How to Enjoy Spicy Foods

Spicy food is enjoyed by many people. However, some people don't understand or enjoy spicy foods. This article is for those who want to know more about spicy foods or about how to enjoy them.


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    Understand what spiciness is and is not. To truly appreciate spiciness, you should know what goes on. A common misconception is that spiciness is actual heat. It is not. Rather, it is an irritation. What causes spiciness? A chemical known as capsaicin. This capsaicin causes a burning irritation. The level of capsaicin in a pepper or sauce is measured in a unit called a Scoville. Pure, undiluted capsaicin is 16,000,000 Scovilles, the spiciest anything can be. Other than that, all capsaicin is diluted by something else, be it water, oil, or whatever. This spiciness is perceived by the body as pain. Capsaicin in peppers is mainly for defense from mammals. Only mammals feel this heat, however, as they are the only animals that can detect capsaicin. Birds spread spicy pepper seeds, since they don't feel the heat, capsaicin passes harmlessly through them.
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    Determine how much heat you can handle. Try a mild sauce or pepper, and work your way up. A good thing to start with is a poblano pepper, with a very mild Scoville rating of 500. Some stores have a brief "spicy meter" posted near their peppers. Read one of those, look at the brief scale in this article, find one on the Internet, or look at the scale provided in the Sources & Citations section.
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    Add spicy foods to your daily meal plans. If you eat spicy foods only once a week, you may be missing out. Splash some hot sauce on everything you can think of. Keep chopped or whole peppers lying around the house somewhere, or better yet, grow them yourself. By incorporating spiciness into your regular diet, you get used to it, and that helps you to eat even spicier foods.
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    Push your limits. Part of the fun and lasting appeal is when you continually try spicier things. Keep track of its Scoville rating to track your progress. However, hurting yourself isn't recommended.
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    Ease your pain. Once you've had enough, help yourself! Contrary to popular belief, water doesn't do well in easing pain. Instead, reach for the milk. A chemical in milk, casein, disengages the capsaicin from your mouth to help it get washed away.
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    Expand your horizons. Try different things, like a new sauce, or a spicy dish you've never tried. Spicy food is a great way to expand your knowledge of different cultures. Find a dish that is spicy, but also fits your taste, such as a spicy vegetable dish or a meat oriented dish.
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    If peppers, sauce, or spicy meals are just too spicy, or you just plain dislike the taste, see if you can buy spicy chips at a nearby grocery store or deli. Very spicy, but good tasting chips include Flaming Hot Cheetos, First, Second, or Third Degree Burn Doritos, Red Hot Herrs, etc... The list is endless!

Scoville Scale

A brief Scoville scale for peppers. Their relative heat is rated from coolest (green) to hottest (black).

Scoville Scale
Pepper(s) Scovilles
Bell pepper 0
Pimento, Pepperoncini 100-500
Anaheim 500-2,500
Poblano, Ancho 500-2,500
Jalapeño, Guajillo 2,500-8,000
Chipotle (smoked jalapeño) 5,000-50,000
Serrano 6,000-23,000
Tabasco, Cayenne 30,000-50,000
Piquin 40,000-58,000
Thai 50,000-100,000
Bahamian 95,000-110,000
Scotch Bonnet 100,000-325,000
Habanero 100,000-350,000
Red Savina Habanero 350,000-580,000
Naga Jolokia 855,000-1,050,000
"16 Million Reserve" 16,000,000


  • Try to eat spicy foods with carbs such as rice, mashed potatoes, or bread. The sugar will help you ease the burn sensation.
  • Eating spicy food improves your metabolism rate !
  • If you do grow peppers in your garden, a good idea would be to preserve any extras to maximize your crop. Chances are that if you have a lot of plants, you will have a lot left over. Canning and preserving supplies can be found in most supermarkets.
  • Your mouth isn't the only part of your body that feels the burn of capsaicin. This is especially true with very spicy peppers. Skin will feel the burn, as will your stomach and the rest of your digestion system.
  • Get your friends, family, co-workers, or whoever else you know interested in spicy foods as well.
  • The hottest parts of a spicy pepper are the inner membrane and the center where the seeds are held. The seeds don't produce any capsaicin themselves.
  • Scoville ratings are a guideline, not an absolute law. Peppers hotter and cooler than the rating can exist.
  • Join a spiciness interest group to discuss spiciness with other folks who enjoy it!
  • The "Blair's 16 Million Reserve" is a spice that was created by Gardner Resources Inc. Also in the Guinness Book of World Records 2007, it measures about 16 million Scovilles and contains pure capsaicin crystals, and it can be tasted over 2 tons of Chi-Chi sauce. The Naga Jolokia is the hottest natural spice, however.
    • Did you know that Chi-Chi sauce actually contains a small amount of Jalapeno pepper spice in it?
  • Thai peppers are very spicy. If you are used to eating peppers in the yellow zone, then you should be able to handle the Thai peppers. If it is too spicy for you, then consider trying the pequin pepper.
  • Also contrary to popular belief, the habanero is not the hottest pepper on Earth. The Carolina Reaper is. Habaneros have an average rating of 300,000 Scovilles, while the Carolina Reaper can rate over 2,100,000 Scovilles.
  • A bell pepper isn't spicy at all and it won't help you on your "mission" to eat Habaneros or even Naga Jolokias.

Other Uses For Capsaicin

  • Besides being in spicy peppers, capsaicin is being used in topical ointments to prevent pain, such as arthritis. It overwhelms nerve sensors in a way that causes it to be unable to send pain signals for a short period of time.
  • Another use for capsaicin is in pepper spray. Some of the weaker pepper sprays have a Scoville rating of 2,500,000 Scovilles, over twice the potency of a Naga Jolokia pepper!
  • Capsaicin is also being tested for killing cancer cells. The capsaicin targets the cancer cell's power source, mitochondria, which kills them.



  • Wear gloves and avoid skin contact with peppers when cutting them. Capsaicin is an irritant. If you happen to touch an extremely spicy pepper without gloves, wash your hands before touching your eyes. Getting it in your eyes or even on your skin can hurt a lot depending on the spiciness of the pepper. Be careful when handling extremely hot peppers.
  • Practice extreme caution with insanely spicy dishes and sauces. Some companies have created hot sauce that is insanely hot. The hottest of those aren't even sauce, they're additives that are to be mixed with food, not put on it.

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Categories: Appreciation of Food