From the AICR Newsletter #117, Fall 2012

Healthy Chili, Mild or Hot

Chili is in a category by itself. Not quite a stew, but not really a soup, chili stirs up feelings of pride and even competition when cook-offs take place in major chili states. Some chili enthusiasts scoff at adding beans, while other cooks always include at least one kind of bean and sometimes several.

What matters for your health is that chili can be a healthy dish that follows the New American Plate proportions:

  • 2/3 or more vegetables (including cancer-fighting beans) and
  • 1/3 or less lean animal protein.

And when you're pairing chili with bread, tortillas, rice or potatoes, choose whole-wheat bread, tortillas or pasta; brown rice; or baked sweet potatoes. A leafy green salad with low-fat dressing makes a delicious side dish.

Did you know? Red and green chile peppers contain cancer-fighting phytochemicals. Red pepper's capsaicin is anti-inflammatory, according to research findings. But this one-pot meal can be as spicy – or not – as you wish.

This chili recipe from the AICR Test Kitchen uses walnuts to add crunch and healthful omega-3 fats.

Ground turkey replaces ground beef, since eating more than 18 ounces of red meat per week is strongly linked to colorectal cancer. And beans add cancer-fighting fiber to the mix. The yellow pepper adds a bright, appetizing color and its sweet fruity taste contrasts well with the tomato-chili base.

Chili with Walnuts

  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 medium carrot, sliced
  • 1 Tbsp. chile powder
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 lb. lean (93 percent) ground turkey breast
  • 1 can (28 oz.) no-salt-added diced tomatoes
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 can (15 oz.) red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread walnuts on baking sheet and toast in oven for 3 minutes. Stir and toast 3 minutes longer, or until fragrant. Cool nuts and set aside.

In large, deep skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent, 3 minutes. Add carrot and sauté until tender-crisp, 5 minutes. Stir in chili powder, cumin and salt and cook until spices are fragrant, 1 minute. Add ground turkey and cook until brown, about 7-10 minutes, using wooden spoon to break up. Add tomatoes with liquid, yellow pepper and beans. Cook until chili is thick and peppers are almost tender, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Divide chili among 6 deep bowls, top each with some walnuts and parsley and serve over brown rice. Freeze leftovers in individual portions.

Makes 6 servings.

Per serving: 290 calories, 13 g total fat (2 g saturated fat), 124 g carbohydrates,
19 g protein, 7 g dietary fiber, 640 mg sodium.

Cancer-fighting substances found in this recipe:

  • Onion: organosulfides
  • Chile powder: capsaicin
  • Tomatoes: lycopene
  • Yellow bell pepper: vitamin C, flavonoids
  • Beans: folate, inositol
  • Walnuts: omega-3 fats, polyphenols
  • Parsley: lutein, flavonoids

Variations on Chili:

You can try all sorts of healthy ingredients in chilis. As long as you have the basics – chili powder, tomatoes, onions and, if you like it spicy, some type of chile pepper – chilis can and do include:

  1. tofu (made from soybeans and containing genistein and other phytochemicals) and green bell peppers
  2. sweet potatoes (beta-carotene that becomes vitamin A in the body) and peanuts (resveratrol and folate)
  3. white, black and red kidney beans (folate and fiber)
  4. chicken breast and white beans or chickpeas (folate and fiber)
  5. firm, white fish like mahi mahi or fresh tuna and chopped green chiles

Handle Chiles with Care!

If you use hot peppers, be careful not to touch your eyes before thoroughly washing your hands, especially after handling the seeds.

If you like it hot...A few types of hot chile peppers ranked from least hot to hottest:

  1. ancho
  2. chipotle
  3. jalapeno
  4. habanero
  5. Scotch bonnet


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