicy food is more
commonly eaten.

Hot, hotter......... hottest

The big problem with chillis though, is that not everyone
likes the fiery heat of a good curry - which is where the
scientists have some good news for you.

Dr Zhiming Zhu of Third Military Medical University in
Chongqing, China says that eating hot, spicy food may not
be necessary to gain the benefits of chillis because similar
compounds are present in sweet peppersThere is a world
recognised scale for testing the heat of chillis, which was
developed by Wilbur Scoville in 1902, and bears his name
until this day.

Under the Scoville scale chilli peppers are given units of
heat so that the hottest chilli known to man - the Dorset
Naga Pepper - has a score of 923,000. By comparison the
Jalapeno pepper of Mexican fame is only 2,500 - 8,000 on
the scale.

So if you are looking for the health benefits without the
heat seek out the peppers with scores below 500 which
includes pimento and bell peppers.

Try this easy microwave recipe for a quick pepper dish:

Take 2 nice peppers (I prefer the red ones, but it's up to
you), de-seed them and cut into thin strips.  Put them in a
microwave safe dish, drizzle with olive oil, salt & pepper
and bung them in on high power for 6-7 minutes. 
Delicious!  The peppers get all soft and melting, and
unlike some other methods of cooking are easy to digest.

OK, that was one for the light weights - the rest of you,
chuck some spice in the pot tonight and feel the burn of
healthy eating - it really does work.





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