Capsicum Annuum, or Jalapenos as they are more commonly known, have been growing in popularity for the last ten years, accounting for almost a third of all Mexican chilli production, and I am sure we can all agree it is due to the divine delicacy that is the Jalapeno Popper.
What’s more, recent studies have suggested that this mild chilli can actually be good for you! So let’s take a look at the health benefits of Jalapenos!
Most commonly found as a green chilli, they can change colour and can become yellow, orange or red if allowed to fully ripen.
To the uninitiated, me calling Jalapenos “mild” may have sounded a little confusing, yet the burn, spiciness or pungency of a pepper is actually measured in Scoville Units.
And the Jalapeno ranks somewhere in the middle when compared to other peppers at around 1,000 to 20,000 Scoville units, depending on a variety of factors that can increase the level of capsaicin in the pepper, the chemical responsible for the “burn”.
Capsaicin, it turns out, seems to have many very beneficial properties. It is a vasodilator, which means it is good for blood flow and circulation, as well as an anti-inflammatory, meaning it may have benefits in terms of relieving symptoms of things like headaches and arthritis.
In addition to this, it also causes a rise of around 8% in metabolism, a negligible amount, but not ineffective, which has certain coupled weight loss benefits. Furthermore, it has been linked to reduction of bad cholesterol, whilst leaving the good cholesterol unaffected.
The author of the study makes a good cautionary point though, saying “And remember, chilies are no substitute for the prescription medications proven to be beneficial. They may be a nice supplement, however, for people who find the hot flavor pleasant.”
If you are looking to make use of the benefits of Jalapenos, it is important to remember that most of the capsaicin is in the white, inner fleshy part of the jalapeno.
In addition to the benefits to be gained from the capsaicin, jalapenos are also low in calories, proteins and fats, yet most of the calories come from sugars. And then there are the cornucopia of micronutrients to be found in this humble pepper, as it is packed with vitamins and minerals in some impressive quantities.
A jalapeno has Vitamin A, which is required for maintaining good skin and eye health; Vitamin C, an antioxidant that protects your body from free radicals, in doing so helping to prevent cell damage; B6, E and K, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorous, loads of fibre, Potassium, Copper and Manganese, all of which assist in maintaining healthy red blood cells, muscular functioning, bones and nervous system health.
Add to this that jalapeño juice may be used as a remedy for seasonal allergies and clearing sinuses from colds, and you can see that there is a wealth of benefits, not only from eating jalapenos, but to be discovered and applied by the medical community.
So, how do you get all of these beneficial nutrients into your system? You can’t just walk around eating raw jalapenos the whole day. Well you probably can, but people will soon accuse you of trying to prove something. Rather try these recipes to add jalapenos to your diet in the five most delicious ways we could find:
As a Drink – Jalapeno Caipirinha
· 2 jalapeno peppers, sliced into thin strips
· 2 ounces of Leblon Cachaca
· 1 ounce of lime juice
· A dash of simple syrup
· 1 cup chopped watermelon
1. Mix 1 of the jalapeno peppers, the watermelon and the simple syrup together.
2. Shake really well with Leblon and the remaining ingredients.
3. Strain the liquid over ice into a highball glass.
4. Garnish with the jalapeno spears and two watermelon balls.
As a Starter – Jalapeno Poppers
· 12 ounces of cream cheese which has been softened
· 8 ounces of shredded cheddar
· 1 tablespoon of bacon bits
· 12 ounces jalapeno peppers, with the seeds removed and tops cut off
· 1 cup milk
· 1 cup all-purpose flour
· 1 cup dry bread crumbs
· 2 quarts oil for frying
1. In a medium bowl, mix the cream cheese, cheddar and bacon bits together. Spoon the mixture into the jalapeno pepper halves.
2. Put the milk and flour into two separate small bowls. Dip the stuffed jalapenos first into the milk then into the flour, making sure they are well coated with each. Allow the coated jalapenos to dry for about 10 minutes.
3. Dip the jalapenos in milk again and roll them through the breadcrumbs. Allow them to dry, then repeat to ensure the entire surface of the jalapeno is coated.
4. In a medium skillet, heat the oil to 365 degrees F, or 180 degrees C. Deep-fry the coated jalapenos 2 to 3 minutes each, until golden brown. Remove and let drain on a paper towel.
As a Main Course – Fresh Jalapeno Salsa for Your Nachos
· 10 fresh jalapenos
· 2 tomatoes
· 1 white onion, quartered
· 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
· 2 cloves garlic, smashed
· 1 lime, juiced
· 1 teaspoon salt
· 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1. Place jalapenos in a saucepan with enough water to completely cover them. Bring to a boil. Simmer until jalapenos soften and begin to lose their shine, or for about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the jalapenos and chop off the stem, then place them in a blender. Add the tomatoes and boil for 2 to 3 minutes to loosen the skin. Peel the skin from the tomatoes and add to the blender.
2. Place the onion, cilantro, garlic, lime juice, salt, and black pepper in the blender with the jalapenos and tomatoes. Blend to desired consistency.
As a Salad
· 250g pack cherry tomato, sliced
· 2 tbsp of finely chopped jalapeños
· small handful coriander, roughly chopped
· the juice of 1 lime
· 1 finely chopped small red onion
· 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
· 4 cooked chicken breasts, shredded
· 2 Gem lettuces, shredded
· 1 red pepper, deseeded and sliced
· 1 ripe mango, stoned, peeled and diced
· handful tortilla chips, broken up
1. Put the cherry tomatoes, jalapeños, coriander, lime juice, onion and oil in a large bowl with seasoning.
2. Put the other ingredients, except the tortilla chips, on top of the dressing. Gently mix the salad together to coat.
3. Sprinkle the tortilla chips over the top and serve immediately with lime halves.
As a Dessert – Strawberry Jalapeno Poppers
· 2 oz (1/4 package) cream cheese, softened
· 1 medium jalapeño chilli, seeded and finely chopped
· 1 tbsp of honey
· 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
· 12 large strawberries
· 1 shortbread cookie, crushed
1. Mix the cream cheese, jalapeño, honey and vanilla in a small bowl until it is well blended. Set aside.
2. Stem and core strawberries. Fill strawberries with cream cheese mixture. Place strawberries in jalapeño popper tray.
3. Grill over medium-high heat for 5 minutes or until strawberries are warmed. Top with crushed cookies.