Crushed red pepper (a.k.a. red pepper flakes) is the staple spice of the traditional pizza restaurant. When you eat in an old-fashioned pizzeria, you will usually find a shaker of red pepper flakes and another of parmesan cheese at your table. Southern Italians have used crushed red pepper on their pizza since the late 19th century but its application goes way beyond bringing heat to pizza.
Crushed red pepper is moderately hot and usually delivers around 30,000 Scoville heat units. The peppers that are dried and coarsely ground to make it are usually the same ones that get finely ground to produce cayenne pepper powder. Because cayenne peppers are full of health benefits, crushed red pepper is also very nutritious. Let’s break down crushed red pepper nutrition to see what makes this common seasoning tick.
The nutrients you can get from crushed red pepper include:
Like all red chili peppers, crushed red pepper is a source of carotenoids including beta carotene. Carotenoids give all red peppers their vibrant color and are antioxidants that fight the free radicals known to cause serious diseases like cancer and heart disease. Beta carotene is also important for the health of your mucous membranes.
Beta carotene is what is called a provitamin, which is a term for a compound that gets converted to a vitamin once you consume it. Beta carotene is converted to vitamin A in your body. A single 1-tablespoon serving of crushed red pepper provides more than 2,000 IU of vitamin A, which is almost half of what you need each day.
Crushed red pepper contains a small but still significant amount of vitamin C, which is important for your immune system health. In addition, crushed red pepper is a good source of vitamin E, another important antioxidant vitamin. Lastly, vitamin B6 is present as well. Vitamin B6 is sometimes called pyridoxine and is important for your immune system and your nervous system.
Crushed red pepper is not a great source of any minerals but it contains several in low concentrations. You can get minerals like iron, manganese,
You can use crushed red pepper to get more fiber in your diet. A 1-tablespoon serving can provide you with more than a gram of dietary fiber. Dietary fiber helps to improve digestion and the passage of food through the gastrointestinal tract.
At the same time, adequate fiber can lower your blood cholesterol while also slowing your body’s absorption of sugar. The rate at which your body absorbs sugar has a lot to do with your likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes. The slower sugar is absorbed into your bloodstream, the less likely your body will be to get insulin resistance and diabetes as a result.
The heat you get from crushed red pepper comes from the capsaicin it contains. The more capsaicin, the hotter the pepper. Capsaicin does more than just give the peppers their spicy bite, it has numerous health benefits. One example is that studies have shown capsaicin to cause cell death in prostate cancer cells.
Capsaicin may also act as an appetite suppressant that enables crushed red pepper help with weight loss. Other possible health benefits of the compound include its potential as a painkiller and the fact that it can give you relief from inflammation. Also important is that it can stimulate the secretion of mucus, which may ease gastric ulcer symptoms.