Health Benefits of Chili, Chili Peppers, and Chili Powder

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on March 08, 2024
8 min read

Chili peppers, which are also called chili and chile, are the spicy fruit of a variety of plants in the genus capsicum. They grow in warm climates around the world. Chilis are technically berries because they contain seeds. But they are used more like a vegetable or spice because they have a savory, spicy flavor. Chili peppers originate from South and Central America and were first farmed in Mexico. They are a staple in the diets of many people in North and South America, Africa, Asia, the Pacific Islands, and parts of Europe.


There are thousands of varieties of chili peppers. They range in flavor from mild to very spicy. Some, like bell peppers, are sweeter, while others are more acidic, tart, hot, fruity, smoky, or bitter. They also come in many shapes, sizes, and colors, including green, red, yellow, brown, purple, white, black, and orange. 

They are classified by their heat and shape. Generally, larger chili peppers are less spicy, while smaller ones pack more heat. 

Some of the most common types of chili peppers include:

  • Aleppo
  • Anaheim
  • Bell
  • Bird’s eye
  • Carolina reaper
  • Cayenne
  • Habanero
  • Banana
  • Ghost
  • Hatch
  • Hot cherry
  • Jalapeno
  • Paprika
  • Poblano
  • Serrano
  • Tabasco

If you enjoy spicy foods, then there’s a good chance that you’ve come across chili at least once in your life. Edible at every stage — from the seed to the full-grown chili pepper — this spicy plant is easy to grow and abundant in foods all over the world. They're especially popular in Mexican, African, and Asian food, but can be added to almost any dish to add a pop of flavor and spice.

Chili peppers and chili powder are often used to flavor foods, including especially spicy varieties. But there's also an array of health benefits you may enjoy when eating chilis. 

Boosts your immune system

If you’re the type of person who drinks orange juice when you’re sick, then you already know the importance of vitamin C when it comes to boosting your immune system. 

Studies show that while vitamin C can’t completely prevent the common cold, taking more vitamin C when you’re sick can reduce the amount of time your sickness lasts. Serving for serving, chilis are loaded with even more vitamin C than oranges. So if orange juice isn’t your thing, you can feel good about snacking on chilis when you’re sick instead. 

Prevents heart disease

When it comes to preventing heart disease, spicy foods may be exactly what your body needs. Studies show that the capsaicin in hot peppers (which gives them their spicy taste) can reduce inflammation and decrease your chances of getting heart disease. 

Helps with weight loss

If you have obesity, you may be interested to know that chili peppers are thought to stimulate weight loss.

Studies show that the capsaicin in chili peppers can reduce appetite. Other studies show that chili peppers can increase metabolism and help you burn off the calories you do eat. While eating them by themselves may not lead to a significant change in your weight, using them with your doctor-approved weight loss plan may help you see results more quickly. 

Chili peppers aren’t just loaded with spice; they’re also loaded with nutrients. Major nutrients you’ll find in chili peppers and chili powder include: 

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Iron
  • Dietary fiber

Nutrients per serving

Half a cup of canned green chili peppers without seeds includes:

  • Calories: 14
  • Fat: 0 g
  • Sodium: 798 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 3 g
  • Protein: 0.6 g

 Disadvantages of eating chili

Chili peppers aren’t right for everyone. For some people, especially people with irritable bowel syndrome, chilis can cause diarrhea and rectal pain. Eating them may also cause indigestion, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, or a burning sensation, particularly for people with acid reflux or other digestion problems like ulcers or dyspepsia. Unpleasant symptoms are more common if you eat a lot of the spiciest varieties.

To avoid negative side effects, limit your chili intake to half a cup or less at a time, and choose mild instead of hot chilis.

One of the greatest things about chili peppers is how easy they are to add into your diet. You don’t have to love spicy foods to start adding chili into the foods you eat. Over time, you may even develop more of a tolerance for the spiciness of chili peppers. 

Some ideas for adding chili peppers to foods you already love include: 

  • Putting sliced chili peppers on a burger
  • Adding raw chili peppers to a sub sandwich
  • Making spicy chile con carne with cooked chili peppers
  • Dicing chili peppers and mixing them into mac and cheese
  • Mixing chili pepper ringlets into a salad

Chili powder or chili flakes increase the number of ways you can use chili. They can be:

  • Used to season meat
  • Added into pasta sauce
  • Cooked with ground meat for tacos or fajitas
  • Sprinkled onto vegetables to give them a spicy flair

There are a variety of ways you can dry chilis at home. The simplest method is air drying whole peppers. Either string them up and hang them by a window, place them on a wire rack, or simply lay them on a plate to dry. 

