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Why we learn to love spicy food


“Habanero.” Why is it that some people like spicy food and some people hate it?
[Coughing] “Oh, man.” How does that work?
“I regret it.”
Most spiciness is caused by one of two chemicals: Allylisothiocyanite,
which is what you find in wasasabi or mustard,
and capsaicin, which is what you find in peppers. Plants usually use these to fend off predators like
ants or fungi who would otherwise destroy
their seeds before they had the chance to spread.
“It’s like a snake bit my tongue.”
So why do you feel that burning
sensation when you’re eating spice?
“When I swallow I feel it on the back of my throat?”
Almost like there’s actual temperature
change going on?
“Yeah, if I don’t talk it’s actually better.
You can definitely feel heat
build inside your face.” Well, the way your
body reacts to capsaicin
is the same way it reacts to high
temperatures.
“A chunk just went down my throat.” OFF-SCREEN: “So, what is the feeling you have right now?”
“Regret.”
“Starting to regulate my heartbeat.”
Your palate is essentially being tricked into
thinking that it’s actually burning.
Receptors in the throat and the mouth and the
tongue detect the presence of the capsaicin
and they send pain signals to the other parts of the body.
“Breathing in and out hurts.”
“I’m starting to cry.”
When you consume capsaicin, your body releases endorphins which are natural stress-fighters.
People learn learn to like spice by associating the pain of capsaicin with the positive
rush of endorphins. “I feel like, I’m like gassed from a marathon.”
We rate spice with the Scoville
scale
which was invented by an american
pharmacist named Wilbur Scoville back in 1912.
Bell peppers are at the bottom with zero.
Jalapeno peppers range anywhere from
2500 to 10,000
which is actually pretty low on the
scale. Jump to two million and you’ve got
standard US-grade pepper spray.
And pure capsaicin clocks in at 15 million. That’s $*%#ing hot.
We’ve been eating spicy food for
about six thousand years
if you think about the genres of food that are
usually spicy like Mexican,
Indian, and Thai, they’re all very hot regions
and there are a couple reasons for that
Cooking with spice traditionally helped
get rid of bacteria that could make people sick.
Especially in places with high humidity
and heat. “I’m sweating right now.”
“Oh, s*, it’s getting worse actually.” And the next time you’re sweating from a particularly
spicy bite don’t go for water. It’s
almost totally useless.
What you need is milk, yogurt, rice, liquor
or even peanut butter. Oils, fats, and
alcohol help dissolve the capsaicin.
Water just doesn’t. “It helps.” Your receptors don’t dull or get any less sensitive.
the more spicy we eat.
“In 30 minutes, we’re all going to be laughing about this. I read on the Internet that this helps.”
Your body just has to learn to associate the pain
with pleasure. “It hurts but it tastes really good.”
“Yeah, it was worth the pain. All the burps just taste like delicious spicy food.”

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