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Compiled/partly written by Melvin Durai Email Compiled/partly written by Melvin Durai
February 2020

Like most Indians, my wife loves spicy food. She adds chilies to almost everything. If we’re out of salt or sugar at home, we could probably manage for a few days. But if we’re out of fresh chilies or chili powder, it would be an emergency that requires me to drop everything I’m doing and rush to the store immediately.

I love spicy food, too, but not quite to the extent of my wife. I could probably survive for a week or two without spicy food. I haven’t tried this though, because I have an Indian body, with an Ind an digestive system, and going without chili for a week or more might cause some serious health problems.

Even so, I try to discourage my wife from cooking food that’s too spicy because my 15-year-old daughter, Divya, isn’t keen on it. She’s always complaining that the food in our house is “too hot.”

Well, thanks to a new research study from Italy, I can explain to Divya why it’s important to eat chilies.

Divya: “I’m not eating any more of this food! Why did you have to make it so hot?”

Me: “Because we love you and care about you. Every teaspoon of chili powder was added out of love.”

Divya: “You love me, so you want to burn my tongue?”

Me: “No, we love you, so we want to prevent you from having a heart attack.”

Divya: “I’m 15 years old. The only way I’d have a heart attack is if Instagram suddenly shuts down or something.”

Me: “You can never be too sure. Anyway, the chili that your mother put in the food will drastically reduce your risk of having a heart attack.”

Divya: “For real?”

Me: “Yes, it’s been proven through an Italian study.”

Divya: “An Italian study? Don’t you mean an Indian study? What do Italians know about chilies, anyway?”

Me: “Apparently they know a lot. Indians don’t have a monopoly on chilies, you know.”

Divya: “For real? Then how come half the world’s chilies can be found at Patel Brothers?”

That’s a slight exaggeration, of course. Only a quarter of the world’s chilies can be found at Patel Brothers.

Chilies are popular in many parts of the world, including Italy. According to a news release from the Institute for Research, Hospitalization, and Health Care (I.R.C.C.S.) Neuromed in Pozzilli, Italy, “chili pepper is a common guest in Italian kitchens.”

In Indian society, we are discouraged from eating guests, but apparently not in Italy. The news release goes on to describe an Italian study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC), which shows that people who consume chili on a regular basis have a 23 percent lower mortality risk than those who do not like it.

Researchers followed the health status of 22,811 people in the Molise region of Italy for an average of about 8 years. They found that for people who consumed chili pepper at least four times a week, the risk of dying of a heart attack was reduced by 40 percent.

What this means, of course, is that just as people take daily vitamins, they may soon take a daily dose of chili pepper. Perhaps parents will give their children milk or other drinks with a teaspoon of chili powder mixed in.

Indian children, of course, will not need to have extra chili pepper. They already get all they need in their regular diets, unless they hate to eat anything spicy like my daughter Divya, in which case they may need regular chili injections.

The news release from I.R.C.C.S. Neuromed states that while new research will need to be done to understand the biochemical mechanisms through which chili pepper acts, “for the time being, spicy food lovers surely have one more reason to maintain their habit.”

This is true, but perhaps I won’t be sharing these findings with my wife, especially since I’m fairly certain that she already consumes more chili than those 22,811 people in the Molise region of Italy.

Compiled and partly written by Indian humorist MELVIN DURAI, author of the novel Bala Takes the Plunge.

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