Ever wonder what made that burrito you ordered taste so good – perfectly smoky and perfectly spicy? Most likely, it was cayenne pepper. But cayenne is not just known for its flavor. Native Americans have been using the spice in food and also medicine for 9,000 years. Many ancient cultures found cayenne to relieve stomach pain and help with circulatory problems.
Cayenne pepper contains a compound called capsaicin which is thought to be the source of this pepper’s proposed benefits. While there are mixed results in the research about capsaicin, the proposed benefits are worth noting. Capsaicin is being studied for its potential to reduce tumor cell growth and spread, its ability to reduce inflammation in a variety of colorectal and lung cancer cells, and its ability to slow down the progression of cancers at the gene level [LINK].
In addition to the potential nutrition benefits of consuming more cayenne pepper, there are many practical benefits that come with adding this delicious spice to your diet. If you are recommended a low sodium diet, cayenne is a great flavor enhancer that can be added to many dishes. With the potential taste changes that come with chemotherapy, cayenne is a powerful spice that packs a unique flavor profile. If you are trying to increase protein or fiber intake, cayenne brings new zest to any kind of meat or vegetable dish.
We recommend against taking any kind of capsaicin or cayenne supplement due to the lack of research on the benefits or potential adverse effects of capsaicin in a supplement form and the lack of oversight and regulation of supplements on the market. Additionally, it is unknown what kind of interaction there would be between capsaicin supplements and cancer medications or chemotherapy.
Cayenne is a great addition to any sort of chili – it gives it a soothing, smoky flavor. Also, tossing it into some roasted nuts makes for a great snack. Our Spicy Sweet Potato Fries really make use of the pepper’s smokiness and spiciness. For a more unusual way to use cayenne, check out our Chive Cayenne Shortbread Cookies. The cayenne in these cookies pairs extremely well with a hearty soup!