Jalapeño Peppers on a Low-Carb Diet

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Jalapeño peppers can spice up almost any dish. You can enjoy them eaten fresh, canned, or in the smoked variety known as chipotle peppers. They are generally green but they turn red as they mature. Jalapeño is just one of many types of spicy chili peppers that can help curb appetite and maintain your low-carb diet.

What's more, jalapeño peppers have an extremely low glycemic load, meaning that they don't raise your blood sugar level swiftly or provoke an insulin response.

Carbohydrate and Fiber Counts

  • 1/4 cup sliced jalapeño pepper: 1 gram effective (net) carbohydrate plus 0.5 grams fiber and 7 calories
  • 1 medium jalapeno pepper (about 0.5 ounces): 0.5 grams effective (net) carbohydrate plus 0.5 grams fiber and 4 calories

Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load

As with most non-starchy vegetables, there is no scientific study of the glycemic index of jalapeno peppers. They contain little to no carbohydrate, so they can't be tested with the standard GI methodology. Glycemic load also factors in the amount of the food that is eaten, and a glycemic load of less than 10 is considered to be low.

Glycemic Load:

  • 1/4 cup sliced jalapeño pepper: less than 1 (very low)
  • 1 medium jalapeño pepper (about 0.5 ounces): 0 (very low)

Health Benefits 

Although most people don't eat enough jalapeño peppers to make a significant dent in their nutritional needs, just one pepper does meet about 10 percent of vitamin C needs for a day.

Jalapeños are a good source of vitamin A, which supports skin and eye health. One regular size jalapeño pepper, 2 inches to 4 inches in length, offers 17 percent of the recommended daily amount of vitamin A for men and 22 percent for women. Jalapeños are also a great source of vitamin B6, vitamin K, and vitamin E, all of which are found at greater than 20 percent of the recommended daily amounts for men and women.

Many health benefits have been attributed to capsaicin (the substance that puts the "hot" in hot peppers), including alleviating headaches by inhibiting Substance P, a key neuropeptide that transmits pain signals to the brain. Capsaicin is known as an anti-inflammatory agent.

How to Eat Jalapeño Peppers

Eaten fresh, jalapeño peppers can have varying levels of spiciness as measured on the Scoville scale, an empirical measurement of the pungency of chili peppers. They range from 2,500 to 10,000 Scoville units. That puts it far below many other hot peppers, but still too spicy for those who stick to mild foods. Chipotle peppers are on the hotter end because they are dried and treated.

Removing the seeds can help tame the heat, as they are hotter than the flesh of the pepper. Jalapeños can be eaten fresh whole or sliced and added to salads, marinades, salsa, or cheeses. Some add jalapeños to smoothies for an interesting kick. If you don't like them raw, you can buy them pickled.

If you enjoy jalapeños as part of a nachos recipe, you can make it low-carb by replacing the tortilla chips with sliced jicama chips.

Sources:

Atkinson FS, Foster-Powell K, Brand-Miller JC. International Tables of Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load Values: 2008. Diabetes Care. 2008;31(12):2281-2283. doi:10.2337/dc08-1239.

Peppers. NDH Center for Diet, Nutrition, and Health. University of the District of Columbia. http://www.udc.edu/docs/causes/online/Pepper%2010.pdf.

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, United States Department of Agriculture. https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/.

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