Chili powder is a sharp spice blend made from crushed dried chili peppers. This popular ingredient adds heat and robust flavor to dishes from tacos to curries. But chili powder is more than just a flavor enhancer.
The compounds that give chili peppers their spiciness are also responsible for a variety of health benefits. From supporting heart health to relieving headaches, chili powder deserves a spot in both your spice cabinet and your supplement regimen.
Chili Powder is Packed With Vitamins and Minerals
One tablespoon of chili powder contains 9% of your daily recommended vitamin A, which is important for healthy vision and immunity. Chili powder is also rich in vitamin C, an antioxidant that supports your immune system and helps your body absorb iron.
Additionally, chili powder provides small amounts of B vitamins like riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin B6. These B vitamins play key roles in energy metabolism and brain health. Chili powder also contains the minerals iron, potassium, and manganese.
Capsaicin in Chili Powder Has Anti-Inflammatory Effects
The compound responsible for the spicy heat of chili powder is called capsaicin. This plant compound has powerful anti-inflammatory properties that can help relieve joint pain or swelling when applied topically.
According to research, capsaicin creams can reduce arthritis pain and stiffness. The anti-inflammatory effects of chili powder may also help protect your heart and reduce your risk of certain cancers when consumed regularly.
Chili Powder Supports Healthy Digestion
Adding a dash of chili powder to your meals may benefit your gastrointestinal system. The capsaicin in chili powder speeds up digestion by stimulating the increased production of saliva, gastric juices, and bile.
This helps prevent constipation and improves your ability to fully break down and absorb nutrients from your food. The fiber in chili powder also promotes healthy digestion.
Additionally, preliminary research shows that chili powder may have antimicrobial properties that prevent the growth of harmful gut bacteria like H. pylori while leaving beneficial probiotics intact.
Chili Powder Contains Metabolism-Boosting Compounds
If you're trying to lose weight, incorporating chili powder into flavorful rubs, marinades, and sauces may give your metabolism a kick.
This mild metabolic effect can help you burn slightly more calories throughout the day. However, keep in mind that any potential weight loss benefits are much more likely if you consume chili powder as part of an overall healthy diet.
Chili Powder May Help Lower Blood Pressure
The capsaicin in chili powder encourages circulation by causing blood vessels to expand, which improves blood flow. This effect may help lower high blood pressure in some individuals.
Chili powder is also a great source of potassium, an important mineral, and electrolyte that plays a role in blood pressure regulation. Adding chili powder to dishes creates a flavorful, natural way to increase your potassium intake.
Chili Powder Contains Compounds That May Relieve Headaches
If you deal with frequent headaches or migraines, a dab of chili powder may help provide relief thanks to the capsaicin it contains.
According to research, capsaicin-based nasal sprays and creams may inhibit pain signals caused by inflammation of sensory nerves. This leads to reduced headache pain and migraine symptoms.
However, more studies are still needed to confirm the headache-fighting potential of chili powder itself when consumed.
Chili Powder Improves Blood Circulation and Oxygenation
The capsaicin in chili powder causes blood vessels to dilate, which improves circulation and blood vessel function. Proper blood flow delivers oxygen, nutrients, and immune cells throughout the body.
In addition, the iron in chili powder boosts hemoglobin production. Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells responsible for carrying oxygen. More circulating hemoglobin means better oxygenation.
Together, these effects enhance overall health and brain function.
Chili Powder Contains Skin-Nourishing Vitamins
Chili powder provides key antioxidants and nutrients that benefit your skin. Vitamin C helps build collagen, a structural protein that keeps skin firm. Meanwhile, vitamin A (as beta-carotene) gets converted into retinol to repair skin damage.
Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant to protect the skin from harmful free radicals that accelerate aging. Using chili powder in face masks or DIY body scrubs provides mild exfoliation and improves circulation.
Chili Powder May Reduce Risk of Blood Clots
Blood clots form when platelet cells cluster together. According to rodent studies, capsaicin from chili powder may help prevent dangerous clumping of platelets by making them less “sticky.”
It also improves circulation and blood vessel flexibility, further reducing clot risk. These benefits can protect cardiovascular health. However, human studies are still limited in this area.
Chili Powder Contains Anti-Cancer Compounds
The antioxidants found in chili powder, particularly capsaicin, and carotenoids, demonstrate anti-cancer activities. They may help neutralize cancer-causing free radicals, reduce inflammation, and even encourage cancer cell death.
According to studies in cell cultures and animals, capsaicin shows potential against prostate, pancreatic, skin, and colon cancers. However, more human research is still necessary.
Chili Powder Improves Length and Quality of Sleep
Interestingly, spicy chili powder may support quality sleep. Consuming chili powder raises body temperature slightly, which mimics the natural temperature shift that occurs when you sleep.
Keeping your body temperature elevated at night helps synchronize your circadian rhythms, making it easier to fall and stay asleep. This effect is most noticeable when eating chili powder close to bedtime.
What are some ways I can use chili powder in cooking?
You can incorporate chili powder into rubs and seasonings for meats, sprinkle it on eggs, add it to soups and chilis, use it in taco seasoning, mix it into dips and dressings, and blend it into burger patties. It also works well mixed into cornbread, sprinkled on chocolate, and combined with oil for spicy popcorn seasoning. Start with 1/4 teaspoon per serving and adjust the amount to your taste preferences.
Does chili powder go bad and how can I tell?
Like other spices, chili powder can eventually lose its flavor and aroma. Signs of stale chili powder include a faded color and lack of pungency. Properly stored chili powder will maintain optimum quality for about 3 years. Keep it in an airtight container away from light and moisture. Discard chili powder that smells musty or dull.
What's the difference between chili powder and cayenne pepper?
While cayenne pepper is made from just the dried, ground cayenne chili, chili powder is a blend that contains cayenne pepper along with other dried chili peppers and complimentary spices like cumin, oregano, and garlic powder. As a result, cayenne has a pure heat while chili powder has a more nuanced, multifaceted flavor profile.
Does chili powder need to be cooked or can I add it at the end?
It's best to bloom chili powder briefly in oil at the beginning of cooking to fully release its flavors. However, you can incorporate smaller amounts at the end of cooking as well. Just keep in mind that the raw taste can be overpowering in large quantities. Start with 1/4 teaspoon per serving if adding it uncooked.
Can I substitute regular chili powder for a recipe that calls for a specific type?
Substituting will alter the flavor profile somewhat. Certain chili powders like ancho, chipotle, and New Mexico are made from specific chile pepper varieties, giving them distinct tastes. Generic chili powder works best as a sub when heat level rather than the nuanced flavor is most important. Reduce the amount by half to adjust for its greater spiciness.
While chili powder should be used in moderation by those who don't tolerate spicy foods well, it can benefit health and cooking when enjoyed regularly by most people. Chili powder contains capsaicin, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and other plant compounds that fight inflammation, boost immunity, and support digestion, brain function, and more.
Add chili powder to rubs, dressings, soups, eggs, meats, and other dishes to turn up the heat and take advantage of this spice's many perks. Just be sure to store it properly in a cool, dark place to preserve its potency.