Why do people love spicy foods?
We all have that friend or family member who likes spicy food a bit too much, making us fear for our lives when they cook something for us. Or maybe you’re that person in your social circle! Even if you’re a fan of the tingly sensation or not, it’s still interesting to know more about the potential health benefits of spicy foods. Let’s jump right in—you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised!
There are many interesting theories about this question. One suggests that the love for spicy food is driven by the potential “endorphin hit” it provides. You might have heard people say that spicy food releases natural painkiller chemicals in the brain. These, in turn, can create pleasurable sensations. Still, science can’t really back that up. Another theory says that humans learned to like spicy flavors for their antimicrobial properties. Believe it or not, there was a time before refrigerators. Back then, chili peppers were used to preserve food and protect against bacteria. How cool is that? And lastly, of course, some people simply enjoy the thrilling taste of spicy food!
There is also a genetic and hormonal influence on the preference for spicy food. Studies have shown that spicy food preferences tend to run in families, suggesting a genetic component. Genetics also influences preferences for sweet or sour tastes! Testosterone levels have also been linked to a liking for spicy food. One study found that men with higher testosterone levels enjoyed spicier food. Interesting, right? This hormonal connection may explain why certain cultures, like East Asians, tend to love spicy cuisine!