cayenne

If you are mentally relegating cayenne pepper to the “Cajun seasoning” file in your head, you are missing out on a fantastic seasoning with some surprising health benefits. Introduce this punchy red pepper into your weekly nutrition plan and spice up your life – literally.

The bright red cayenne is a medium-hot pepper that is used in many forms: dried and ground, in a vinegar-based sauce or even whole, as in Sichuan cuisine. Also called Guinea spice, bird pepper and cow-horn pepper, cayenne is indeed a popular flavoring in Cajun dishes such as blackened fish. You will also recognize cayenne as the kicky flavor in Buffalo sauce

Cayenne pepper contains a high concentration of capsaicin, which increases blood flow and metabolism by nourishing the structure of veins. If you suffer from poor circulation or just have icy fingers and toes, a daily dose of cayenne may help you more than wool socks would. Cayenne’s circulation-promoting properties deliver blood to all parts of the body, which is why the red pepper is also known as a popular libido enhancer in many cultures.

Cayenne can also help lower blood pressure to normal levels by feeding vital elements to the cell structure of veins, arteries and capillaries. Cayenne also helps to clean the arteries and assist the body in ridding itself of triglycerides, “bad” LDL cholesterol and platelet aggregation, concerns for anyone with heart disease or those who would like to prevent it.

The bright red color of cayenne indicates its high content of beta-carotene, a powerful A vitamin that boosts immunity and helps keep mucus membranes healthy and can reduce the symptoms of asthma and arthritis. An inflammation fighter, cayenne is an effective treatment for sensory nerve disorders and can even be used for topical pain relief and to sooth congestion – just try a cup of cayenne tea the next time your nose is stuffed up for immediate relief.

Cayenne along with its active ingredient capsaicin seems like a wonder drug, and in many ways it is. But you can’t just take two teaspoons of cayenne every day unless you have an extremely stout stomach and a steel gut. The trick is to add cayenne to your diet in little ways every day so that you can take advantage of its health benefits without burning yourself out.

Use cayenne wherever you would use black pepper, just use slightly less. Cayenne goes very well with breakfast and can help wake up your body system for the day. Try it on eggs, buttered toast and even oatmeal – cayenne pairs wonderfully with cinnamon to give sweet dishes a sneaky kick of flavor.

Cayenne also pairs wonderfully with vegetables, especially bitter leafy greens that need a strong flavor to complement their own. Combine cayenne with lemon juice and try it with sautéed vegetables, green beans, collards and kale. Anytime you are feeling bored with your go-to vegetables, like carrot or celery sticks, just sprinkle a little cayenne on top and be bored no more.

Last but not least don’t forget drinks! Try cayenne in your favorite hot chocolate or add a little to your morning coffee or tea. Plain vanilla milkshakes become showstoppers with a sprinkle of cayenne, and cocktail enthusiasts can find a thousand drinks that will benefit from a spicy punch. For creative pepper lovers, the sky’s the limit when it comes to cayenne.

image: delphaber