The Reason You Should Keep Cayenne Pepper In Your Pantry

Ground cayenne pepper, like many spices, has been put to culinary use for centuries. It's made from whole cayenne peppers, which are a nightshade vegetable that reportedly originated in French Guiana, on the northeastern coast of South America, per Brittanica.

This particular type of pepper has been around for at least 9,000 years, and Encyclopedia reports that Native Americans actually used cayenne for medicinal purposes, such as to relieve stomach aches and help with circulatory problems. It's also a fairly hot spice, with the plant registering between 30,000 and 50,000 Scoville units (for comparison, the average jalapeño is around 5,000 Scoville units), according to Chili Pepper Madness. Though the peppers are usually dried, ground, and used as a seasoning, they're also an essential element in many types of hot sauce. Cayenne pepper can add a hit of spice to almost any dish, but it also has nutritional benefits that make it an excellent addition to any pantry.

Cayenne pepper adds flavor and nutrients to any dish

The spice is widely available, and professional chefs love to put it to good use. Chef Lauren Lagosz of Bylette's Foodz told MSN that the pop of heat, plus its health properties, are why she loves it so much. "It's one of my favorite go-to spices to use because you can add subtle heat and flavor, and it's a heart-healthy ingredient for both savory dishes and even desserts," she said. "It's a beautiful spice."

It might sound like hyperbole, but Lagosz is right — cayenne is good for your heart. According to Healthline, research shows that the nutrients and compounds in cayenne pepper, such as capsaicin, may help reduce the risk of heart disease. Healthline cited a 2019 study, which found a connection between regular pepper consumption and a lower risk of heart disease-related death.

Since dried cayenne pepper is a spicy seasoning, it also adds flavor to recipes without creating the high sodium content that would exist if the dish were seasoned with salt. And researchers in China even found that eating spicy foods can help trick the brain into using less salt (via Live Science). In this way, cayenne is great for potentially benefitting heart health.