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Cayenne pepper nutrition facts

Fiercely hot and pungent cayenne pepper is one of the widely used spicy ingredients in many cuisines. Cayenne fruits are long thin pods obtained from the plant belonging to the nightshade family of solanaceae, of the genus; capsicum. Scientific name: Capsicum annuum var annuum.

Cayenne variety chili pepper plant is native to Central American region where it was used as spicy ingredient in Mexican cuisines for several thousand years. The spice was introduced to the rest of the world, especially in the Indian subcontinent, by Spanish and Portuguese explorers during 16th and 17th centuries. They are now one of the important commercial crops in India, Pakistan, China, Argentina and USA.

Cayenne pepper is a perennial small shrub reaching about 90-100 cm in height. The plant prefers well drained sandy soil and warm climate. Its woody stem with numerous branches is covered with rich lanceolate green leaves. Small creamy- white flowers appear all over the bush which subsequently grown to long, slender, glossy bright green color fruits (pods). The fruits finally mature when they turn to bright deep red color. The hotness of cayenne is measured in “Scoville heat units” (SHU). On the Scoville scale, cayenne pepper has 30,000 to 50,000 SHU.

Interiorly, each cayenne fruit features numerous tiny, flat, disk like, off-white or cream colored seeds. The centrally placed seeds are actually clinging to centrally placed white placenta.

In general, the cayenne chili peppers are allowed to ripen completely in the plant and picked up by hand when they are matured and turned red. They are then left to dry which causes them to shrivel.

Cayanne chilies have strong spicy taste that comes to them from the active alkaloid compounds capsaicin, capsanthin and capsorubin.

Health benefits of cayenne peppers

  • Although hot and intolerable, even in small amounts, cayenne are one of the rare spice items packed with highest concentrations of minerals, vitamins and certain phyto-nutrients. It is no wonder this wonderful spice has been found place in modern as well as in traditional medicines for its disease preventing and health promoting properties.

  • Cayenne contains health benefiting an alkaloid compound capsaicin, which gives strong spicy pungent character. Early laboratory studies on experimental mammals suggest that capsaicin has anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, analgesic and anti-diabetic properties. When used judiciously it also found to reduce triglycerides and LDL cholesterol levels in obese individuals.

  • Fresh cayenne peppers, red or green, are rich source of vitamin-C. 100 g fresh chilies provide about 76.4 mcg or about 127% of RDA. Vitamin-C is a potent water soluble antioxidant. It is required for the collagen synthesis in the body. Collagen is the main structural protein in the body required for maintaining the integrity of blood vessels, skin, organs, and bones. Regular consumption of foods rich in vitamin C helps body protect from scurvy; develop resistance against infectious agents (boosts immunity) and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals from the body.

  • Cayanne chili peppers are probably the richest spicy source of vitamin A. Just 100 g of cayenne has 41,610 IU or astonishingly 1387% of vitamin A. In addition this prized spice is also home for anti-oxidant flavonoids such as carotenes, lutein, zeaxanthin and cryptoxanthin.  Together, these antioxidant substances in capsicum helps to protect body from injurious effects of free radicals generated during stress, diseases conditions.

  • The spice contains very high levels of essential minerals. The spice if even consumed in small quantities regularly would provide sufficient levels of iron, copper, zinc, potassium, manganese, magnesium and selenium. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase. Selenium is anti-oxidant mineral

  • 100 g of cayenne peppers provides 2014 mg or 47% of daily required amount of potassium. Potassium is an important electrolyte inside the cells and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure and counter the effects of sodium.

  • Cayenne are also good in B-complex group of vitamins such as niacin, pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), riboflavin and thiamin (vitamin B-1). These vitamins are essential in the sense that body requires them from external sources to replenish. B-complex vitamins facilitate cellular metabolism through various enzymatic functions.

Cayenne peppers have amazingly very high levels of vitamins and minerals. Just 100 g provides (in % of Recommended daily allowance)

127% of vitamin-C (Ascorbic acid),
39% of vitamin B-6 (Pyridoxine),
54% of niacin,
71% of riboflavin,
1387% of vitamin A,
97.5% of iron,
41% of copper,
43% of potassium,  
but no cholesterol.

