Thai food is world-renowned for being spicy. But did you know that by eating spicy food a person can gain major health benefits also? Thai people developed so many spicy recipes because they realized one simple fact…they felt better after eating it. In this day of science, study after study has proven that spicy food does indeed have major health benefits.
First, let’s direct our attention to the most popular ingredient that makes Thai food spicy…the Thai chili pepper. Sometimes called Bird’s eye chili in the America’s, the Thai chili pepper in the Thai language is known as prik kee noo. Thai chili peppers start out as green peppers and then turn red as they ripen. This is the reason you may have seen both green and red varieties at your local market.
How spicy is a Thai chili pepper? When I first started eating Thai food, I thought these were the hottest peppers ever. It does seem that one can also develop somewhat of an immunity to them. I used to start out with just a couple in my Thai dishes. Now I find myself using twice as many. For those familiar with the Scoville unit of spicy measurement, the Thai pepper measures from 50,000 – 100,000 Scoville units. To put that in comparison, a jalapeno only measures in at 1,000 – 10,000 units. Meanwhile, the habanero pepper is at the 100,000 – 350,000 unit range.
The health benefits of the Thai chili pepper come from capsaicin, an active component of the pepper. After one Google search on the internet, one will start to think that peppers like the Thai chili are super foods. Capsaicin releases serotonin which helps easing stress and depression. It will decrease appetite making it possible to stick to one’s diet. Capsaicin also boosts metabolism which aids in fat burning. Spicy foods improve the immune system. Capsaicin lowers blood pressure too. There’s also the health benefit of alleviating pain. Studies are showing that spicy foods containing capsaicin may even fight diabetes and prevent cancer.
Thai chili pepper may not be the only pepper that contains this wonderful capsaicin ingredient, but hey, this is a Thai blog. We’re biased! So in conclusion….eat more Thai food! To help with this new health goal, I have included a bonus recipe as well. This recipe is for a staple table condiment in Thailand called Chili Fish Sauce. It’s easy to whip together and serve on the side for your chicken, fish, pork, or rice meals you will now start making with the Thai chili pepper.
Chili Fish Sauce
2 Tbsp fish sauce
2-4 Thai chili pepper thinly sliced
Shallot thinly sliced
Pinch of sugar
Just mix all of the above in a small side dish. To make a Chili Garlic Fish Sauce, add some minced garlic. To make a Chili Lime Fish Sauce, add some juice from a lime.