Antitumoral Chilli Chocolate Gelato (Dairy-free)

antitumoral gelato - Petr Chutný
Chocolate chili gelato Lens: Petr Chutný

Antitumoral chilli chocolate gelato: the ingredients benefits

Chili peppers

Chili peppers owe their pungent flavour to capsaicin, a bioactive phytochemical abundant in red and chili peppers [1,2].

Capsaicin has been reported to have beneficial effects for the prevention and treatment of cancer. It controls the expression of genes involved with cell growth, apoptosis (cell death), metastasis (the spread of cancer cells around the body), and angiogenesis (the formation of blood vessels, necessary to nourish cancer metastases) [2]. These mechanisms are often altered in cancer cells. Furthermore, chilies contain a substantial amount of phenols that have shown to significantly suppress the invasion and migration of human breast cancer cells [3].

Antitumoral Chilli Chocolate gelatoCapsaicin, together with other capsainoids, has shown to decrease total plasma cholesterol levels, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and triacylglycerols [4,5].

These factors are directly linked to the formation of atherosclerotic plaque in blood vessels, blood pressure, and ultimately cardiovascular diseases. Although cholesterol is necessary for the body (it is the main component of cell membranes), it is important to keep its level within the recommended ranges.

Chili peppers have significant health benefits, but it is best to consume them away from iron-rich meals. Several studies have shown that the polyphenols in chilies bind to iron in the intestine, making dietary iron less available for absorption (up to 38% less absorption) [6,7].

Cacao and dark chocolate

Cocoa is a dry and powdered product prepared from the seeds of Theobroma cacao L. [8]. Although the preparation of cocoa (fermentation and roasting) significantly diminishes its polyphenol content and, consequently, its antioxidant activity, cocoa and cocoa products still have beneficial health effects [9].

Although more expensive, it is possible to buy raw cacao, a powder prepared from the cold pressing of unroasted cacao beans. Raw cacao has significantly higher amounts of polyphenols than cocoa and a bitter and astringent taste that is sometimes perceived as undesirable [9]. On the other hand, chocolate with low amounts of cocoa (such as milk or white chocolates), contain negligible amounts of antioxidants [9]. and dark chocolate contain antioxidant minerals and polyphenols such as magnesium,
catechins, procyanidins and theobromine (note that theos and broma are Greek words that together mean “food of the gods”) [10]. These compounds have shown to improve inflammation, blood pressure, platelet aggregation, and endothelial function, all factors related to cardiovascular diseases [10].

Although dark chocolate contains additional ingredients such as sugar and cocoa fat, several population studies have shown that dark chocolate intake is associated with a lower mortality from cardiovascular diseases [9].


Dates are known for their sweet flavour, given by the high percentage of sugars (especially fructose) in the fruit [11]. They are also rich in fibres, which increase the transit time in the stomach and intestine, allowing a slower absorption of glucose and reducing the risk of colon cancer in those who consume fibres regularly [12]. Among the vitamins and minerals in dates we find potassium, selenium, calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamin C and vitamin A [11].

Several studies have shown that date fruit extract has antioxidant activity thanks to the high amounts of proanthocyanidins, flavonoids, polyphenols, beta-carotene, and selenium.

Antioxidants in dates may help prevent DNA mutations, reduce inflammation, increase the immune system activity, and protect organs such as the liver, the kidneys, and the intestine [12].

Fresh dates have the highest amount of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, dry dates still contain adequate amounts of these compounds [12].

Antitumoral Chilli Chocolate Gelato Recipe

• 500 mL water

• 15 dates

• 100 g dark chocolate

• 50 g cocoa powder (or raw cacao)

• ½ teaspoon of chili powder (or more, to taste)

Soak the dates in 500 mL of water for a couple of hours.

Blend them in a high speed blender until there are no bits left.

This process leaves all the good fibres in the ice cream. If, however, your blender is not powerful enough and it leaves small bits of dates, you can strain the liquid through a sieve.

Now pour the mixture in a pot, add the dark chocolate, and bring it to simmer. The squares will quickly melt.

You can now add the cocoa powder or, if using raw cocoa, add it when the mixture has cooled down.

Just before freezing the ice cream (or putting it in an ice cream maker), add the chilli powder. It is best to add half a teaspoon to start, and add more to taste.

antitumoral gelato - Petr Chutný

Chocolate chili gelato
Lens: Petr Chutný

If not using a machine, cover the ice cream with cling film and leave it in the freezer for a couple of hours, then stir it with a fork and put it back in the freezer for another hour.

Repeat this until the ice cream has reached your favourite consistency.

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1. Ip, S. W. et al. 2012. Capsaicin mediates apoptosis in human nasopharyngeal carcinoma NPC-TW 039 cells through mitochondrial depolarization and endoplasmic reticulum stress. Human and Experimental Toxicology. 31(6): 539-549.

2. Clark, R. Lee, S. H. 2016. Anticancer properties of capsaicin against human cancer. Anticancer Research. 36(3): 837-843.

3. Kim, H. A. et al. 2014. Pepper seed extract suppresses invasion of human breast cancer cells. Nutrition and Cancer. 66(1): 159-165.

4. Huang, W. et al. 2014. Capsainoids but not their analogue capsainoids lower plasma cholesterol and possess beneficial vascular activity. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 62(330: 8415-8420.

5. Liang, Y. T. et al. 2013. Capsaicinoids lower plasma cholesterol and improve endothelial function in hamsters. European Journal of Nutrition. 52(1): 379-388.

6. Tuntipopipat, S. et al. 2006. Chili, but not turmeric, inhibits iron absorption in youngwomen from an iron-fortified composite meal. Journal of Nutrition. 136(12): 2970-2974.

7. Tuntipopipat, S. et al. 2009. Inhibitory effects of spices and herbs on iron availability. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition. 60 (Supplement 1): 43-59.

8. Ellam, S. Williamson, G. 2013. Cocoa and human health. Annual Review of Nutrition. 33: 105-128.

9. Khan, N. et al. 2014. Cocoa polyphenols and inflammatory markers of cardiovascular disease. Nutrients. 6: 844-880.

10. Kerimi, A. Williamson, G. 2015. The cardiovascular benefits of dark chocolate. Vascular Pharmacology. 71: 11-15.

11. Al-Shahib, W. Marshall, R. J. 2003. The fruit of the date palm: its possible use as the best food for the future? International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition. 54(4): 247-259.

12. Tang, Z. X. Shi, L. E. Aleid, S. M. 2013. Date fruit: chemical composition, nutritional and medicinal values, products. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. 93(10): 2351-2361.

Solange Brugnatelli Vianini

Solange Brugnatelli Vianini graduated in BSc Biomedical Sciences. In her free time she enjoys trying out new recipes and sharing them with friends, and marrying this passion with her interest in sustainability, which is driving her actions towards reduced landfill waste, carbon footprint and animal products consumption. She cures a monthly recipe column on Nature Going Smart "with disease prevention in mind and planet care on the heart". Solange is currently researching genetic mutations by honing her bioinformatic skills at Abertay University, Scotland.

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