Do spicy foods help you lose weight?
If we’re talking about Greek chili flakes, yes! Beyond their tasty culinary uses, “bukovo” can support your health in many ways. Plus, it’s easy to add to many different Mediterranean meals and snacks.
Learn more about chili flakes, their health benefits, and how to add them to your diet today.
What are chili flakes (bukovo)?
Crushed red pepper chili flakes, known as “bukovo” in Greek, come from northern Greece. The name “bukovo” comes from the Slavic word for “spicy.” Greeks have grown these peppers in this region as spices since the Ottoman Empire.
Greek chili flakes are typically made with red horn peppers, so they taste mildly sweet, smoky, and spicy. They’re smoked using wood such as birchwood for several weeks. This makes them perfect additions to just about every dish.
Not all chili pepper flakes taste the same – choose Greek chili flakes whenever possible. Bukovo from Almopia in northern Greece has a unique smoky taste due to its preparation.
Chili peppers have medical importance beyond their culinary uses. It is rich in nutrients including fiber, folic acid, vitamin A/B6/K, and manganese!
Some of the unique health benefits of bukovo include:
1. Helps you lose weight and increases your metabolism
Chili peppers help you metabolize fat, sweat more, increase energy use, and burn fat through different pathways in your body. Additionally, chili peppers can help you control your blood insulin levels. 
If you’re trying to lose or manage weight in a sustainable way, try adding some chili pepper flakes to your meals.
2. Improves your eye health
Bukovo is rich in nutrients called beta-carotene and vitamin A. These nutrients support good eye health, similar to eating red peppers and carrots!
3. Gives you more energy
Needing an energy boost for your workouts? Chili pepper flakes can help improve performance and make you feel less tired after exercise. 
4. May protect against cancer
In some lab studies, capsaicin helped prevent the growth of cancer cells.  More human studies are needed to fully understand this effect.
5. Thins out mucus
Have a cold or cough? Bukovo consists of capsaicin, which is a compound that helps your body heal gastric ulcers and thin out that mucus-filled cough. 
How to incorporate bukovo in your diet
Greeks add bukovo to a variety of traditional dishes to make them sweet and mildly spicy. For some inspirations for incorporating chili pepper flakes into your diet, try the following:
- Add to soups, stews, sauces, and herbs: With a subtle and lasting flavor, these pepper flakes are perfect for adding flavor to soups (e.g. tripe soup), sauces, stews, and dressings.
- Sprinkle over meat, cheese, or eggs: Looking for something to balance out the taste of gyro meat, pasta, or hard-boiled eggs? Add some bukovo to these dishes!
- Season vegetables and fruits: Add to fresh, in-season veggies and fruits such as avocado, broccoli, cauliflower, salads, and tomatoes.
The bottom line
Greek chili pepper flakes (bukovo) add a touch of sweet and spicy flavor to many popular Mediterranean dishes. Rich in vital nutrients as well as capsaicin, bukovo is a natural metabolism booster.
It’s easy to add bukovo to your diet – just add it to any savory dish or side that could use some spice!
- Varghese S, Kubatka P, Rodrigo L, Gazdikova K, Caprnda M, Fedotova J, Zulli A, Kruzliak P, Büsselberg D. Chili pepper as a body weight-loss food. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2017 Jun;68(4):392-401. doi: 10.1080/09637486.2016.1258044. Epub 2016 Nov 29. PMID: 27899046.
- Hsu YJ, Huang WC, Chiu CC, Liu YL, Chiu WC, Chiu CH, Chiu YS, Huang CC. Capsaicin Supplementation Reduces Physical Fatigue and Improves Exercise Performance in Mice. Nutrients. 2016 Oct 20;8(10):648. doi: 10.3390/nu8100648. PMID: 27775591; PMCID: PMC5084035.
- Srinivasan K. Biological Activities of Red Pepper (Capsicum annuum) and Its Pungent Principle Capsaicin: A Review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2016 Jul 3;56(9):1488-500. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2013.772090. PMID: 25675368.
About the author
Chrissy Arsenault, MBA, RDN, LD, is a registered dietitian nutritionist and licensed dietitian based in Indianapolis. She obtained her bachelor of science in nutritional science at Cornell University and her MBA at Indiana University Kelley School of Business. She is the founder and CEO of a nutrition communications firm called Pink Pamplemousse LLC, where she creates engaging nutrition and wellness content for clients. She has also coached clients on various health conditions including heart disease, obesity, digestive issues and diabetes over the last seven years. Visit Chrissy’s website.
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