Chili peppers are actually fruit, not vegetables, and provide three times more vitamin C than oranges. The unique chili pepper heat comes from a component called capsaicin, which is concentrated in the white ribs and seeds inside. To lessen the pungency, the seeds can be discarded.
Different types of chili pepper have different amounts of heat, with one of the hottest being the small, red and very slender “bird’s eye” variety. All chili peppers induce the body to sweat, and this cooling mechanism explains the popularity of chilies in hot climates.
Interestingly, doctors sometimes recommend capsaicin to relieve nerve pain. Applied topically it can counteract the pain of shingles and the degenerative nerve damage experienced by some people with diabetes, although the active ingredients may inflict a dose of famous chili bum before switching off the pain. That’s why it’s important not to home-administer a chili poultice, or to rub your eyes whilst handling the spice, or afterward until you have washed your hands.
It’s commonly thought that chilies can cause or worsen stomach ulcers, but studies in countries in which many people eat chili show that there are fewer cases of peptic ulcer. Doctors often advise patients with dyspepsia and peptic ulcer against eating chili, although some studies show that capsaicin can protect the stomach lining.
This doesn’t mean that everybody who has stomach problems should eat chili, because everyone has a different response to spicy foods and some people may find chili makes matters worse. What it does mean is that chili lovers don’t have to worry about continuing to feed their hot and spicy passion, as long as this doesn’t upset their stomach.