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Spice it up for health! Capsaicin – more than just an adrenalin rush!

Ok, so have you ever eaten some REALLY spicy food and then felt that rush of euphoria?  Well, that’s because you’ve just ingested capsaicin, the chemical in hot chiles that release adrenaline and endorphins.

Our chile rubbed chips
Our chile rubbed chips

As a matter of fact, research is showing that capsaicin is good for a host of problems including pain, arthritic pain, inflammation and itching.  Capsaicin can help cardiovasular health, clear congestion and even boost immunity.  Even more encouraging is recent research showing that capsaicin may actually help kill off prostate cancer cells – not cure the cancer, but maybe prevent the cancer.

So just what is this miracle substance and how does it work?  Capsaicin is the substance in chiles that gives the chiles their pungent flavor and aroma.  It produces mild to intense heat in spicy chiles – depending on the ‘Scoville’ scale heat units (heat level) for the chile. To put that in perspective, let’s look at Gringo Jack’s for a start.

Our guajillo chile sauce is our hard working sauce.  Made with guajillo chiles, we say that it is the milder of our red chile sauces.  Guajillo chiles sit around 2,000-5,000 on the Scovile scale.    Our chipotle sauce is our spicier sauce made with chipotle chiles (dried jalapenos).  The chipotle chile sits on the Scoville scale at around 5,000-8,000.

Ok – so now, lets look at the cayenne pepper – 30,000-50,000 on the Scoville scale!  Imagine the difference in heat between the cayenne pepper and a chipotle chile.  But is gets better folks.   The hot chocolate habanero?  400,000 on the Scoville scale.  Really.  400,000.    And if you want to get ridiculous, there is always the Chocolate Bhutlah which ranks at over 1.5 MILLION on the Scoville scale.  Even that chile can’t beat the Carolina Reaper sometimes hitting the 2 million mark.  Ghost peppers?  Often referred to as the hottest pepper in the world and the butt of joke and funny videos – just over 1 million Scovilles.

hot chile

There are thousands of cultivars of chiles.  The hotter the chile, the more capsaicin.  That could explain the ever increasing obsession by some to grow the next hottest chile.

So what is the point?  Besides the funny videos of people eating chiles that make them cry, there are terrific reasons to get to know some of the spicy chiles.  I don’t think we all need to go out and learn to cook with the Carolina Reaper.  But, the higher the capsaicin level, the more the health benefits.  Pure capsaicin measures 16,000,000 on the Scoville scale, so that isn’t happening!

So, how does capsaicin help and what are the health benefits?  First of all, the bad rap that chiles get involves ulcers.  Not only do chiles NOT cause or aggravate stomach ulcers, they can actually help by killing bacteria and also buffering the stomach lining.  Now, what else can it do?

Relieves Pain & Inflammation

When it is topically applied, capsaicin lowers the amount of something called Substance P, the chemical that helps send pain signals to the brain – also associated with the inflammation process.  From osteoarthritis to diabetic neuropathy, capsaicin is the natural way to alleviate pain.  Applied topically, capsaicin can also alleviate itching from psoriasis.

Cardiovascular

Chiles are high in antioxidants which helps kill the free radicals in your body – free radicals being a precursor to atherosclerosis.

Studies are showing that capsaicin can also reduce blood cholesterol, triglyceride levels, and platelet aggregation, while increasing the body’s ability to dissolve fibrin, a substance integral to the formation of blood clots.

Congestion Relief and Immunity Booster

The heat from the capsaicin also stimulates secretions that help clear nose and lung congestion.  And those beta-carotene vitamin As?  Well, chiles are loaded with them and Vitamin A is the first defense against infectious pathogens.

Reduce or regulate blood sugar?

In the July 2006 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Australian researchers studied the effect of capsaicin on insulin and blood sugar.  It appears that a meal consumed with chiles reduces the body’s insulin requirements.  If chiles are regularly consumed, the amount of insulin needed goes even lower.

“Plus, chili’s beneficial effects on insulin needs get even better as body mass index (BMI, a measure of obesity) increases.  In overweight people, not only do chili-containing meals significantly lower the amount of insulin required to lower blood sugar levels after a meal, but chili-containing meals also result in a lower ratio of C-peptide/ insulin, an indication that the rate at which the liver is clearing insulin has increased.

