Chile Ristras - A Southwest Tradition
Chile ristras have a long tradition as an integral part of Southwestern décor, but many people don’t realize that they also have a long tradition as part of Southwestern cuisine as well.
Chiles for Your Health!
Chiles for Your Health!
Take a moment to think about Hatch chiles. You’re probably picturing delicious food, or perhaps deciding between red and green, right? What you likely aren’t thinking about are the amazing ways both red and green chiles support the body. Did you know that chiles contain a number of nutrients that support cardiovascular health, or that they outperform oranges in immunity-boosting vitamin C? So many parts of the body are impacted by the nutrients in chile— bones, teeth, eyes, even the body’s metabolism. Read on to discover how the delicious choice is also a nutritious one.
Bones and teeth: Everyone knows calcium is vital for healthy bones and teeth, but did you know that there are a number of other nutrients that work together with calcium to increase absorbability and protect bones? Green and red chiles contain calcium, as well as supporting nutrients like magnesium, lysine, vitamin K, phosphorus, and potassium.
Cardiovascular health: Green and red chiles are a potassium powerhouse, with green chiles boasting a whopping 255 milligrams (mg) per serving, and red coming in close behind at 194 milligrams per serving. Potassium is vital to the health of the cardiovascular system by supporting healthy blood pressure, healthy cholesterol levels, and regulated heartbeat.
Both red and green chiles also contain other important nutrients to support a healthy cardiovascular system, including magnesium, folate, tryptophan, niacin, calcium, and vitamins E and C.
Eye health: Happily, those delicious red and green chiles can also help protect your eyesight. Red is front and center here with an astonishing 1494 mcg of beta-carotene. Green is nothing to scoff at either with 544 mcg of lutein and zeaxanthin. These nutrients, along with the vitamins E and C in chile, can work to reduce the risk of developing macular degeneration and cataracts.
Healthy immune system: Vitamin C is important for maintaining a healthy immune system, by supporting disease-fighting white blood cells. Unfortunately, our bodies can’t produce it, so we need to supplement with foods that contain vitamin C. The recommended daily intake for vitamin C is 100-200 mg. One serving of green chiles contains 181.9 mg of vitamin C, while red chiles contain 174.8 mg per serving. Compare that with a serving of oranges, which only contains 51 milligrams of vitamin C. The winner is definitely chile, but immunity support doesn’t stop with vitamin C.
Green and red chiles are also a source of vitamins A, B, E, and K, as well as zinc, magnesium, and iron—all of which have been shown to play roles in a healthy immune system.
Fighting free radical damage: Free radicals trigger the aging process through oxidation, and are linked to conditions like heart disease and cancer. You can’t avoid free radicals—pollutants are in our food, water, and the very air we breathe. The good news is that antioxidants neutralize the free radicals by scavenging them in the body, slowing down damage to DNA. The better news is that delicious chiles contain powerful antioxidants such as beta-carotene, lycopene, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, and beta-cryptoxanthin.
Healthy metabolism: Capsaicin, the source of that wonderful heat in chile, revs up more than your appetite—it can actually increase your metabolism. That warmth you feel when eating spicy foods, actually causes a slight increase to your metabolism, allowing you to burn a few more calories. B vitamins and magnesium are also present in both red and green chiles, which is great because they help the body with metabolizing fats and carbohydrates and are essential to energy production.
But that’s not all chiles have to offer when it comes to metabolism support. They also contain zinc, which supports the thyroid. The thyroid is crucial to the metabolism because its main job is metabolism regulation. So a healthy thyroid can help maintain a healthy metabolism, and zinc-containing foods like red and green chile help that process.
These are not all the ways chile can positively impact the body, and there are so many more. For example, the amino acid, phenylalanine, found within chiles can support memory and mood. Chiles also contain tryptophan, which is a natural relaxant that can support healthy sleep. Even that immune-boosting vitamin C has other important jobs--from enhancing iron absorption to promoting wound healing. The bottom line though is that chiles are brimming with nutrients to support the whole body. Whether you choose red or green, it’s not just a delicious choice; it’s a healthy one that your whole body, from your taste buds to your heart, will appreciate!
Laura Glenn Combs is a customer service representative for The Fresh Chile Company. She has enjoyed studying Nutrition and Health Sciences both academically and personally over the past 20 years. She and her husband have loved life in New Mexico for the last 18 years, and deeply appreciate having the opportunity to raise a family in the Land of Enchantment.