Thomas is an award-winning chef with 40+ years of experience. He loves to cook and share recipes.
You may think of chili as greasy and unhealthy, but that just isn't true. Most of today's chili recipes are packed with nutrients that are good for you, and chili can be part of a healthy diet and lifestyle.
The next time you need a reason to make chili, just come back to this article and read these 10 reasons again. Because yes, eating chili can be healthy for you. So why not go find your favorite recipe and make a big pot of homemade chili as soon as you can?
The Top 10 Reasons Chili Is Healthy and Good for You
- It's filled with protein.
- Chili has a ton of fiber.
- The ingredients are packed with vitamin C.
- Beans have lots of iron.
- Chilies can help you lose weight.
- Chilies can also elevate your endorphin and serotonin levels.
- The ingredients in chili can reduce sugar and fat cravings.
- It boosts your immune system.
- It can help to regulate your blood sugar.
- Chilies can also clear congestion.
The meat in your chili is an excellent source of protein, and if you make your chili with beans, you have a great second source of it, too. Even if you make vegetarian chili with beans, it can be a great source of protein.
Why is protein good for you? Getting enough protein is essential to the health of your skin, nails, muscles, blood, and even cells. As a daily protein dosage, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends:
- five ounces for women, older people, and children ages 2-6.
- six ounces for men, active women, teen girls, and older children.
- seven ounces for teen boys and active men.
One serving of chili has approximately one ounce of protein—up to 20% of your daily dosage!
You need fiber in your diet, and the chilies, peppers, and beans in this dish are excellent sources of it. Fiber not only works to help keep you regular, but it also slows the rate at which sugar is absorbed into your body, and can lower cholesterol levels.
If you're a diabetic, this will be really good for you, because it keeps your blood glucose level from rising and falling too quickly.
Adults require 28-34 grams of fiber per day for a healthy diet. Chili, depending on the ingredients, can offer 30% or more of the daily recommendation per serving.
3. Vitamin C
The peppers—even bell peppers—that go into chili are an excellent source of vitamin C and we all know that vitamin C is really good for your body.
The tomatoes and tomato paste that you use are also an excellent source of vitamin C. Vitamin C helps to improve your body's immune system and can work to help keep you healthy.
Why is vitamin C good for you? It's often used to treat or prevent colds, and who doesn't love chili during cold and flu season? It can also help with depression, stress, ADHD, and other disorders.
Bonus tip: Want to add a little extra vitamin C to your chili? Squeeze some lime juice on top for added health benefits and flavor!
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The iron from the beans in your chili is really good for you. A lot of people don't get enough iron in their daily diet.
Iron helps to circulate oxygen through the body, and a lack of oxygen can result in iron deficiency anemia. Low iron can also result in brittle nails and lackluster skin and hair.
The amount of iron needed to maintain a healthy level varies by age. Infants and toddlers need higher levels of iron, which tapers off during later childhood. Then, once menstruation begins, girls and women need higher levels of iron due to monthly blood loss. After menopause, their needs decrease.
On average, men need about 8 mg of iron per day, while menstruating women need about 18 mg.
I bet you didn't know this, but a big bowl of chili can help you lose weight. Yes, you read that right.
The capsicum (also known as red pepper or chili pepper) used to season your chili will raise your body's metabolic rate, thereby raising heat production. Even sweet red peppers can do this, although they contain far lower levels of capsicum than their spicy relatives.
Another benefit of capsicum is that it aids in digestion. It can also aid in circulatory issues, such as poor circulation or excessive clotting. So, what are you waiting for? Go grab another bowl of that delicious homemade chili!
6. Endorphins and Serotonin
I bet you didn't know that chili can make you happy, did you? Chilies can cause your body's endorphin and serotonin levels to go up, sometimes significantly.
The capsicum is the trigger. This can improve your mood, making you feel better all around.
Sometimes, people can even get a euphoric feeling similar to a "runner's high" from eating a large quantity of spicy foods, due to the capsaicinoids releasing high levels of dopamine.
So, if you're feeling down, try eating a bowl of chili!
7. Reduces Sugar and Fat Cravings
The capsaicin in the peppers and chilies can also help to lower your cravings for fatty and sweet foods. Studies have suggested that capsicum consumption can increase energy expenditure, which can result in weight loss.
The spicier the pepper, the greater the level of capsaicin. So, go ahead! Tonight, make that big pot of spicy chili and have a bowl or two.
8. Immune System Boost
The chilies and peppers are filled with vitamin A and vitamin C, which can help boost the immune system.
Vitamin A is really good for you during the cold and flu season. It aids the immune system and helps organs to function properly, among other essential benefits. Dairy products contain vitamin A, so don't hesitate to sprinkle a little bit of cheese on top of your chili bowl!
Vitamin C also benefits your immune system, but is considered to be extremely diverse in its overall health benefits.
9. Regulate Blood Sugar
Chili can help to regulate your body's blood sugar after you eat it since chili peppers can lower your body's sugar levels and the amount of insulin your body needs.
Some studies have suggested that chilies can reduce the amount of insulin needed to control blood sugar. So, chili is a good choice if you want to fight off diabetes and heart disease.
10. Clears Congestion
There's a good reason chili is considered to be a staple of the fall and winter diet. The capsaicin in chilies increases mucus production, which can help to clear congestion.
So the next time you feel a cold coming on, make a big pot of chili and enjoy several bowls because chili and the ingredients in it are healthy for you.
Ground beef, 70% lean
93 per oz
Niacin, protein, vitamin B12
215 per cup
Vitamin C, vitamin A
613 per cup
Vitamin B1, protein, fiber
670 per cup
Fiber, folate, protein
228 per cup
Calcium, iron, magnesium
Ways to Make Your Chili Healthier
- Substitute beef for a lean protein, like turkey.
- Carefully choose your ingredients (such as making sure your canned tomatoes don't have added salt) in order to avoid excess sodium.
- Add extra vegetables to your chili, such as zucchini or carrots.
- Add whole grains, such as rice or barley.
- Use extra spice to amp up the flavor without packing on the pounds.
- Use fresh toppings, like avocado, to garnish your chili. Some of the other suggestions for additions and garnishes listed below may not be as healthy, but as long as you've followed the other tips listed here, a few flavorful additions shouldn't put too much strain on your belt.
Yummy Additions to Classic Chili