You either love spicy food or you don’t. For many people the idea of eating food that carries the possibility of actually hurting you seems completely pointless – why on Earth would you want to damage yourself while enjoying a great meal?
For those in love with the fiery punch of food flavored with chilies this attitude seems to miss the point, they cannot understand how the heat of chili laden food and the rush that it provides would not appeal to everyone.
But just why do people eat food with that fiery punch, it certainly doesn’t look as if they’re enjoying it – the flushed faces, gasping and sweating doesn’t look like fun.
That fact is that the capsicum in chilies is actually addictive. And strangely enough capsicum adds nothing to taste – it actually has no effect on your taste buds, it’s more of a sensation. The burning sensation tricks your brain into releasing endorphin – one of the neurotransmitters responsible for feelings of reward and feelings of pleasure. And the damage you think you might be doing is an illusion – it’s only a sensation.
So now we know why that ‘chilihead’ will often have a smile one his or her face even when the pain is peaking.
But even the most devoted lover of spicy food sometimes oversteps the mark. As chile’s are bred to get hotter (the latest contender for the hottest chili is Dragons Breath at 2.48m Scoville Units – a measure of heat, Tabasco sauce is 2,500 and 5,000 on the Scoville Scale) many people are going to be reaching for that glass of water to calm that raging inferno in their mouth.
The advice from experts – don’t. Drinking water after eating ultra spicy foods is one of the worse things that you can do to quench the heat.
Contrary to popular belief capsicum doesn’t resist the effects of water because it has oil in it – however it does act that way. In fact capsicum has molecules that are ‘non polar’ – and those can only be dissolved by other liquids or foods that also boast non-polar molecules. And water – that contains polar molecules. So by drinking water all you will succeed in doing is spreading the capsicum around the mouth – the heat is not going to be effected. Even sucking on an ice cube is not going to have the desired effect.
The solution? Milk and diary products. These have non-polar molecules which will dissolve the capsicum. Research has also shown that casein protein which is found in dairy products can also help to dissolve capsicum.
So the lessons to be learned are that water is not your friend when it comes to calming the raging flames in your mouth after eating extremely spicy food – but real dairy ice cream and a milkshake might just be the solution. And if that is not an excuse to cheat a little on that reduced calorie diet then the world really is not a fair place.