Spicy foods are one of life’s finest indulgences. Whether it’s buffalo wings, hot salsa, or straight up habaneros, foods with heat give our diets and our palettes a much needed kick. But there’s also a downside, because a lot of times, when foods are hot going down, they’re also hot coming back up (think heartburn and acid reflux).
So how do we handle our favorite hot foods without paying too heavy a price? Chef Mario Batali recently had a #protip for a fan on that matter:
Wait. But what is capsaicin?
It’s the chemical compound that gives hot peppers their heat. And it’s actually got some pretty remarkable health benefits, aiding everything from arthritis to skin disorders like psoriasis (there’s also talk that it may help prevent prostate cancer and boost metabolism). It’s also pretty damn hot—about 15 million units on the Scoville Scale—stimulating nerve receptors and tricking the mind into thinking the body is hotter than it is.
So, in addition to having bread on hand to chew up and spit out (man, your date is gonna love you), what other steps can we do to avoid having spicy foods blow up our insides?
Here are a handful of other remedies that can help ease the burn:
A Spoonful of Sugar
…makes the heat level go down—or at least makes your mouth feel like it is. Sugar doesn’t actually get rid of the capsaicin, but it provides your mouth with a temporary sensory distraction.
I Scream, You Scream
This may sound obvious, but ice cream will help cool the heat. Per the Chef’s recommendation above, it’s actually better to eat it (or yogurt) before you actually indulge in hot foods, as it not only brings your stomach’s temperature down, but coats its lining as well.
Build Your Tolerance
Like all things, your body can gradually build up an ability to handle spice and heat. But if you usually eat blander foods and suddenly decide to order two dozen “nuclear holocaust” wings, you’re gonna be in trouble. Don’t go from 0 to 60, but take incremental steps instead.
Alcohol helps dissolve capsaicin, but only the higher proof sort. Beer has too much water in it, which will actually just spread it around your mouth and digestive system more.
Be a Well-Oiled Machine
Healthy oils are high in the good types of fats, and are helpful in combating spice. If you can stomach it, have a shot of olive oil (making sure to swish it around in your mouth), or else a spoonful or two of peanut butter. Added bonus: that combination of wing sauce and peanut butter breath will be just outstanding (nope).
If all else fails, take comfort in the fact that eating spicy food also releases endorphins. So, after the pain eventually passes, you’ll have a rush of euphoria waiting for you. If none of the above appeal to you, just suck it up and wait it out. The burn won’t last forever.