The Vibrant Chilly
Though we commonly associate the word chilly with the colours green and red, the fact is that they also come in purple, yellow and orange. It is a fruit which has around 200 varieties! Though they differ in colour, they all contain capsaicin, a biologically active ingredient beneficial to the respiratory system, blood pressure and heart. It’s capsaicin that causes the heat, stimulates the palate and increases blood circulation. This makes the body sweat, which in turn has a cooling effect. The higher the concentration of capsaicin, the hotter the chilli. That is why chillies are so predominant in tropical areas.
Chillies come in all sizes, shapes and colours. There are two kinds of chillies found commonly in our household, namely, green and red. Green chillies are the unripe chillies which darken to red. Both have distinct tastes and also have different health benefits. Born as green, when they are dried, they turn red as they lose all the water content and become more pungent. As chillies dry up and turn red, they lose a major chunk of nutrients too.
The Many Avatars of Chilly: Red, Green and Dry Red
Each of these commonly found variations of chilly have something different to offer and each play an important role where nutrition is concerned. Indian food is in fact incomplete without chillies. Green chillies are definitely healthier in comparison to red chilli powder (this powder is obtained when dry red chillies are powdered). Green chillies have a higher water content and practically zero calories. Hence, it is obviously a healthier choice for weight watchers. Green chillies are also a rich source of beta–carotene, antioxidants and endorphins. However, red chillies when consumed in excess can cause internal inflammation which can then result in peptic ulcers. The best way to consume both red and green chilli is by eating them raw.
Flavour-wise, green chillies have a lovely grassy note to them. Its ripe version on the other hand is sweeter. Dried ripe chillies have concentrated sugars and thus less of the sharp vegetable flavours.
Consuming green chillies regularly helps in balancing high blood sugar levels by controlling the insulin level. These chillies are loaded in dietary fibre and therefore aids digestion. Being a rich source of vitamin E and C, it also contributes towards a healthy skin. A regular intake of green chillies keeps the heart healthy as it has a considerable proportion of beta-carotene, vital in maintaining the proper functioning of the cardiovascular system. Chillies also help in weight loss by accelerating our metabolism and burning calories. Green chillies are an excellent immunity booster. Red chilli being the riper version of the green chilli is also packed with Vitamin C and is a good immunity booster that helps fight chronic diseases. Thanks to its high potassium content, it helps in soothing blood vessels and regulates blood pressure. There are powerful antioxidants in red chilli that help in clearing blockages in blood vessels and arteries. So redder the chilli, healthier the heart!
Dried red chillies or its powdered version is a very common ingredient in Indian households. The benefits of whole dried chillies are more sensorial than physical. These are basically the dried version of green chillies and the drier they are, the more pungent is their taste. This is the reason they are used in certain Indian and Pan Asian recipes- for the characteristic flavour they provide. They are used less for spiciness and more for flavour. A word of caution- it is safer to use whole dried red chillies than chilly powder, because the powder has the potential of being adulterated with artificial colours and flavours.