Serrano Pepper Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Serrano pepper, annotated
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman  

If you've ever been burned by the heat of Serrano peppers, you might be wondering if they're hazardous for your health. In fact, the intense spice of Serrano peppers is actually to blame for some of their health benefits. Although everyone's taste preferences are different, Serrano peppers can be a nutrition-packed way to bring spice and flavor to your favorite dishes.

Serrano Pepper Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 1 cup of chopped Serrano pepper (105g).

  • Calories: 34
  • Fat: 0.5g
  • Sodium: 11mg
  • Carbohydrates: 7g
  • Fiber: 4g
  • Sugars: 4g
  • Protein: 1.8g

Carbs 

Serrano peppers have 7 grams of carbohydrate per cup, with about 4 grams of fiber and 4 grams of naturally-occurring sugar.

Fats 

Serrano peppers have just 1/2 gram of fat per cup which is mostly made up of healthy polyunsaturated fat.

Protein 

Serrano peppers have 1.8 grams of protein per cup. Since it's unlikely that you would consume a whole cup of this hot pepper in one sitting, Serrano peppers are not considered a significant source of protein.

Vitamins and Minerals 

Serrano peppers are high in vitamin C and potassium. They also have some calcium, iron, zinc, selenium, folate, vitamin A, vitamin K, and choline.

Health Benefits

Hot peppers offer potent health benefits, and Serrano peppers are no different. Here are a few reasons why Serrano peppers are worth taking the heat.

Relieves Aches and Pains

Capsaicin from hot peppers, like Serrano peppers, is used in topical creams to soothe pain and provide relief from deep tissue inflammation. Conditions like arthritis, tendinitis, and muscular strains from exercise or injury may benefit from the application of capsaicin cream.

Promotes Weight Loss

Dietary capsaicin has been linked to greater satiety and reduced desire to overeat. Researchers suspect that capsaicin may impact hormonal responses in the part of the brain that's responsible for appetite regulation, the hypothalamus. Furthermore, capsaicin may increase energy expenditure and fat breakdown on the cellular level. Although more human studies are needed, Serrano and other hot peppers show promise in the science of weight loss.

Prevents Some Types of Cancer

Research on capsaicin and cancer are mixed, but several studies suggest capsaicin benefits against the development of breast, pancreatic, bone, and colon cancer. Capsaicin appears to slow the growth of cancer cells by halting the cell cycle. Although more studies are needed before recommendations can be made for the use of capsaicin in cancer treatment, but preliminary research shows promise.

Supports Cardiovascular Health

Capsaicin may reduce bad cholesterol levels, without impacting good cholesterol. One study on hamsters demonstrated this effect, along with the relaxation of the muscles around the blood vessels, preventing constriction at the genetic level. Although more human research is needed, the potassium and vitamin C content in Serrano peppers also provide well-established cardiovascular benefits by reducing blood pressure and inflammation.

Regulates Blood Sugar

Capsaicin from hot peppers has been shown to reduce high blood sugar levels and lower the overproduction of insulin in women with gestational diabetes. Following oral glucose tests, capsaicin improves glucose tolerance in healthy male study participants as well. Numerous animal studies demonstrate similar benefits, suggesting that adding Serrano peppers to a whole foods meal plan may be a good strategy for the prevention and management of diabetes.

Allergies

Spice allergies affect 2–3% of the population. Because spices aren't regulated by the FDA, it can be difficult to discern when peppers have been added to different items, like cosmetics or dental products.

Possible symptoms of spice allergies include:

  • Abdominal pain ranging from mild to severe
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Skin inflammations, especially on your fingers from touching the pepper oils (This can range from mild rashes to burning sensations. You might feel as though your hands are on fire.)
  • Swollen tongue and lips, which can lead to anything from difficulty breathing to anaphylaxis 

If you suspect that you may have an allergy to spices, see an allergist for a full evaluation.

Adverse Effects

If you suffer from heartburn or irritable bowel syndrome, it's worth noting that hot peppers can be a gastric irritant.

The Scoville scale measures the heat of chili peppers and other foods based on the level of capsaicin—the active component that makes chili peppers so hot. The following shows the heat units of where certain peppers fall:

  • 0 to 100: Bell pepper
  • 100 to 1,000: Banana pepper
  • 1,000 to 10,000: Jalapeño pepper
  • 20,000 to 30,000: Serrano pepper
  • 10,000 to 100,000: Cayenne pepper
  • 100,000 to 350,000: Habanero pepper

If you noticed discomfort with Serrano peppers, you may be able to tolerate bell or banana peppers better. See a dietitian or gastroenterologist to address your individual concerns.

Varieties

Serrano peppers can be found fresh, dried, canned, or pickled. There are hundreds of different varieties of hot peppers, and several types of Serrano peppers that vary in heat level, color, and area of origin. Speak to your grocer or farmers at the farmer's market to learn more about the Serrano peppers you are buying.

When It's Best

Serrano peppers may be harvested when they're still green or fully ripened. You can buy Serrano peppers at some local grocery stores and Mexican specialty food stores. You may also find them at your local farmer's market in the late summer. To choose the best fresh peppers, look for smooth, firm skin that's free of blemishes.

Storage and Food Safety

Ideal storage conditions for Serrano peppers are 45–50 degrees Fahrenheit in 95% relative humidity. They will keep for 2–3 weeks in this environment.

You can also store Serrano peppers in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks between paper towels, or in a paper or plastic bag.

Rinse peppers under running water just before you're ready to use them. You can also store peppers in the freezer after chopping them with no headspace. If you prefer to blanch them before freezing, cut into 1/2 inch strips and boil for 2 minutes, or boil peppers halves for 3 minutes. After blanching, cool, drain, and leave 1/2-inch headspace for freezer storage.

How to Prepare

If you prefer to dull down a bit of Serrano peppers' fiery flavor, you should add more heat—in the form of temperature. Boiling or frying Serrano peppers eliminates some of the scorching flavor. Removing the seeds can help with this as well. 

Using a sharp knife, cut out the seeds and membranes which contain the majority of the capsaicin. For maximum spiciness, you can cook with every part of Serrano peppers (except the stem). Avoid getting the oils on your skin by handling the peppers with rubber gloves. Wash hands well and avoid touching your face until all of the pepper oil has been removed.

In most recipes calling for jalapeños, you can substitute Serrano peppers for an extra spicy kick.

Recipes

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Article Sources
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