Some drying methods, like stringing chilis, can take many weeks. The size of the chili peppers and how warm and dry the room is can also affect drying time. If you cut the chilis into strips, they will dry faster. Other drying processes include using an air fryer, oven, or dehydrator to speed up the process. 

Be sure to use gloves when handling cut peppers, and consider removing the seeds if you prefer less heat.

Chili powder can be made by crushing or grinding dried chilis, or buying pre-crushed chilis. Any variety can be used. Popular options include chipotle, jalapeno, cayenne, Aleppo, and arbol pepper. 

You can make your own powder with whole dried chili peppers using a mortar and pestle (wear gloves to avoid getting the chili in your eyes). Or use a small food processor to do the work for you. If you want a spicier chili powder, include the seeds. If you prefer less heat, remove them before making the powder. 

Then, add other herbs and spices, such as oregano, cumin, garlic powder, coriander, onion powder, paprika, and salt, to taste to the powder. Store in an airtight container.

If you don’t have (or don’t like) chili powder, you can use other spices instead. Some options include paprika and cayenne powder. These spices offer a similar flavor profile.

Chili vs. cayenne

Chili powder typically includes a variety of crushed peppers as well as other spices such as garlic, oregano, and salt. It may also include cayenne. Cayenne powder is made with just ground cayenne.

Chili flakes vs. red pepper flakes

The terms chili flakes and red pepper flakes often mean the same thing—crushed red chili peppers. But chili flakes can also mean any type of crushed chili. Red pepper flakes refer only to red chili peppers. Also, red pepper flakes often include a mix of chilis and may be milder than some other types of chili flakes.

There are so many ways to eat chili peppers. You can simply add them to dishes or sauces you already enjoy. Or try new recipes from around the world that highlight these vibrant flavors.

Jerk chicken

Jerk chicken is a popular Jamaican dish with a sweet-hot kick. To prepare it, you coat chicken pieces in a spice mix of cayenne pepper, allspice, garlic powder, smoked paprika, nutmeg, thyme, onion powder, parsley, brown sugar, ginger, and cinnamon. Then, it’s slow roasted or grilled.

Zulu sauce

This African-inspired sauce uses a combination of red chili peppers, like cayenne, garlic, vinegar, oil, salt, and vegetables like carrot or sweet potato. Some versions include soy sauce or teriyaki sauce as well.

Puttanesca sauce

The heat of chili peppers combine with tomatoes, olive oil, olives, anchovies, capers, and garlic to make this pungent, spicy Italian pasta sauce.


This Indonesian sweet and spicy chili paste is used as a condiment to add heat to a variety of dishes. Sambal includes red chili, tomato, soy sauce, shallots, and lime.

Chile relleno

This popular Mexican dish is made from stuffed, roasted poblano peppers. The pepper is filled with cheese or meat, dipped in a light egg batter, then fried. It’s served with green or red salsa.

Chili leaves

In addition to the chili peppers, many types of chili leaves can be cooked and eaten. The boiled leaves often have a mild heat and other flavors like a touch of sweetness. Chili leaves are used to make kimchi in Korea, as a green in Japanese dishes, and dahon ng sili in Filipino food.

Chili oil 

Chili oil is made by mixing dried, crushed chili pepper in oil. It is a popular condiment in many Asian cuisines. You can buy it, but it’s also easy to make at home. Use a neutral oil, such as avocado, corn, or vegetable oil and your favorite chili flakes. The oil is heated, then poured over crushed chili flakes. Add salt and other spices to taste. It can be used right away or stored.


Eating chili peppers offers many health benefits, including improving your heart health, metabolism, and immune system. They also add spiciness, warmth, color, and flavor to your food. Experiment with different types of chilis to find the ones you enjoy eating and cooking with.

  • Is chili good for the immune system?

Eating chilis can be good for your immune system. They contain certain bioactive compounds, including flavonoids and carotenoids, that help your immune system work better.

  • Are chili peppers hotter than jalapenos?

Jalapenos are a type of chili pepper. While jalapenos are spicier than many mild chili peppers, such as poblano or bell peppers, they have much less heat than other varieties such as serrano or ghost pepper.

  • Does chili burn belly fat?

Research shows that eating chili peppers may boost your metabolism and reduce swelling. This could help you lose weight, including burning belly fat. While eating chili peppers alone is unlikely to make a huge difference, it could help in combination with exercise and eating a healthy diet.