pepper soup

How pepper soup will save your life

pepper soupThe last time I had pepper soup was when I was with two friends, both white, in a Nigerian restaurant in London, called the 805 restaurant. I was utterly shocked by their level of tolerance for pepper or chilli as some may call it. I worked my way through my order – pepper soup with great difficulty. Don’t get me wrong I love “spicy” food but, this was extra. One of my friends ordered pepper soup too and even though his face had completely transformed into a rather worrying reddish colour and beads of sweat gathered on his forehead like heat rashes he kept going! I gave up three quarters way through whilst he finished his race. Part of me thought that might have been tortuous for him, but now I think he may have been onto something. You never know with these white folks. You better sit up straight when they start getting into something.

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Pepper soup of course has many brothers, sisters, aunties, uncles and cousins across Africa. They come in all sorts of sizes, shapes and temperaments. Some are mellow whilst others are fiery. Some come in the form of stews, others in soup form or just as condiments. They all have one thing in common – Pepper. Black pepper, cayenne pepper, grains of paradise, Ashanti pepper or grains of selim. In Ghana, they love their pepper sauces – shito din and kpakpo shito. Nigeria’s ayamase stew with its tatashe and other peppers should come with a health warning. It is that hot!

Across Africa, dishes rarely ever show off their immense flavours without a good infusion of peppers. Our palates are used to it, but could those peppers be saving our lives too?

Countless studies have been carried out on mice to determine the effects spicy foods or foods with plenty of peppers or chillies. Those studies have often showed some correlation between health and spicy food but nothing as conclusive or closer to home. I don’t know about you, but I’m less likely to take an animal based study less seriously. However, what is making waves in the “nerds” kingdom is a new study by the British Medical Journal on humans which has found that spicy food and their active components—like capsaicin, the compound found in chili peppers—might lower inflammation, improve metabolic status and have a positive effect on gut bacteria and weight. Pepper-rich foods help reduce weight? Don’t be surprised if pepper soup becomes the next big super food!

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Anyway, half a million adults took part in the study. Their health status was then checked at the start and again 7 years later. The results showed that those who ate spicy food 3-7 days a week were 14% less likely to die than those who did not eat as much pepper-rich food. The scientists also found that diseases such as cancer, heart and respiratory diseases were less likely to be the cause of death for chilli-loving group.

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Great news for me and my pepper loving ilk. Who knows, we might now even be able to convince the folks who shy away from our cooking for fear of sweating and making those shheee shheee sounds that they better start putting up with our pepper food or risk dying young. Love that threat! So there you have it. Never mind kale and any other trendy so called “super food.” What you need is a good bowl of pepper soup and you’ll live a lot longer.

Photo source: Kitchen Butterfly



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