FoodExploring red pepper: The under-appreciated spice with top-chef approval and health benefits

Exploring red pepper: The under-appreciated spice with top‑chef approval and health benefits

Red pepper - Delicacies
Red pepper - Delicacies
Images source: © Adobe Stock

5:03 PM EST, January 8, 2024

Red pepper originally hails from South America, particularly from areas now known as Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. The peppercorn tree, where it grows, is a visually appealing plant with reddish leaves and clusters of flowers. While often planted for its ornamental value, in the kitchen, it promises more than mere decoration.

The real value of the peppercorn tree lies in its fruits, primarily available in two varieties: Brazilian and Peruvian. Once dried, they resemble the familiar grains of pepper and lend a mild spiciness and pleasing aroma to dishes, making this spice a firm favorite among top chefs.

Is red pepper beneficial to health?

The fruits of the peppercorn tree have found use in South American traditional medicine for centuries, notably as an astringent, antibacterial, antiviral substance, diuretic, tonic, digestive stimulant, and wound healing agent.

Spicy sensations sparked by consuming red pepper, akin to those from black pepper, stem from the presence of piperine – a chemical that boosts metabolism and acts as an analgesic and an anti-inflammatory agent. Piperine accelerates the heart rate, increases heat production, and triggers processes that foster efficient fat burning. This makes it particularly significant for individuals grappling with overweight issues or obesity. Furthermore, piperine curbs hunger and stimulates the release of endorphins, often referred to as "happiness hormones", which positively impact mood.

Considering red pepper

Red pepper is a notable source of vitamin C, which not only fortifies the body's immunity but also serves as a robust antioxidant capable of neutralizing harmful free radicals. These molecules accelerate aging processes in the body and are linked to the emergence of various diseases like cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer's or Parkinson's.

Red pepper
Red pepper© Adobe Stock

The spice is abundant in dietary fiber, which supports the proper functioning of the intestines, enhances peristaltic movement, and regulates bowel movements (stimulating digestion and preventing constipation). Red pepper is a rich source of minerals, especially calcium, iron, and magnesium.

Where can red pepper be used?

In the United States, red pepper usually comes in grain form, which can be used whole, ground, or simply crushed with a knife. Red pepper perfectly substitutes black pepper, giving dishes a mild spiciness and a subtle, slightly fruity aroma. This unique flavor profile makes it an excellent addition to various soups, such as tomato or bean soups, as well as mild sauces primarily based on cream or yogurt. It elevates the taste of dishes in Asian cuisine and pairs well with both fish and seafood.

Red pepper beautifully complements marinades for poultry like chicken or turkey, proves to be a delicious salad addition, and surprisingly fits into dessert recipes too.

Red pepper - Delicacies
Red pepper - Delicacies© Canva | pixaroma
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