What Are The Health Benefits Of Habanero Peppers?

Written by Sindhu Koganti

Name the hottest chili in the world according to the Guinness Book? It is the habanero pepper. It belongs to the capsicum family and offers many health benefits. It is replete with antioxidant and phenolic compounds. These peppers may help reduce cancer risk, aid in weight loss, lower cholesterol, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. In this article, we explore the health benefits of habanero peppers, how to handle and use them, and their potential side effects. Read on.

What Are The Benefits Of Eating Habaneros?

1. May Reduce Cancer Risk

The active component of habanero peppers, capsaicin, was found effective in cancer treatment. A study conducted at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine (USA) showed that oral administration of capsaicin inhibited the proliferation of prostate cancer cells. Capsaicin may also slow down the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) doubling time (PSA is a protein present in small quantities in the semen of men. But this is not an indicator of prostate cancer). The phenolic compounds in habanero exhibit antioxidant activity and may act against cancer. A review published in Molecules suggests that the consumption of peppers may offer antioxidant benefits as they are rich in vitamins C, A, and E.

In another study, capsaicin was found to inhibit the growth of human breast and leukemia cancer cells. In animals studies, administration of capsaicin-rich habanero extracts showed anti-tumor and anti-cancer activity.

2. May Aid Weight Loss

As per the World Health Organization, approximately 13% (600 million people) of the world population is dealing with obesity. The capsaicin in habanero peppers may possess anti-obesity potential. Studies suggest that consumption of capsaicin may increase thermogenesis (the process of heat production) in the body. This, in turn, may improve lipid metabolism and help in the treatment of obesity. Capsaicin may also make you feel full for longer and decrease your appetite. Dietary capsaicin intake may improve metabolic health that helps in the prevention and treatment of obesity. However, more human studies are warranted to understand this benefit of habanero.

3. May Lower Cholesterol Levels

In animal studies, capsaicin intake was found to lower plasma cholesterol levels and decrease intestinal absorption of lipids and triglycerides. Administration of 8 mg of capsaicin per day for five weeks showed a significant decrease in cholesterol levels. The other active compounds in peppers, such as capsaicinoids, were found to lower serum cholesterol levels in hamsters. A review published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism suggests that the bioactive nutrients in hot peppers may help reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol, and reduce oxidative stress. Intragastric administration (inserting the needle through the abdominal wall into the stomach) of habanero peppers could also reduce total cholesterol levels.

4. May Prevent Cardiovascular Disease

Intake of foods rich in capsaicinoids may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). The carotenoids in peppers are also potential cardioprotective agents that help decrease the prevalence of atherosclerosis (build-up fats in artery walls) and myocardial infarction. In a study published in Preventive Nutrition and Food Science, oral administration of red pepper extracts could help prevent atherosclerosis in mice. However, more studies are warranted to understand this phenomenon of habanero in humans.

5. May Help Fight Diabetes

The capsaicinoids in habanero are said to reduce insulin resistance and help treat diabetes. A study conducted by the University of Tasmania found that capsaicin may regulate insulin levels following a meal in overweight individuals. Also, the polyphenolic compounds, flavonoids, carotenoids, and antioxidants in habanero peppers may help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. However, more studies are warranted to understand this phenomenon of habanero in humans.

6. May Reduce Blood Pressure

The bioactive compounds in red hot peppers, like capsaicinoids, may help lower blood pressure. Long-term capsaicin treatment was found to lower blood pressure in genetically hypertensive rats. However, limited studies are available in this regard.

7. May Help Relieve Pain

Capsaicin is a well-known ingredient in many topical pain relief creams. It has been used clinically to relieve many painful conditions. The extracts of peppers have anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce inflammation. Topical application of capsaicin creams was found to alleviate neurogenic pain. The gels and creams have analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. They can inhibit the production of Substance P, a compound responsible for swelling and pain associated with inflammation.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that habanero peppers have antibacterial properties and may help treat respiratory issues.

These are the potential health benefits of habanero peppers. It is interesting to note that these peppers are often confused with jalapeno peppers. How are the two different?

