Research is limited on the potential health benefits of eating cayenne peppers, but it may still be helpful to add them to your diet.
Cayenne peppers, scientifically known as Capsicum annuum,belong to the Solanaceae or nightshade plant family, which also includes tomatoes, eggplant, and potatoes.
They’re a type of chili pepper and have a moderately hot, spicy flavor thanks to a compound called capsaicin.
Capsaicin, the compound that gives cayenne peppers their signature spicy flavor, is linked to some health benefits when consumed in supplement form. However, since the related research didn’t investigate cayenne pepper pecifically, more studies are needed.
Nonetheless, adding cayenne peppers to your diet may benefit your health in a few ways.
Here are 6 potential benefits of cayenne pepper, plus tips on how to use it.
Harald Walker/Stocksy United
- Contains several important nutrients
Cayenne peppers and other types of hot peppers are a concentrated source of many nutrients and can be a healthy addition to your diet.
Here’s the nutritional breakdown for one 45-gram hot red chili pepper:
Protein: 0.8 grams
Fat: 0.2 grams
Carbs: 3.9 grams
Fiber: 0.7 grams
Vitamin C: 72% of the DV
Provitamin A: 48% of the Daily Value (DV)
Vitamin B6: 13% of the DV
Vitamin K: 5% of the DV
As you can see, just one chili pepper provides an impressive amount of nutrients.
Chili peppers like cayenne peppers are especially rich in provitamin A carotenoids and vitamin C.
Vitamin A exists in two forms: provitamin A and preformed vitamin A. Provitamin A carotenoids are found in plant foods, while preformed vitamin A is concentrated in animal foods.
Provitamin A carotenoids found in cayenne include alpha carotene and beta carotene, which the body can convert into the active form of vitamin A.
Vitamin A is an essential nutrient that’s involved in many aspects of health. For example, it’s necessary for:
the functioning of the immune system
growth and development
Plus, hot peppers like cayenne peppers are packed with vitamin C.
Just one 45-gram chili pepper provides 72% of this nutrient. Like vitamin A, vitamin C is essential to immune health. It also plays critical roles in collagen production, iron absorption, and neurotransmitter synthesis.
Additionally, hot peppers like cayenne peppers provide nutrients like B6, vitamin K, potassium, and magnesium.
Even though cayenne peppers are nutritious, most people can only handle a small portion because of their intense spicy flavor. However, consuming small amounts of cayenne regularly could contribute to the improved intake of certain nutrients.
- A source of capsaicin
Many of the health benefits attributed to hot peppers like cayenne peppers are linked to their capsaicin content. Peppers contain a variety of compounds called capsaicinoids, but capsaicin is the most abundant.
When you consume it in high-dose supplement form or apply it topically, capsaicin may offer several health benefits, including,:
improved athletic performance
lowered blood sugar levels
However, research on the effects of taking capsaicin supplements is quite limited, and more evidence supports the use of topical applications of capsaicin, such as capsicin-containing creams.
Research also suggests that capsaicin has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. However, it’s unclear whether the amounts of capsaicin consumed in normal servings of cayenne peppers and other hot peppers have any meaningful benefits.
Even though the capsaicin found in cayenne peppers likely offers some benefits, more research is needed to fully understand how capsaicin derived from normal serving sizes of cayenne peppers affects health.
- Packed with beneficial plant compounds
Although capsaicin is perhaps the most well-known plant compound found in cayenne peppers, they contain many more protective plant compounds that may have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in the body.
For example, cayenne peppers provide:
All of these may help protect against cellular damage caused by oxidative stress — an imbalance between damaging molecules called free radicals and antioxidant defenses in the body.
A 2015 study showed that Capsicum annuum pepper varieties, including a type of cayenne pepper, had the greatest antioxidant activity compared with other types of peppers, including habanero-type peppers (C. chinense).
Following a diet high in nutrient-dense, antioxidant-rich foods like peppers could help promote optimal health and increase your body’s antioxidant defenses.
