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New Healthy Food #5

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On my vacation to California and Arizona last week I was excited to be served my New Healthy Food #4, avocados, sliced on a salad and spread in a ham and cheese with lettuce and tomato sandwich. This seemed to be the natural ingredient for my hosts to serve in each setting.

For New Healthy Food #5, let's give our palate a switch from the richly smooth and slightly sweet flavor of avocados to the spicy burn of chiles. Salsa now outsells ketchup in the United States, but despite their rising popularity, fiery chile peppers still scare some people. The hot sensation of chiles comes from a compound called capsaicin, which binds with nervous system receptors in the tongue and throat, triggering a sensation of heat. At high concentrations, the brain responds to this stimuli by releasing endorphins, which may explain some of the attraction for chile-lovers. Chiles contain the majority of capsaicin in their seeds and white fleshy ribs, so removing these parts will tone down the spiciness.

Chiles contribute a broad range of flavors that will spice up a dish while you can cut down on salt. They contain vitamins A and C and potassium while adding hardly any calories. The capsaicin has been studied for medicinal properties including anti-coagulant effects.

At a Mexican restaurant in Southern California, I ate a burrito with 'mild' salsa. The salsa may have been rated 'mild', but it sure caused my scalp to sweat. I did feel happy after my meal, though. Maybe it was the endorphins.