Habanero Peppers Vs. Jalapeno Peppers

Habanero Peppers Jalapeno Peppers
Habaneros range from 100000 to 350000 on the Scoville heat scale.Jalapeno range from 2500 to 8000 on the heat scale.
These peppers have a slightly sweet taste.These peppers taste crisper and are similar to green bell peppers.
They are available in bright orange color with smooth skin.They are usually available in deep green color with tapered ends.
They exists in a oblong, round, and lantern shape.They exist in a slim and oblong shape.

These are a few differences between habanero and jalapeno peppers. The spiciness of the habanero makes them unique among hot chili varieties. Hence, one should be very careful while handling this type of chili. Here are some important tips to keep in mind.

Tips For Cooking With Habanero Peppers

  • Wearing gloves is a good idea while you handle habanero peppers. They are high in capsaicin, and working with them without wearing gloves can lead to burns on your hands. Also, avoid rubbing your eyes until you wash your hands.
  •  A little amount of habanero pepper goes a long way. Hence, add little amounts of this spicy pepper to your food items.
  • The spiciness of habaneros may burn your mouth if you consume large amounts at a time. Hence, know the remedy for pepper burn in advance (drink milk or eat sugar or chocolate).
  • Use cold milk for treating topical pepper burns. Do not use cold water as it may spread the burning sensation
  • Remove the skin of habanero pepper before you start using. Peeling the habanero pepper will be easier this way. Though the skin of habanero is thin, you can’t break it easily with your teeth.

Intake of habanero peppers in excess amounts may cause some side effects. Scroll down to know in detail.

Are There Any Side Effects Of Eating Habanero Peppers?

Habanero peppers are very high in capsaicin. Eating it for the first time may cause pain in most. The spicy hot sensation can stay on your tongue for 20 minutes or more. Your stomach and intestines may also experience the heat. One may also experience stomach ache and digestive discomfort in some cases. A high dose of capsaicin may temporarily raise blood pressure and body temperature. Hence, those with high blood pressure or a history of heart attacks must practice caution while eating habanero peppers. However, these effects are based on anecdotal evidence. More research is warranted.

Conclusion

Habanero peppers are a popular ingredient in hot sauces. They are rich in nutrients and plant compounds with many medicinal properties. They relieve pain, reduce cancer risk, and may offer other benefits too. However, they also can cause heat and other side effects if consumed in excess. Gradually including them in your diet is ideal.

 Sources

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  1. “Capsaicin” “a component of red peppers” inhibits the growth of “androgen-independent” p53 mutant prostate cancer cells
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16540674/
  2. Capsaicin may slow PSA doubling time: case report and literature review
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2825034/
  3. Phytochemical Characterization of By-Products of Habanero “Pepper Grown in Two Different Types of Soils from Yucatán” Mexico
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  4. Capsaicin: From Plants to a Cancer-Suppressing Agent
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6274000/
  5. Tumor cell growth inhibition is correlated with levels of capsaicin present in hot peppers
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21240831/
  6. Clinical assessment of the anti-cancer activity of the capsaicin-containing habanero pepper extract in dogs: A preliminary study
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  9. Capsaicin lowers plasma cholesterol and triglycerides of lagomorphs
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  12. Systemic and local effects of intragastric administration of the habanero fruit (Capsicum Chinense Jacquin C.V.) in rats
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/275360475_Systemic_and_local_effects_of_intragastric_administration_of_the_habanero_fruit_Capsicum_Chinense_Jacquin_CV_in_rats
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  14. Carotenoids of Capsicum Fruits: Pigment Profile and Health-Promoting Functional Attributes
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  15. Ethereal Extract of Pepper: Preventing Atherosclerosis and Left Ventricle Remodeling in LDL Receptor Knockout Mice
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  17. Understanding glycaemic control and current approaches for screening antidiabetic natural products from evidence-based medicinal plants
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  18. Dietary Capsaicin Protects Cardiometabolic Organs from Dysfunction
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  19. Influence of Capsaicin on Inflammatory Cytokines Induced by Lipopolysaccharide in Myoblast Cells Under In vitro Environment
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Sindhu Koganti is a Biotechnology graduate and has been in the writing field for over 4 years now. She specializes in writing on Health and Wellness. She has hands-on experience in writing articles and press releases on Life Sciences and Healthcare, Food and Beverages, and Chemicals and Materials. When she’s not writing, she loves watching movies and listening to music. She also enjoys traveling.