Food for Thought

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Burning up
As you break out in a sweat over a bowl of chilli, think of the benefits. Not just reducing insulin demand as we reported in GI News in August, but helping you burn calories while you eat. Researchers from Maastricht University, Wageningen Centre of Food Science in Holland, and Laval University in Quebec have reviewed the evidence for capsaicin, black pepper, ginger and mixed spices with respect to energy balance and heat generation (thermogenesis). Reporting in a recent issue of Physiology & Behavior they conclude: ‘Consumption of spiced foods or herbal drinks often leads to greater thermogenesis … Therefore, it is suggested that these ingredients can realistically be considered as functional agents that could help in preventing a positive energy balance and obesity.’ For example:

  • Capsaicin, the compound gives red chilli pepper its heat, has been reported by several studies to boost heat generation by the body, which means you burn more energy.
  • This means that people who drank tomato juice with a little bit of red pepper added effectively consumed 10% less energy.
  • Black pepper is also reported to stimulate metabolism.

Physiology and Behavior, 30 Aug 2006, 89(1): 85-91

Dried Chilli

If you like it hot, try this recipe from Herbies Spices ‘Seriously Chilli Spice Kit’. For a vegetarian version, drop the bacon and add another 1/2 cup of mushrooms.

Mexican chilli soup
Serves 4

2 Ancho chillies
3 large tomatoes, thickly sliced
1 small onion, thickly sliced
1 clove garlic, chopped
4 cups (1 litre) chicken stock (home-made, or low-salt if purchased)
1 cup finely chopped mushrooms
½ cup chopped lean bacon (all fat removed)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon ricotta
fresh coriander (cilantro), to serve

  1. Preheat the grill or barbeque griddle plate till very hot. Toast the whole chillies, turning often to avoid burning (blackening). Remove the chilli seeds and stems (veins) reserving them in case you want to increase the heat of the soup later. Soak the chillies in 1 cup of the stock for 10 minutes then blend the chilli and stock mixture until smooth in a food processor or blender.
  2. Char the onion slices and whole garlic clove all over. Peel the garlic clove after cooling a few minutes. Char the tomato slices then chop roughly.
  3. Blend the onion, tomato and peeled garlic clove with 2 cups of the stock until smooth and add to the chilli mixture.
  4. Heat the tablespoon of olive oil in a pan then fry the chopped bacon. After a minute or two, add the mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes. Blend (or pulse if you like a more textured soup) the bacon and mushroom mixture with the ricotta in the remaining cup of stock. Combine with the rest of the soup in a large pan and reheat for about 5 minutes. Serve garnished with the fresh coriander.

If you want to increase the heat of the soup, puree some of the chilli seeds and veins with the bacon and mushroom mixture. For more spicy ideas go to:

Energy: 653 kJ/155 cals; Protein: 10.2 g; Total fat 9.8 g (saturated fat: 2.8 g); Carbohydrate: 5.6 g; Fibre: 2.7 g