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Healthy Hint

Toni-Ann DiSantis

Hot stuff! Add chili peppers to your menu for a delicious, nutritious kick.

[Daily Dose] On Valentine’s Day, why not spice up your life — or at least your plate! Fresh or dried chili peppers add warmth and flavor to your favorite dishes and offer potential health benefits. In addition to being high in an array of vitamins and minerals, hot peppers contain a substance known as capsaicin, which has an anti-inflammatory effect in the body. Some research suggests that eating chili peppers regularly may benefit your heart health, help prevent cancer, and lower your risk of diabetes. Talk about fighting fire with fire! As for a recent study suggesting that chili peppers might extend your life, don’t count on that, says Cleveland Clinic nutritionist Amy Gannon, RD, who points out that the people in the study who ate chili peppers regularly also had a much higher consumption of vegetables and a lower incidence of hypertension than people who didn’t eat chili peppers regularly. Still, with the potential benefits and flavorful punch they pack, there’s good reason to add them to your dishes, says Gannon: “Try them in dips, soups, pastas, sauces, sandwiches, and anywhere else you want some heat.” If you’re new to the spicy side, start with tiny amounts of fresh or dried chili peppers, and choose mildly hot peppers like jalapeños over red-hot ones like habañeros. (Wash your hands thoroughly after handling peppers to avoid accidentally burning your eyes.) If you overdo it, know that milk will douse the flames more effectively than water. Dairy products contain casein, which attracts capsaicin molecules and washes them away. Yes, a little ice cream will do the trick too!