Principle Nutrient Value Percentage of RDA
Energy 318 Kcal 16%
Carbohydrates 56.63 g 43%
Protein 12.01 g 21%
Total Fat 17.27 g 57.56%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Dietary Fiber 27.2 g 71%

Folates 106 mcg 26%
Niacin 8.701 mg 54%
Pyridoxine 2.450 mg 39%
Riboflavin 0.919 71%
Thiamin 0.328 mg 27%
Vitamin A 41610 IU 1387%
Vitamin C 76.4 127%
Vitamin E 29.83 mg 199%
Vitamin K 80.3 mg 67%

Sodium 30 mg 2%
Potassium 2014 mg 43%

Calcium 148 mg 15 %
Copper 0.373 mg 41%
Iron 7.80 mg 97.5%
Magnesium 152 mg 38%
Manganese 2.00 mg 87%
Phosphorus 293 mg 42%
Selenium 8.8 mcg 18%
Zinc 2.48 mg 22.5%

Carotene-ß 21840 mcg --
Carotene-? 0 mcg --
Cryptoxanthin-ß 6252 mcg --
Lutein-zeaxanthin 13157 mcg --

Selection and storage

Cayenne peppers are available year around in the markets either in the fresh, dried or powdered form. In the store, buy fresh whole pepper pods instead of powder since oftentimes it may contain adulterated spicy mixtures.

Look for raw, fresh chilies featuring brilliant red color with healthy stem, wholesome and compact. Avoid the pods with spots or those spoiled tips and inflicted by molds.

Once at home, should be stored in the refrigerator in a plastic bag where they will stay fresh for about a week.

Dry whole red cayenne peppers are also available in the markets. Dry peppers can be stored at room temperature in a cool, dark place and in airtight containers for many months; can be milled to powder using hand mill as and when required. If you want to buy dry powder instead, go for the authentic and branded products. Powdered cayenne pepper should be stored in cool place in airtight containers.

Medicinal uses

  • Cayenne peppers contain chemical compound capsaicin. Capasicin and its co-compounds used in the preparation of ointments, rubs and tinctures for their astringent, counter-irritant and analgesic properties.

  • These formulations have been in use in the treatment of arthritic pain, post herpetic neuropathic pain, sore muscles etc.

  • Scientific studies on experimental mammals suggest that capsaicin has anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, analgesic and anti-diabetic properties.

  • The spice is also one of the ingredient in popular cayenne pepper diet along with lemon juice, laxative tea etc. Several poorly-established research studies suggest that cayenne pepper found to reduce blood sugar levels, LDL cholesterol levels and weight in obese persons.

Culinary uses

Raw, fresh cayenne chilies are being used to make sauce, chutney, spicy water and pickling in South Asia. However powdered form is favored in Mexican, Mediterraean and American cooking.

Before cooking wash fresh raw red cayenne in clean water in order to remove any residual fungicides, sand and dust. Cayenne chilies either fresh or powdered form, can cause severe burning sensation to hands and may cause severe irritation to mouth/nasal passages, eyes and throat. Therefore, it may be advised in some sensitive individuals to use thin hand gloves and face masks while handling.

Here are some serving tips:

  • Fresh raw cayenne peppers are being used as vegetables in cuisines in many parts of the South Asia, especially in southern states of India, where they liberally mixed with other vegetables like potato, okra, pumpkin, green beans etc along with tomato, garlic, onion, cumin seeds and other spices in various mouth-watering stir-fries.

  • Cayenne, chopped and grounded, used as condiment in the preparation of pepper sauce, soups, curries and to marinate meat, fish and poultry.

  • Dried cayenne chili powder is an important ingredient in cajun spice mix or simply known as curry powder in many Asian countries.

  • Thin slices of cayenne chillies are favored mix in Chinese-style vegetable stir fries and noodles.

  • Cayenne chilies, soaked in yogurt and salted, then dried under sunlight, are used as side snacks during dinner in South Indian states.

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