Laal mirch may spice up your weight-loss diet
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Integral to Indian cuisine, cayenne pepper (laal mirch) has made its way into weight-loss diets popular among Hollywood stars. The diet consists of cayenne pepper, pure lemon juice, maple syrup and water through the day, the assumption being that pepper speeds up metabolism, promotes circulation and releases toxins from our bodies. The cocktail appears to be another version of spiced nimboo paani! Far from being a weight-loss solution, what prompts interest is the use of cayenne pepper.
Hot and pungent to taste, cayenne pepper has been used for 5,000 years in South and Central America as a culinary and medicinal herb and takes its name from Greek word meaning "to bite". It has been well-known for its stimulating effects.
The chief constituent of cayenne pepper is capsaicin, which accounts for its hot taste. Chemically, capsaicin is an alkaloid, and an aromatic compound which has been historically used as a pain reliever, particularly to relieve chronic pain due to arthritis or shingles (painful rash like herpes). Apparently, it does this by upsetting the chemical balance inside sensory cells that relay pain messages to the brain.
Besides this, it is traditionally known to be used to improve circulation, digestion, regulate blood pressure and lower cholesterol. It has been also found to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and some nutritional benefits as well. Some of these have been demonstrated in small scientific studies.
The anti-inflammatory benefits of red pepper come as a paradox, as according to conventional practice red pepper and spicy food is the first to be struck off the diet during inflammatory conditions of the digestive system like ulcers. Some studies report gastro-protective and anti-inflammatory benefits of red pepper.
A recent animal study done in 2010 in Mysore, India, reported gastrointestinal protective potential of dietary spices including red pepper.
Another recent animal study conducted in 2008 in Brazil found that capsaicin in red pepper rendered anti-inflammatory benefits.
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