Peppers—whether sweet bell or hot chili—are members of the plant genus "capsicum" (cap-sih-kum), a term that comes from the Greek word kapto, which means "to bite."
All peppers contain compounds called capsaicinoids. This is especially true of chili peppers, which derive their spicy heat—as well as extraordinary anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-cancer, heart-healthy effects—from very high levels of capsaicinoids, the most common form of which is capsaicin.
In addition to capsaicin, chilies are high in antioxidant carotenes and flavonoids, and contain about twice the amount of vitamin C found in citrus fruits. Almost any dish—from homemade soups, stews and chili to stir-fries, salads and salsas—can benefit from small amounts of hot peppers.
Learn more about the benefits of hot peppers:
- From headaches to arthritis relief—capsaicin's health benefits
- The Scoville Scale: How hot is your pepper?