Spice is an integral part of traditional dishes from various cultures, which is why spicy dishes can be some of the most delicious food around. Unfortunately, while they are delicious, they also cause pain for those who are uninitiated into the world of spicy food. If you have little tolerance for dishes that bring on the heat, don’t fret, there are ways to help you experience the delicious taste of spicy food.
As with many things in life, spicy food is all about building up a tolerance. People with the highest tolerances to spicy food have been eating spicy foods from an early age and have built up a tolerance over many years. Obviously, those of us who seldom eat spicier food lack this tolerance and will have to work at building up tolerance.
Unfortunately, you cannot build up a spice tolerance without eating the food – meaning you will have to endure the painful and uncomfortable process of getting used to the heat. Don’t fret, however, there are ways to make the painful process bearable, helping you get on your way to eating deliciously spicier food.
The methods listed below are some of the best tips to help you cool your mouth and tongue to get sweet relief after biting into something spicy.
Drink Fatty Beverages
There are specific drinks that you should stay away from when eating spicy food, like water. While downing a whole glass of ice-cold water to quench the heat in your mouth may be your first instinct, you should try to avoid water if you can.
Capsaicin, the active ingredient that makes food spicy, is non-soluble in water, meaning it will not dissolve or mix in water. Because capsaicin is not water soluble, drinking a glass of water will redistribute the capsaicin covering your tongue all over your mouth and down your throat.
The same principal applies to sucking on ice chips. While ice will numb your tongue, dulling the pain caused by the spicy food, the relief is short lived. Once the ice melts, the pain will return and be distributed throughout your mouth and throat.
Capsaicin is fat-soluble, meaning it will dissolve in fat, which is why you should lean towards drinking beverages that are high in fat, like:
Drinking a glass of ice-cold milk is one of the best ways to ease the pain of spicy food. Capsaicin is fat soluble, meaning it will dissolve in liquids high in fat-like milk products, making milk the ideal solution for spicy food pain. Milk is full of the protein casein, which works as an antagonist to the capsaicin covering your tongue.
As an antagonist, casein stops the capsaicin from binding to the VR1 receptors on your tongue and washes off the capsaicin that is already bonded to the receptors. The casein acts as a protective barrier against the capsaicin which, in turn, makes the pain become bearable and less intense.
Casein is also found in yogurt-based foods, fat-heavy creams, and milk-based dips.
Milk isn’t the only way to beat the heat of spicy foods, which is great news to those of us who are lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy products. Capsaicin is soluble not only in fat, but alcohol as well, making alcoholic beverages a great companion for spicy meals.
Capsaicin is also soluble in oil, and while we don’t recommend drinking olive or vegetable oil, a quick swish can help ease the pain. Preferably done at home, if you do not have any milk or alcohol, you can dull the burning pain that comes with spicy food with a quick swish of olive oil and then spitting it out.
4. Sugar Water
If you don’t feel comfortable putting straight cooking oil in your mouth, you can try sugar water. Dissolve a large amount of sugar in water and swish it around your mouth, in the same way you would with oil. Make sure to spit it out after swishing it around your mouth, instead of swallowing the concoction.
When Eating Spicy Food
In general, there are a few tips to remember when you decide to eat a spicy meal:
5. Pair the meal with heat reducing dips, creams, and toppings
As stated earlier, the protein casein, which is found in dairy products, are the ideal solution for stopping the pain of spicy food. The benefit isn’t only found in drinks, however, any dips or cream that are dairy based can help the pain. This is why you see traditional spicy dishes often paired with a cream dip.
6. Munch on rice or bread
If you are someone who prefers to keep their food dry and detest adding dips or creams to your meals, there are other solutions for cancelling out the heat: bread. Capsaicin is an oily substance that can be soaked up by bread. When you are eating a spicy meal and find the pain too much, take a break and chew on some bread to lessen the heat. If the meal is particularly spicy, alternate between taking bites of the meal and bread.
If bread is not available, rice also works to soak up the capsaicin. It is important to note, however, that grains of rice do not soak up all the capsaicin and will leave some behind due to its texture.
7. Eat slowly
While your first instinct is to eat the spicy food as fast as possible, it actually makes the pain worse. Make sure to eat the meal slowly, savoring the flavor and giving ample time for the capsaicin to wear off before taking another bite.
While building up a spice tolerance may seem like an impossible goal, it is well-worth the effort and pain. As you build up your tolerance, try to keep fatty or alcoholic drinks available, as well as creams, bread, and rice, to make the journey easier.
Remember that building up your tolerance will take time but think of all the amazing foods you will be able to eat once you reach your goal.