6 Reasons You Should Eat Jalapenos

Written by Payal Karnik , MSc (Biotechnology), Diploma In Nutrition

Jalapenos are a type of peppers native to Mexico. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The capsaicin (the active component of chili peppers) in jalapenos has therapeutic effects and may help with weight loss, reduce the risk of cancer, promote heart health, and prevent liver damage. Jalapenos can also add a variety to your diet and are easy to cook.

In this article, we explore the benefits of jalapenos, how to add them to your diet, and their potential risks. Keep reading.

What Is Jalapeno?

Jalapeno [haa·luh·pay·nyow] means ‘from Jalapa’ in Spanish. Jalapa is the capital of Veracruz, a Mexican state, where this pepper was first cultivated. Jalapeno is picked and eaten while still green but is occasionally allowed to ripen fully and turn red, orange, or yellow. Mature jalapenos grow 5 to 10 centimeters long, have a firm, round shape, and are 25 to 38 millimeters wide. The pods are of medium size. Jalapeno pepper is a cultivar (cultivated variety) of Capsicum annum and is found in Central and South America.

Other popular cultivars of C. annum include:

  •  Bell peppers
  •  Cayenne peppers
  •  Paprika
  •  Serrano peppers

Find out more about the health benefits of bell peppers and cayenne peppers.

Keep scrolling to know more about the nutritional profile of jalapenos.

Nutritional Profile Of Jalapeno

One raw jalapeno (14g) contains (1):

Calories4.06 kcal
Protein0.127g
Carbohydrates0.91g
Total lipids (Fat)0.05g
Dietary fiber0.39g
Sugars0.57g
Potassium34.7 mg
Phosphorus3.64 mg
Magnesium2.1 mg
Vitamin C2.12 mg

The benefits of vitamin C are many. In fact, many of the health benefits of jalapenos are attributed to their high vitamin C content. Studies suggest that jalapenos exhibit better antioxidant activity with an increase in their vitamin C content (2).

Jalapenos are also a good source of vitamin B complex, which is essential for cellular growth, brain and nerve tissue function, and gut health (3),(4). They also contain vitamins E and K that help maintain skin health and aid in blood clotting, respectively (5),(6).

This long list of nutrients in jalapenos brings you as many benefits too. Here are the top seven ways jalapenos can improve your health.

Health Benefits Of Jalapeno

1. May Help You Lose Weight

Capsaicin is the most prominent capsaicinoid (an active component in chili peppers responsible for their heat) present in jalapenos. It induces weight loss, improves fat breakdown in cells, and promotes satiety (7). Besides, supplementing capsaicinoids for 12 weeks was found to decrease body fat and fat mass by around 5.91 percent and 6.68 percent, respectively (8).

Research on jalapenos is limited, but chili peppers are closely related to jalapenos and belong to the same scientific family. A study suggests that Chinese adults who consume chili are less likely to become overweight or obese (9).
Vitamin C present in jalapenos may also lower free radical levels, which cause fat to accumulate abnormally (10).

2. May Help Reduce The Risk Of Cancer

Dietary phytochemicals like capsaicin have anti-cancer effects. It targets cancer-associated genes in different tumor stages — initiation, promotion, progression, and metastasis (spread). It also interacts with other cancer-preventive medicines. Hence, it may be used in combination with other chemotherapeutic medications in cancer therapy (11).

Several lab studies have also shown that capsaicin inhibits the growth of cancer cells. It has also been effective against skin, pancreatic, prostate, lung, liver, and colon cancers (12). However, more studies are warranted to understand the benefit of capsaicin in cancer treatment.

3. May Treat Urological Issues

Capsaicin present in jalapenos may control urine frequency. Besides, it may also reduce incontinence (inability to control urination and defecation) in people with unstable or hypersensitive bladders (13).

Capsaicin therapy may also reverse or protect against kidney damage. Animal studies suggest that it may help treat kidney injury and reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. Additionally, capsaicin activates TRPV1 (a capsaicin receptor), which may prevent salt-induced kidney damage and high blood pressure in rats (14).

4. May Inhibit The Spread Of Infections

Researchers have found that capsaicin has antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties.

Jalapenos are particularly effective against food-borne pathogens like Listeria monocytogenes. These bacteria are able to survive and may even grow under refrigeration and other preservative methods. This ability of jalapenos is attributed to the presence of capsianosides (15), (16).

Capsaicin may also effectively treat certain viral infections in guinea pigs, including herpes simplex virus disease (7).

5. May Promote Heart Health

Dietary capsaicin was found to improve vasorelaxation (reduction of vascular tension) and lower blood pressure in genetically hypertensive rats. Studies suggest that capsaicin may improve endothelial (thin membrane that lines the inside of the heart and blood vessels) function (17), (18).

The research on jalapenos is limited. However, the rich nutrient content of jalapenos and the findings from the studies on other peppers suggest that they are capable of reducing inflammation and decreasing the risk of heart disease (19)(20).

6. May Prevent Liver Damage

Capsaicin was shown to reduce liver damage and reduce the activation of hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) in mice. HSCs are responsible for liver fibrosis (scarring of liver tissue) (21).

