Feel like spicing things up? Sprinkling some cayenne pepper into your next dish will not only heat things up a little, but you will also get all of its extra nutritional benefits, including improved digestion and a boosted metabolism. Sure, it might feel intimidating adding one of the world’s hottest peppers in your diet, but never fear, it’s simpler than it seems!
Fresh cayenne is the bright red, long, pointy pepper we’re most familiar with looking at. It’s so common these days that you can easily find it in the produce section of your grocery store. This form of cayenne is super easy to use: just thinly slice it with a sharp knife. Wearing rubber gloves is suggested, as the juice from the peppers can stay on your finger tips for several hours…making it dangerous to accidentally rub your eyes or lick a bit of frosting off the tip of your finger! Sprinkle the thin slices on anything to which you feel like adding a bit of heat.The bright and spicy taste of fresh cayenne helps make sauces, salsas, fish and grilled meats pop with flavor.
Cayenne peppers can also be found dried and whole, although these spicy treats are more commonly found in ethnic groceries such as your local Asian or Mexican supermarket. Dropping one -- or more if you’re feeling adventurous -- into your standard chili recipe is a quick and simple way of making your next potluck contribution a tad more fiery. When using dried cayenne peppers, you don’t have to worry as much about staining your fingers. This form is best suited for dishes that have to simmer or stew for awhile.
Cayenne powder can be found in any grocery store. Beware though…made from ground up dried cayenne peppers, this bright, red powder packs a wallop. Use it sparingly and add it bit by bit to your dish to make sure you don’t accidentally over do it! Cayenne powder can be used as a replacement for fresh or dried cayenne peppers when you don’t have them available. The taste and the presentation won't be the same, but the heat certainly is!
If you thought cayenne was good only for adding a bit of heat to a dish, you're in for a surprise. It is a rich source of vitamins A and C as well as essential minerals. Eating even just a small quantity of cayenne can provide you with sufficient levels of iron, copper, zinc, potassium, manganese, selenium and magnesium. Cayenne peppers have also been associated with helping weight reduction, easing congestion, lowering cholesterol levels and boosting the metabolism. So, it really is not just your ordinary everyday spice.
Isabelle Hannigan has been a professional writer since 2004, with articles appearing in nationally distributed newspapers such as "The National Post." She is a registered dietitian and sports nutritionist, and has worked for the University of Guelph and Athlete's World. Hannigan holds a B.S. in biochemistry from McMaster University and an M.S. in nutritional sciences from the University of Guelph.