Capsaicin: Hot or not?


Hugo Rivas

Ripe piquín peppers enjoy their last moments attached to their stem in my backyard.

Spicy food. There are numerous reasons people eat it and when mentioned, many people think of sweat, painful visits to the bathroom, and that infamous runny nose.

Although some people have negative views on spicy food there are also a good amount of people who crave capsaicin and its effects. Why do people eat or not eat spicy food?

Capsaicin is the organic compound found in chili peppers. It’s responsible for the pain associated with spicy foods and peppers.

Although it can be painful, this compound is known for its link with health benefits.

According to a BBC article by Jessica Brown, “In 2019, an Italian study found that people who ate food seasoned with chili peppers four times a week had a lower risk of death compared to those who never ate chilies.”

She wrote, “The major findings were that higher intake of spicy foods is related to a lower risk of mortality, particularly deaths due to cancer, heart disease, and respiratory diseases.”

Senior Joset Gonzalez doesn’t eat spicy food for its health benefits.

“I eat spicy food everyday because it adds flavor and I grew up with it being a part of my diet,” he said.

Heritage may play a role in how often one indulges in spicy food.

Senior Carlos Rodriguez stated, “ I don’t really eat spicy food because my mom doesn’t cook it as it’s not a big part of our Salvadoran cuisine.”

Sometimes people eat spicy food to intentionally induce the burning sensation rather than simply enjoy the added flavor.

Gonzalez recalled a memory of his. He said, “I ate a ghost pepper so I got diarrhea, my lips were burning, my ears were burning, everything was burning.”

Rodriguez doesn’t comprehend how someone can like this feeling.

He said, “How do people like spicy food? I like to enjoy my food and not be spiced out.”

When asked if he sees himself eating spicy food when he’s older Gonzalez replied, “I think I will keep eating spicy food unless I get stomach problems or something that prevents me from eating it.”

Perhaps some people eat spicy food because their loved ones enjoy it.

Rodriguez stated, “I doubt I will eat spicy food in the future unless I get a girlfriend who regularly eats spicy food.”

Gonzalez disagreed with Rodriguez. He said, “I understand how some people stay away from spicy food but I would say to give it a try because it makes food taste better and more enjoyable.”

Gonzalez talked about some of his favorite spicy foods. He said, “My favorite spicy food is the Samyang Hot Chicken Flavored Ramen. They can be really spicy but the taste and texture of the noodles is great. I also like green salsa and recommend mixing it with tacos and enchiladas.”