Also known as bhut jolokia, ghost peppers rose to fame in the early 2000s and still carry a significant amount of notoriety. Ghost peppers are a hybrid of two chili pepper cultivars that were brought from the Americas. This Capsicum chinense cultivar originated in the Indian state of Assam and is world famous for its extreme pungency and heat, but is it good for you? Do you get any health benefits from eating ghost peppers? The answer is, yes; ghost peppers do have beneficial characteristics to go along with that wicked heat.
They are a low-fat and low-calorie food
Like most chili peppers, ghost peppers are low in fat and calories. A typical 2 g serving has a calorie load that is lower than a single calorie. It also contains 0.01 g of fat. If you are trying to cut the calories and fat in your diet, ghost peppers are a great addition.
In addition to adding very few calories to your diet, ghost peppers do contain several important nutrients. Their concentration of vitamins and minerals is actually similar to that of milder peppers like the jalapeño and bell pepper; however, the intense heat from the capsaicin means that the serving size is usually much smaller than it is with those peppers. The result is that you only get trace amounts of most of its beneficial compounds. The nutrients that are present in higher concentrations are:
A 2 g serving of ghost peppers will give you about 4 percent of the vitamin C that you need on a daily basis. You need vitamin C is for your immune system to function properly and for the production of collagen, a protein that your body needs for skin health and for the maintenance of connective tissues.
Capsaicin is the compound in hot chili peppers that makes them hot. The higher the concentration of capsaicin, the hotter the pepper. Ghost chilies are considered one of the hottest chili peppers in the world and were certified as the world’s hottest pepper in 2007. Even though it has been superseded by hotter peppers like the Carolina Reaper and the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, it still remains among the top hottest peppers. Its rating on the Scoville scale is 1,041,427 SHU Scoville Heat Units. The ghost pepper is more than 200 times hotter than a jalapeño.
Capsaicin has been widely used in traditional medicine for centuries and modern medicine has found it to have significant disease-fighting benefits as well.
Ghost peppers can be used in the treatment and prevention of health conditions, including:
- Cancer: Capsaicin has been shown to have a range of health benefits that include being a potential treatment for cancer. Studies have shown that the capsaicin molecule binds to the surface of prostate cancer cells and kills them. Another study found that capsaicin reduced the ability of breast cancer cells to metastasize. In order to see the cancer-fighting benefits of capsaicin, a relatively high dose must be consumed. Ghost peppers are rich in capsaicin, which means they are an efficient way to consume large amounts of it – again if you can withstand the heat of these super-hot peppers.
- High blood sugar: A study on women in Thailand found that those who consumed 5 g of chili pepper in a meal had lower blood glucose levels than those who did not.
- High cholesterol: Various studies have shown that adding capsaicin to the diet can lower cholesterol. In both animal and human studies, capsaicin has been shown to reduce low-density lipoprotein and triglycerides.
It should be noted – any handling of ghost peppers should be done with extreme care. Even touching a ghost pepper can lead to severe chili burn due to the capsaicin in the oils of the pepper. Wear gloves and kitchen goggles, and know how to combat chili burn prior to any use.