The amount of C-peptide in the blood also shows how much insulin is being produced by the pancreas. The pancreas produces proinsulin, which splits into insulin and C-peptide when secreted into the bloodstream.  Each molecule of proinsulin breaks into one molecule of C-peptide and one molecule of insulin, so less C-peptide means less insulin has been secreted into the bloodstream.”   – WHFoods

How cool is this?  Capsaicin may help the spread of prostate cancer!

While this is still being studied, it looks as if capsaicin may actually help kill off prostate cancer cells.  In the March 15, 2006 issue of Cancer Research, study shows that capsaicin triggers suicide in both primary types of prostate cancer cell lines, those whose growth is stimulated by male hormones and those not affected by them. In addition, capsaicin lessens the expression of prostate-specific antigen (PSA), inhibits the ability of the most potent form of testosterone, dihydrotestosterone, to activate PSA, and directly inhibits PSA transcription, causing PSA levels to plummet.

Our own garden grown chiles!  Dig-It Gardenworks - you're the best!

Our own garden grown chiles! Dig-It Gardenworks – you’re the best!

So, by now you are probably ready to dive into the amazing world of chiles!  In our next blog posts, Gringo Jack’s will be offering some wonderful and easy recipes all using these amazing wonders.

 

 

GMOs – what are the controversies? Part II

The controversies surrounding GMOs are numerous and extremely divisive.   With so many groups of people to be affected, it is no wonder the arguments are passionate.   From the US consumer to the EU consumer, populations of third worlds, farmers, activists, scientists, legislators, corporations and small businesses – all with a chip in the game, it has become a virtual maze of confusing and conflicting arguments.

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Some of the controversies include:  food safety; food sustainability; food labeling; the role of government; impacts of GMO crops on farmers and corporations; the owning of ‘the stuff of life’ by persons or corporations, seed contamination and impacts of GMOs on the environment.  These will be taken point by point and further in depth in successive posts.

Food Safety:  there is no doubt that much of the GMOs are done via methods that ensure the product could never occur in nature.  However, the word ‘natural’ doesn’t automatically mean “safe”.  There are many poisonous ‘natural’ foods out there.  The question if not one of ‘natural’, but rather safety.  Are these crops safe?  Do they or can they cause harm to humans or animals?  Do they create new allergens?

Food Sustainability:  many have said that we are better able to feed the world’s population with these new engineered crops.  People like Bill Gates have pointed to GMOs as a way to feed starving nations.  However, many representatives from those starving nations have gotten together to address the UN and say that they believe GMOs create more harm than good for their people.

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Food Labeling:  anti-GMO activists feel it is the right of the people to know (which I agree with BTW).  The other side tells us that labeling is deceptive in that some foods, when processed (ie: many oils, HFCS, etc) contain little if any GM material and labeling as a GMO food falsely informs the consumer.  Also, if labeling is not universal, consumers can look at two products side by side, one labeled ‘may contain GMOs’ and one not.  Because the product not labeled is in a state not requiring labeling, the consumer will assume that product does not contain GMOs.

Role of Government:  it is getting harder and harder for government to  be the arbiter of what is safe and what isn’t.  Also, with so much corporate money funding government, there is now an inherent distrust of what government says or does.

Impact of GMOs on farmers and corporations:  the fight between farmers and corporations is heating up and the very livelihood of small farmers is at stake.  And what of the organic farmer?  GM material spreads – it is impossible to prevent this.

Owning the Stuff of Life:  while hard to imagine that this is legal, it is actually legal to own genes.  There is much to this debate, but it is my view that the pattening of genes is repugnant – but more on that when I address this controversy.

Seed Contamination and the Impact on the Environment:   There are large impacts to the environment regardless of the arguments as to whether those impacts are positive or negative.  Both sides agree that there are impacts – just not on what they are.

Tremendous amounts of money, effort and time is devoted to furthering the arguments of activists on both sides.  From legal battles to biased publications, the controversies themselves have seemingly become an industry in and of itself!  To any person interested in learning about GMOs, and finding answers to their questions, it is harder and harder to find information that is not biased in some way.

It is the opinion of this blogger that both sides are doing the general public a disservice.  The anti-GMO activists devote a lot of energy pointing to flawed studies and hyperbole and the pro-GMO activists only want to put out propaganda.

Next week, we’ll start looking at each controversy one by one – all while I try to maintain a neutral position!

gmo protest