Spicy food is a popular culinary trend that has been enjoyed by people all over the world for centuries. From the fiery cuisine of Southeast Asia to the spicy dishes of Latin America, the love of spicy food transcends borders and cultures. I’ve always wondered why this became a trend and how some people can tolerate extreme spice and seem to enjoy it, but others avoid it like the plague. For myself, I’m a huge fan of moderate level spices. Whenever I cook, I like to add chili oil or chili flakes to many traditional recipes. But why do people enjoy spicy food, and what are the health benefits of eating spicy food? In this article, we will explore the world of spicy food and the reasons why people love it.
Spicy food is defined as food that contains a high amount of capsaicin: a compound found in chili peppers. Capsaicin is responsible for the heat sensation in spicy food, which can range from mild to extremely hot. While some people may shy away from spicy food, others find it to be a thrilling and enjoyable culinary experience.
So what is it that makes spicy food so appealing to some people? One reason why people enjoy spicy food is the sensation of heat that it produces. When we eat spicy food, capsaicin triggers a reaction in the brain that causes our body temperature to rise. This causes the release of endorphins—chemicals that produce a feeling of pleasure and euphoria. This sensation is often described as a “spice high,” and can be addictive for some people.
For example, in my grandparent’s hometown of Sichuan, China there is a love for the “ma la” flavor. It’s known as the spice capital of the world. It is well known that almost all dishes are laced with some form of chilli oil.
W2: Spicy skewers is a famous street food in Sichuan, China. The broth is packed with spices, sesame seeds and pepper corn which adds a “numbing” feel on the tongue.
Another reason why people enjoy spicy food is the flavor profile that it creates. Spicy food can enhance the flavors of other ingredients in a dish, adding depth and complexity to the overall flavor. Spicy food can also help to balance out the sweetness or richness of a dish, making it more satisfying and enjoyable. Sometimes when I am making myself vegetables, I would sprinkle a few chilli flakes to give it some extra flavor and help keep my palate interested.
In addition to the enjoyment factor, there are also several health benefits associated with eating spicy food. Capsaicin has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help to reduce inflammation in the body. It has also been shown to have pain-relieving properties, which can be beneficial for people suffering from chronic pain conditions. And in fact there are many over the counter medications that boast pain relief with purely capsaicin as an active ingredient.
Despite the many benefits of spicy food, it is important to remember that not everyone enjoys or tolerates it. Some people may have a lower tolerance for spicy food, while others may experience gastrointestinal discomfort or other side effects. It is important to listen to your body and eat spicy food in moderation, especially if you are not accustomed to it.