The first time I tried a habanero pepper, I was determined to show everyone in Mexico how tough I was. I wasn’t just some run-of-the-mill gringa, I was completely capable of eating even the spiciest of produce options. As my friend handed me a small piece of the perilous pepper, I casually popped it in my mouth as if it were an M&M. I remember blood rushing to my face, fire sparking in my throat, and the pressing need for water. Tears began to stream down my face as I masked my painful discomfort with a smile fit for a psychotic clown. Laughter ensued as I said “delicioso” under my breath.

A habenero for your health? Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

The habanero pepper has a bit of a Napoleon complex. It makes up for its small size with its potent spicy flavor and even many people in Mexico fear its wrath. Many people know about the reputation for its fearful flavor but not many are aware of all the habanero health benefits. It is mainly because of a chemical contained in the peppers called capsaicin which has been shown to help with multiple ailments. Here are a few habanero health benefits to keep in mind when your throat is on fire:

1. Lower your cholesterol

Eating these terrifyingly tasty treats has been shown to lower bad cholesterol. In a 1985 study published in “Artery” it was shown that the capsaicin in habaneros reduced cholesterol in young female rabbits.

2. Reduce blood pressure

The capsaicin in habaneros also has been shown to also reduce high blood pressure. Apparently, capsaicin stimulates the increase of the insulin-like growth factor IGF-I which reduces blood pressure.

3. Fights weight gain

Can capsaicin help you control your weight? It sure can! Capsaicin increases thermogenesis throughout the body. The process of thermogenesis is what is involved in the raising and lowering of body temperature and if you increase that, you increase metabolism.

4. Cancer prevention

Because of the combinations of high content of vitamins C and A and capsaicin, this little pepper can prevent cancer in a big way by inhibiting the growth of cancer cells (particularly prostate) and by preventing the negative effects of free radicals.

Enough reasons to accept the dare of biting into a habanero pepper? Maybe you should start slow by adding a bit to your next taco. However you choose to eat the habanero, it may bring your tongue comfort to know that you are receiving multiple health benefits by eating the hot and healthy habanero.