BY SUSAN SCHABACKER
Got a thing for the spicy? Craving capsaicin? (That’s the chemical responsible for the spicy sensation in a pepper.) Time to turn up the heat!
SPICY = HEALTHY!
Spicy food doesn’t have to be a guilty pleasure. There are health benefits! A study by Harvard School of Public Health found that eating spicy foods even just once a day for a week can increase your longevity. In addition to boosting your metabolism with the spicy, you can also slow down your appetite. If you’re working on losing or maintaining your weight, spicy is the way to go. Studies reveal that capsaicin can reduce the hunger hormone, ghrelin, to help people feel fuller and eat less. If you’re trying to burn calories, give cayenne pepper a try.
Cayenne peppers, related to bell peppers and jalapenos, are members of the chili family and have lots of health benefits, so be bold. Go hot! The hotter the pepper, the more capsaicin it contains, which is the compound that gives the peppers their medicinal properties.
Although too much of the spicy can sometimes upset your stomach, surprisingly, spicy food can actually aid digestion via active compounds that help avoid developing stomach ulcers. Cayenne pepper may help the stomach’s defense against infections, increase digestive fluid production, and support the delivery of enzymes to the stomach, which in turn improves digestion.
Some wince at how numb their mouth and tongue get when they ingest something spicy. Sometimes it feels like being on fire, but that same fire provides another health benefit of the spicy – pain relief. When applied topically to the skin, capsaicin has the potential to reduce pain by temporarily changing the way the brain processes pain. Whether in the form of cream, lotion, gel, or transdermal skin patch, capsaicin is frequently rubbed into the skin to improve pain in the lower back, joints, and muscles.
SPICY BITES AND SIPS
Here are some spicy dishes from around the world that you will want to try: Phaal Curry, Vindaloo, Chicken Paprikash, Jerk Chicken, Tom Yum, Shrimp Creole, Papa a la Huancaina, Sichuan Hot Pot, Kimchi-jjigae, Sik Wat, Francheesie, Spicy Southwest Salad.
Spicy dishes from tourradar.com/days-to-come/list-of-every-spicy-food/
But the spicy is not just for food! Sip these hot ‘n spicy beverages: Mangonada. Habanero Ginger Beergarita, Bloody Mary, Jalapeno Beer, Jalapeno Margarita, Jalapeno Peach Martini, The Michelada, The Gallagher, Tropical Heat Mojito, Coconut Chili Mojito, Cilantro Sunrise, and Serrano-Spiced Paloma Cocktail.
Spicy beverages from delish.com/cooking/g1481/spicy-cocktail-recipes/
HOT OR NOT?
Need to know just how spicy that serrano pepper is compared to a habanero pepper? Check out the Scoville Scale, the standard measurement of spicy chemicals in food that reveals the pungency (spiciness or heat) of peppers and other spicy foods based on the concentration of capsaicinoids.
Spiciness is not the same as heat. It’s just an illusion that our mouths are on fire. This is because of the capsaicin that binds to pain receptors. Warning signals are sent to the brain that something is spicy. So, why do so many people enjoy spiciness? In response to the heat and pain, your body releases endorphins and dopamine that can create a sense of euphoria, much like a “runner’s high.”
The Carolina Reaper is the world’s hottest pepper. If you love heat, try habaneros, Scotch bonnets, and Bhut Jolokias. But, let’s not leave out those who can’t take the heat. There are still peppers you can enjoy in your dishes like sweet peppers, bell peppers, and banana peppers, which can be mild enough to eat raw. Tired of peppers, but love the heat? Try wasabi and horseradish.
Enjoy adding heat to your dishes and beverages. But, if it’s too hot, don’t worry. So, how do you neutralize spiciness? Adapt the pH by adding some lemon or lime juice, vinegar, pineapple or tomatoes to the dish to cut down some of the heat. A touch of sour cream or yogurt can also soothe the fire. But, if you are a fan of the spicy, making the spicy part of your daily diet can help your health, so turn up the heat!