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Why Do We Love Spicy Food? July 26, 2019

Kingsbridge, Bronx
Why Do We Love Spicy Food?, Bronx, New York

American food isn’t known for its spice level, but Americans have eagerly imported hot and spicy food from many different cultures into their favorite dishes. From 5-alarm curries to gourmet tacos to platters of hot wings, people love spicy food. If you want to get in on the craze, here’s what you need to know.

What’s to Love About Hot Spices?

Why People Like Spicy Food

american-foodCertain hot foods, like chili, actually release endorphins, an action that may be related to the triggering of pain receptors in the mouth. Though hot spices don’t burn you, the chemicals in them do stimulate temperature-related pain receptors. Hot dishes can leave you feeling good, and not just because you’re full. Certain personality types gravitate to spicy food as well. Those who enjoy thrill-seeking and adrenaline-stimulating activities, like roller coasters or extreme sports, are more likely to choose spicy foods.

How to Build Your Spice Tolerance

Typical American food doesn’t build heat tolerance from childhood like cuisines from Mexico or India do. Early ingestion of chilis and hot spices creates a natural tolerance, as the neurotransmitters that communicate pain from the tongue to the brain are depleted.

To build your own heat tolerance, you should first understand that anyone with healthy digestion will not be harmed by spicy food. Though the tongue registers heat, there is no actual damage done by the spices. Then, try integrating low heat chilis, like poblano peppers, into your diet, or add red pepper flakes to soup or salad. Gradually move up to enjoying jalapeno or serrano peppers or medium salsas and hot sauce. The more you eat, the less the mouth will register the heat. Capsaicin, the chemical responsible for the heat in peppers, becomes more intense the faster you eat, so go slowly. And, the heat from hot peppers only lasts about 15 minutes, so eating slowly can allow you to enjoy the heat as a slow burn rather than a 3-alarm fire.

Foods to Tone Down the Heat

While building your spice tolerance, you may have times when it’s just too hot and you need to cool the mouth down. Don’t drink water. Capsaicin is fat soluble, which means it dissolves in fats. To put out a chili fire, drink milk, or take a bite of sour cream or yogurt. There’s a reason many spicy foods are accompanied by diary-based toppings or sauces. Lime, rice, or honey will also tone down the spice.


American food has grown diverse and spicy with additions of hot food from different cultures. Buffalo Wild Wings in Brooklyn and 18 other NY and CT locations, features delicious spicy hot wings, sharable plates, burgers, sandwiches, wraps, and salads—plus a menu of mouth-watering hot sauces. Call (718) 235-9453 in Brooklyn to order out or reserve a table, or visit the website to find other locations and see a full menu.