Ever wondered why some of the spiciest dishes hail from the hottest countries on earth? From the fiery curries of Thailand to the piquant salsas of Mexico, chillies do more than just add flavour to your favourite fare – contrary to what you might imagine, they help cool the body down.
If you were asked to name a temperature associated with chilli, chances are you’d say ‘hot’ – and you wouldn’t be wrong. The capsaicin molecules in chillies (and to a lesser extent in capsicums) are the natural chemicals that provide the warming, burning sensation you experience when you bite into a chilli. These capsaicin molecules react to receptors in the lining of the mouth, which registers the heat as a form of pain or burning sensation.
What follows is a rush of endorphins, as the body’s natural painkiller response floods the body with the feel-good chemicals. It’s that ‘rush’ that chilli lovers crave.
So now you’re feeling all hot a sweaty from your chilli feast, surely that’s warmed up the body, right? Well, not exactly. Instead, your body’s natural cooling mechanisms have kicked in, possibly causing you to break out in a sweat. When those delicate (or not-so delicate) beads of sweat evaporate off the skin, the body naturally cools.
This summer, if you want instant relief from the heat, follow the lead of people in Thailand, India and beyond, and add a dose of ‘cooling’ chillies to your favourite dish.
For more summer inspiration, read our handy guide to the top 10 ingredients with cooling properties.
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