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Chili - The Spice

The Scoville heat scale measures the levels of capsaicin in a pepper.

· Spice

Which is the hottest, spiciest chili you have ever eaten or known?
When I had to answer, I only reached till Thai chilies (green chilies), Jalapeno peppers and habanero peppers.

Do you know there are more than 3,000 varieties of chilies?
and the smaller and redder the chili, the hotter it is.

Chiles pepper get their characteristic hot and spicy kick from an alkaloid called capsaicin, concentrated mostly in the seeds and skin. The more capsaicin in the chili, the spicier it is.

While we are talking about heat in chili, isn’t it interesting to know that there is a scientific method of measuring the spiciness or heat in chili peppers?
Indeed, it is… and it is called as “Scoville heat unit”.
The Scoville heat scale measures the levels of capsaicin in a pepper.

To better understand the Scoville heat unit let’s see the numbers for comparison:


Scoville Heat Unit

Interesting Facts:

Bell pepper



2,500 to 8,000 units

Tabasco chili & Cayenne pepper

30,000 to 50,000 units

Habanero peppers

150,000 to 325,000 units

Ghost pepper or Naga jolokia

Over 1 million units

Was believed to be the hottest pepper

Carolina Reaper

Over 2 million units

Is world’s hottest pepper. Its 200 times hotter than Jalapeno and it’s a cross between ghost pepper and red habanero.

Exploring Chilies

The chili pepper is a fruit of the capsicum pepper plant. Chili peppers were first cultivated in Central and South America regions whose cuisines are well-known for their hot and spicy flavors. Today, chili peppers are grown all over the world, but China, Mexico, Spain, Nigeria and Turkey are among the largest commercial producers. Today chilies play crucial role in the cuisines of India, Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Mexico, Central and South America.

Mexico is well-known for its use of chili pepper in cooking. Mexicans have the most refined taste in the world for inventing chili recipe. Mexico has more than 150 different varieties of chili peppers.
India also has variety of chilis, each with its own unique aroma and flavor.

All chilis have medicinal properties but hotter the chili the better it is. Heat from chili can destroy a variety of diseases. Chili is loaded with antioxidants. A chili contains nine times more vitamin A than a green pepper, and it has twice as much vitamin C as an orange. Chilis are rich in minerals, including potassium and magnesium.

Biggest mistake with the chilis

Grabbing a glass of water to soothe the “chili fired mouth” is the worst thing to do. In fact, it may increase the burn since chili is not water soluble.

The best substances to calm the fiery mouth are beer, milk, yogurt, peanut butter, and ice cream.

If you accidently get chili burn in your eyes, rinse repeatedly with cold water or saline solution until the sting begins to fade. If your fingers or hands burns after handling or cooking with chili, wash it off with soap and water and rub it with alcohol, and then soothe it with milk or oil.

Health benefits

1. Eating chili can help weight loss
There are evidences and scientific research backing up the fact that chili peppers has helped people lose weight and prevented others from gaining it. Digesting capsaicin raises your body heat, it increases sweat, and boosts your metabolism.

Numerous studies suggest that eating chilies help you burn more calories and eat less. In the International Journal of Obesity, researchers stated that people who took a capsaicin supplement before meals ate less fat and fewer calories. In another study, in the British Journal of Nutrition, researchers found that eating chilis at breakfast made people less hungry and they ate less at lunch and eating chilis as dinner appetizer made people eat less at rest of the meal.

From a report from the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology, a Japanese study suggested that taking a capsaicin supplement one hour before aerobic exercise increased fat burn.

2. Eating chilis can help arthritis.
Capsaicin from chili is proved to offer relief from pain to people with osteoarthritis. Studies show that it increases levels of synovial fluid, which lubricates joints and helps prevent the breakdown of cartilage. Thus, helping decrease pain and increase flexibility.
The pain-relieving capsaicin cream when applied on the knees of people with osteoarthritis for 2 months showed significant pain reduction. This study was conducted at the University of Miami School of Medicine. By following months, 81 percent informed decreased arthritic conditions like morning stiffness.

3. Eating chilis can improve cholesterol.
According to the study from the “Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry” capsaicin from chilis help lowers high cholesterol levels by breaking down blood cholesterol, preventing its buildup and helping its removal from the system. It helps decrease LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol, without affecting HDL, or “good,” cholesterol.

According to a study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, fit person who ate an ounce of chilis a day for a month had a stronger, healthier heart compared to men who ate a bland diet. In a stress test, measuring heart muscle function, the men who ate chilis did better.

More on red chili powder, cayenne pepper and paprika…..
It is a good idea to use chilis or chili powders as one of the spices in combination with the other spices. This way it complements the dish without putting your mouth on fire.

Cayenne pepper powder: It is very hot and cayenne powder is a straight grounded form of dried cayenne pepper.

Red chili powder: It is medium hot and might be blend of other spices. Make sure you read label carefully before buying and using it as a substitute. In Indian households we have signature family red chili powder recipe passed on by previous generations.

Paprika: It is the mildest of all the three. Paprika provides a nice red tinge to the dish than the hot flavor.
Experiment with chilis and chili powders a pinch at a time and enjoy the flavor and hot health benefits 😊