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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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