Dietary capsaicin, along with antibiotics, shows great potential in the treatment of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. According to a study, mice treated with capsaicin and antibiotics gained the least weight and accumulated the least amount of fat in the liver. Additionally, this treatment improved insulin sensitivity (22).

Wondering how do you reap these benefits? Continue reading to discover the ways you can include jalapenos in your diet.

How To Add Jalapenos To Your Diet?

1. Jalapeno Poppers

What You Need

  •  12 jalapeno peppers (seeded and split lengthwise)
  •  1/4 cup cream cheese
  •  1/4 cup cheddar cheese (shredded)
  •  1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  •  24 bacon slices

How To Prepare

  1.  Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease a baking dish.
  2.  Stuff the jalapenos with cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and bread crumbs till half.
  3.  Wrap them up in bacon and secure with a toothpick.
  4.  Bake until the bacon is crispy and the jalapenos are tender.

2. Jalapeno Dip

What You Need

  •  4 jalapeno peppers (seeded and diced)
  •  1/2 cup cilantro (chopped)
  •  1/2 cup lime juice
  •  1 cup sour cream
  •  1/4 cup mayonnaise
  •  5 garlic cloves (diced)
  •  2 tablespoons milk

How To Prepare

  1.  Pulse jalapenos, cilantro, and garlic using a food processor until they are finely chopped.
  2.  Add the mayonnaise, sour cream, and lime juice. Blend.
  3.  Add milk and pulse until you achieve proper consistency.
  4.  Transfer to a bowl and chill the dip for at least 30 minutes.

3. Jalapeno Jelly

What You Need

  •  12 jalapeno peppers
  •  1 green bell pepper
  •  1 and 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
  •  4 and 1/2 cups sugar
  •  1/2 cup liquid pectin
  •  1 pinch salt

How To Prepare

  1.  Pulse the green bell peppers and 12 jalapenos in a food processor until they are finely chopped.
  2.  Add cider vinegar in a large saucepan. Add the chopped peppers and stir well.
  3.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Drain the mixture using a cheesecloth.
  4.  Pour the liquid back into the saucepan and add the salt and sugar. Stir until they are dissolved.
  5.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for one more minute when the mixture comes to a rolling boil. Stir in the liquid pectin.
  6.  Fill in sterile jars with 1/4 inch headspace and seal them in a hot water bath.
  7.  Refrigerate the jelly once the seal is broken.

These are the simple yet delicious jalapeno recipes you may try. But can you consume them every day? Some believe jalapenos may also cause adverse effects. We will discover more in the next section.

Side Effects Of Jalapeno

  •  May Be Contaminated With Aflatoxin

Aflatoxin is a mold that develops on certain foods, including dried peppers and spices, under certain circumstances (23). It may cause cancer and affect organ systems, especially the liver and kidneys. It also has the potential to cause birth defects in children and may suppress immunity too (24).

  •  May Cause Allergic Reactions

Spice allergies are quite rare. Approximately four to 13 individuals out of 10,000 adults are reported to have them. These allergies are more common in women due to the use of cosmetics. Besides, it is more likely that inhalation will cause respiratory symptoms and skin contact will cause cutaneous ones. Jalapenos may also cause nausea, diarrhea, migraines, swelling, and acid reflux (25), (26).

  •  May Trigger Asthma

Inhaling chili peppers can trigger asthma attacks. Those with asthma who eat a lot of jalapenos are at a higher risk (27).

  •  May Aggravate Heartburn

Studies have shown that capsaicin may aggravate heartburn. Hence, people with reflux (stomach acid frequently flows back into the esophagus) should avoid eating jalapenos (28).

  •  May Cause Gastrointestinal Issues

Although jalapenos may protect the stomach from developing ulcers, it is possible to become nauseated, experience vomiting, or have abdominal pain if you consume too many hot peppers. The capsaicin in jalapenos stimulates the digestive system’s pain receptors. As a result, the capsaicin-sensitized gut speeds up to expel it. This causes diarrhea (29), (30), (31).

Here are some tips to avoid or reduce this burning sensation:

  •  Avoid Peppers With Scars: Some jalapeno peppers have small brown lines on them. These are known as scars. Avoid these peppers as they tend to be spicier.
  •  Wear Gloves: Wear gloves when handling peppers to prevent contaminating other sensitive areas of your body, such as your eyes.
  •  Remove Membranes: Remove the membranes from the inside of the jalapeno before cooking. These membranes contain the most capsaicin.
  •  Consume Milk: Drinking cow milk (full-fat) may help relieve the discomfort momentarily if the burning sensation gets too intense.

Conclusion

Jalapeno peppers offer a range of health benefits. They have anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, and antioxidant properties. These are attributed to the carotenoids, vitamins C and E, alkaloids, flavonoids, and capsaicin present in jalapenos. These peppers may also aid weight loss, reduce the risk of cancer, promote heart health, and potentially prevent and treat liver damage. However, some individuals may experience allergic reactions to jalapenos. Hence, practice caution while including jalapenos in your diet. Consult your doctor if you experience any adverse reactions.

References:

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