Why We Eat Spicy Food Despite It Causing Pain

by : Julia Banim on : 29 Aug 2021 12:31
Why We Eat Spicy Food Despite It Causing PainFirst We Feast/YouTube

Many of us enjoy spicy food, even when it causes us to reach for a glass of milk in gasping, hand-flapping panic.

But why do we put ourselves through such pain for our favourite flaming hot dish, enduring tongue scorches and watering eyes for food that should really repel us?


While chillies are, to most of us, used as a spice or a vegetable, they’re actually fruits. And, like many fruits, they’ve developed their own survival mechanisms.

Chillies (Pxfuel)Pxfuel

Like many thing, humans pose a threat to chillies because, simply, we eat them. Similarly to fruits that have grown thorns, chillies have developed a chemical compound called capsaicin, which can cause pain for predators eating it. Birds, on the other hand, help chillies survive by spreading seeds and are immune to capsaicin.

But despite this, many of us still persevere, enjoying a sizzling vindaloo or plate of spicy chicken wings as a treat. And while our bodies may try to reject spicy food – sweating, making us salivate, our noses run and eyes water to flush it out of our system – we still devour it.


According to The Wall Street Journal, the simplest explanation for this is food preservation, with chillies serving to kill bacteria and help cover up odours and bad tastes of foods that might not be particularly fresh.

Hot curry (PxHere)PxHere

This would offer an explanation as to why spicy foods are usually more prevalent in hotter climates, where food preservation is harder in warmer temperatures.

Another pretty convincing theory is that eating hot food came to help find mates, as young males would eater hotter and hotter food to show off. Research has even shown a link between spicy foods and testosterone levels, as well as certain personality traits that link with pursuing social status.


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Julia Banim

Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.

Topics: Food, Now


The Wall Street Journal
  1. The Wall Street Journal

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