Chile de Arbol for a healthy heart!
October 13th, 2021
As you may know when living in Mexico, you can add chili to nearly any dish you consume at breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and even dessert time! Chilies are a huge part of Mexican food culture, especially chile de arbol also known as pico de pajaro (bird’s beak) is a very important part of the food culture in the state of Jalisco. Yahualica in Jalisco, produces about half of the chile de arbol peppers that are sold throughout the entire country of Mexico! Chile de arbol is in fact one of Mexico’s most iconic chilies. This chili is related to the cayenne pepper as part of the Capsicum family, and contains amazing health promoting compounds which can be especially useful for lowering high blood pressure and promoting heart health.
I am sure you have heard of hypertension (high blood pressure), and I can guarantee you know someone with hypertension. Nearly half of all Americans suffer from hypertension, and this puts people at an increased risk for heart disease and heart related health issues. So, what really happens and how can chilies help?
Blood pressure is just that...pressure of blood that is pushing against the walls of your coronary arteries. These arteries are responsible for carrying your blood from the heart to other parts of the body to provide the body with essential nutrients and oxygen. It is normal for the pressure of your blood to rise and fall during the day, however it is not normal for it to be high all the time. What is high, you may ask? Hypertension is defined as having consistently high blood pressure on or over 140/90, with the gold standard being 120/80. The numbers are a measure of two things. The top number is called systolic blood pressure which measures the pressure of the blood in your arteries when your heart beats, whereas the bottom number is called diastolic blood pressure and measures the pressure of the blood in the arteries when your heart rests in between beats. The higher these two numbers, the higher the blood pressure, which puts you at an increased risk for issues such as heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
Chile de arbol contains various compounds that are effective in assisting to lower high blood pressure, mainly due to the relaxing and dilating effects it has on the blood vessels. The heat components found in these chilies are called capsaicinoids. They have the ability to reduce platelet aggregation (which thickens blood, and can block vessels), can vasodilate (make the vessels larger for more blood to pass through), stimulate blood circulation, warm the body and reduce bad LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, thereby reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. In addition, chile de arbol is high in iron. Iron is important to the production of the protein hemoglobin, which transports oxygen to the body through the blood stream. As well, being high in calcium, which relieves stress on the blood vessels and arteries, and lastly chile de arbol contains significant amounts of Vitamins A and C that have amazing antioxidant effects which can help to protect damage in the blood vessels and to the heart.
When shopping for your own chile de arbol, the most common way they are sold is in a dried state. When the chili dries, it does appear to make them taste spicier, so watch out for the spice hit! However, for the purposes of heart health benefits the best way to consume these chilies is fresh to retain more of the vitamins and antioxidants. Always choose chilies that are vine ripened, bright red in color with green stalks, and blemish free.
ABUELA'S SPICY SALSA
12 Chile de Arbol (fresh or dried)
6 Dried Canica Chillies
6 Small Dried Morita Chilies
2 Dried Cascabel Chilies
2 Small Dried Guajillo Chilies
3 Fresh Green Tomatillos
1 Large Garlic clove
Salt to taste
1-2 Tablespoons of Water
Place all the chilies in a fry pan, and dry roast on a medium heat, tossing the chilies on all sides to get browned, however ensure they do not burn. Remove from pan to cool.
Once the chilies are removed place the green tomatillos in the fry pan and dry roast all sides to brown it well.
Once all had been browned place the chilies, tomatillos, garlic, pinch of salt and a little water together in to a blender. Blend well adding more water if needed to a thick but smooth consistency.
Use this spicy salsa as a great edition to most meals, anything that requires a little spice kick!