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The Health Benefits of Spicy Thai Food. Capsaicin Boosts Your Metabolism, Eat Chili and Lose Weight!

Updated on August 22, 2008

To really enjoy Thai food as it's meant to be eaten you’re going to have to get your mouth in shape and build that chili tolerance.

Spicy Thai food tastes better, but even beyond taste - there are a number of health reasons to feel the burn and start adding a few more chili's to home cooked meals.

Health benefits of capsaicin (the spicy heat molecule in chili peppers)

  • Chili peppers cool you down on hot days. One of the reasons why people from hot countries embrace the fire is because it influences natural temperature regulating mechanisms in the body and makes a sweltering day a bit more bearable. Capsaicin makes us feel hotter than we are, which fools the body into building a sweat and boosting blood circulation to the skin. The net effect of all this is a lowering in body temperature.
  • Capsaicin also helps to moderate caloric intake. Spicy food is more satiating than bland food, meaning you need to eat less of it to feel full. The heat of the chili actually stimulates brain chemicals that signal fullness!
  • Additionally, spicy food boosts the metabolism. Not only does mouth fire satiate, it also fires the body into overdrive!

Capsaicin does not cause stomach ulcers (as was once thought) and early research shows that it may play a role in the body's fight against certain cancers, it may act as a natural anti embolism substance and it is a natural analgesic.

Hot enough for ya…?

You can build a tolerance to the subjective effects of capsaicin – that is, you can learn to love spicier food. Start off by adding smallish quantities of less potent chilis, and work your way up from there.

If you're feeling timid as you do work on that tolerance, you can reduce the spice of a chili by removing the seeds and membrane from the interior before use.

If you cook with chili in advance, remember too that the pungency and heat of a dish will increase with time, as more of the active capsaicin leaches from the chili and into the surrounding food.

The Heat Rankings…

Chilis are ranked according to their pungency (heat) on a scale called the Scoville Scale.

Some examples of heat scores are:

  • Red bell peppers 0-600
  • Jalapeno peppers 2500 – 10 000
  • Serrano peppers 10 000 – 25 000
  • Habanero peppers 80 000 - 150 000

Dealing with a mouth fire…

If you do bite off more than you can chew…(haha) cool that fire with cold sweet liquid. Ice water, cold beer and margaritas work nicely (You can sort of "freeze" the capsaicin receptors into inaction with coldness - but carbonation increases the subjective sensation of heat) or by eating starchy foods such as rice, breads or tortillas.


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    • greeneryday profile image

      greeneryday 5 years ago from Some tropical country

      I did not know eating chili peppers will actually lower body temperature in a hot sunny day. Thanks for sharing

    • profile image

      Roger 6 years ago

      When we were in thailand the dishes were really hot and they would give us tangerines to take away the heat it worked pretty well .

    • profile image

      TheProdigal 6 years ago

      Capsaicin activates a protein on the surface of certain pain neurons that normally is activated when the heat is above body temperature. So it makes the body believe it's burning. Cold water, ice, and other cold items WILL temporarily reduce the effect, but it returns immediately after the cooling agent is removed or becomes warm (this is also the subjective experience of this chilihead), as indeed the capsaicin is water insoluble. It will sometimes feel hotter afterwards as the body tries to compensate for the heat loss.

      Milk helps, not because of the fat, but because of the casein in it and because it is usually cold when drunk. Oily or fatty foods will slowly help to disperse the capsaicin (which is fat soluble) but may actually have an immediate effect of making the burning seem worse as it somewhat prevents actual heat from dispersing (try holding oil or peanut butter in your mouth during a good burn and you will see what I mean).

    • John D Lee profile image

      John D Lee 7 years ago

      Yeah - cold water won't work very well, but ice actually does. Try crunching on some ice cubes and you'll find relief. I grant you that dairy does work better though - try a creamsicle when things get REALLY bad!

    • profile image

      ecip 7 years ago

      The burning effects of eating capsaicin, is not relieved by drinking cold water, as capsaicin is not water soluble. Cold water will actually increase the burning. Ask any chilihead.

      If you consume an uncomfortable amount of hot pepper, DRINK MILK. The fat in the milk will coat the mucous membranes, help disperse the capsaicin and abate the burning.

    • 2besure profile image

      Pamela Lipscomb 7 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      I enjoy hot and spicy foods and often us this spice in my cooking. Great hub!

    • fishskinfreak2008 profile image

      fishskinfreak2008 9 years ago from Fremont CA

      Very interesting