Studies show that consuming a diet rich in plant foods that contain a variety of antioxidants may protect against certain health conditions like heart disease and may help prolong your life.
Consuming cayenne peppers, along with other fruits and vegetables, is a smart way to keep yourself healthy while providing your body with protective plant compounds and essential nutrients.
- Regularly eating hot peppers may benefit overall health
Even though studies on cayenne pepper intake and health are limited, some studies have associated hot pepper consumption in general with improved health outcomes.
Researchers think that the beneficial compounds found in hot peppers, including capsaicin, may help reduce inflammation and oxidative damage, which could help protect against certain health conditions, including heart disease.
For example, a 2019 Italian study that included 22,811 adults found that regular chili pepper consumption was associated with a lower risk of death from heart disease.
Some researchers suggest that capsaicin may improve certain aspects of cardiovascular health, including blood vessel function, but more studies are needed to confirm this potential benefit.
A large 2021 review of four observational studies found that chili pepper consumption was associated with a reduced risk of death from all causes.
Other studies have also linked chili pepper consumption to a lower risk of all-cause mortality.
While these findings are encouraging, this does not mean that eating a chili pepper every day will protect you from developing chronic diseases. It simply means that some studies have found associations between chili pepper consumption and some potential health benefits.
If you’re trying to improve your health, it’s best to examine your diet as a whole instead of focusing on just one food, such as chili peppers.
Eating more vegetables and fruits, getting enough sleep, reducing stress, and getting regular activity are much more important for protecting your health than adding any particular food into your diet.
- Can flavor your food without the need for added salt
Although salt isn’t bad for you when you eat it in small amounts, consuming too much salt can take a toll on your health and may even increase your risk of certain health conditions like high blood pressure and heart disease.
Interestingly, using cayenne to flavor your food may help you cut back on your salt intake.
A 2017 study found that when participants added cayenne pepper to soup, they were less likely to desire salt, were less hungry, and felt fuller 1 hour after their meal.
However, the study did find that the participants seemed to crave more sweets and fats after cayenne consumption. For this reason, more research is needed to understand how cayenne affects taste perception and cravings.
If you’re using salt to flavor your food, you could try adding a dash of powdered cayenne pepper to see whether it helps you use less salt.
You could also try adding fresh, finely chopped cayenne pepper to recipes like omelets and salad dressings to reduce the need for added salt.
- Incredibly versatile in the kitchen
You can use cayenne pepper in a variety of ways.
Enjoy cayenne peppers fresh or add them to cooked dishes for a kick of flavor.
Plus, you can use powdered cayenne pepper in a number of recipes, both sweet and savory.
Here are a few ways to use cayenne:
Add finely chopped fresh cayenne to stir-fries.
Use a bit of powdered cayenne in stews, chilis, and soups.
Add powdered or chopped fresh cayenne to baked goods like cornbread and chocolate cake.
Mix a bit of powdered cayenne into egg dishes, such as frittatas and omelets.
Sprinkle a bit of powdered cayenne in your hot chocolate for a spicy twist.
Use fresh or powdered cayenne in dressings and marinades.
Add cayenne pepper to homemade fire cider.
Make your own hot sauce with cayenne and a few other simple ingredients.
If you’re new to using hot peppers like cayenne, it’s important to start with just a small amount. These peppers are quite spicy and can easily overpower the flavor of a dish, so you don’t want to overdo it.
When working with cayenne peppers or any other spicy pepper in the kitchen, avoid touching your eyes after handling them. Cayenne peppers may irritate your eyes and skin, so wash your hands thoroughly after chopping or touching them.
Also, if spicy foods tend to upset your stomach or give you heartburn, you may want to avoid cayenne, especially in large doses.
Normal serving sizes of both fresh and powdered cayenne pepper are safe. However, taking high-dose cayenne pepper supplements has been linked to dangerous side effects in some people, including irregular heartbeat and elevated blood pressure.
High-dose cayenne pepper supplements appear to have led to heart attacks in at least two documented cases, so it’s probably best to avoid these types of supplements.