The Surprising Benefits of Eating Super-Spicy Food for Every Single Meal
The writer may have burned off some tongue cells, but she lost 2 lbs.
After finding myself in an early-spring rut of eating off-brand Lucky Charms for breakfast, fruit snacks for lunch and four servings of whole-wheat spaghetti for dinner, I decided to take a positive action for my health. Never one to approach anything in a balanced way, I embarked on an extreme week-long challenge: eating super-spicy foods for every meal for five days. As someone who enjoys – and was raised on – spicy foods, I expected to have a wonderful time, made difficult only by the lack of regular doughnut consumption.
With a clear heart and cabinet full of sriracha, red pepper flakes, Korean hot sauce and extra hot salsa, I began my first morning with scrambled eggs, which I smothered in red pepper flakes and hot sauce. As anyone could have predicted, the dish was fiery and acidic, hurting my throat and burning the spots on my lips that I pick at. But eggs and hot sauce at least go together – there were some good flavors happening! I chased the meal with a tablespoon of peanut butter, and I already felt revitalized, clearly a trick my mind was playing. I went for a run.
After a lunch and dinner of covering my food in the fieriest hot sauces beyond recognition, I noticed that I was drinking more water – already a positive result. (People tell me water is important, though Diet Coke has my heart.) The second day, I repeated my pink eggs for breakfast, and for lunch, I sautéed a package of spinach with olive oil, garlic and two full tablespoons of red pepper flakes, which I ate alongside spicy sausage that I made spicier with a 10-second stream of sriracha. That one hurt. I ate it slowly and washed it down with a cup of almond milk. While I finished the plate, I wasn’t hungry for my usual post-meal handful of cereal. Dinner was a similar story.
When I woke up on day three, the idea of starting the day with something spicy and savory – which many people do, all around the world -- was so daunting to me that I didn’t eat anything. It’s worth noting that I have never, ever skipped breakfast. By lunch I was starving, but still reluctant to eat. I ordered the spiciest dish from my nearby Thai place – basil chicken, extra spicy, four flame icons, “make it three times as spicy as you normally do” – and ate as much as I could before I lost feeling in my mouth.
Pacific Standard recently posted an article on three studies that found “strong evidence that consumption of, or exposure to, spicy food evokes aggression-related thoughts,” a thesis many readers on Twitter found to be poorly-researched and ignorant of the long history of racist and xenophobic responses to ethnic foods. In my highly-unscientific, five-day experiment, I have further doubts about the study. I did not feel more aggressive. In fact, I felt mostly tired, but I think that’s because I always feel sort of tired. I did find myself fantasizing about taking long baths in whole milk. That was an interesting development.
By day five, the only measurable change I had noticed from eating exclusively spicy foods for every meal was not in my personality – rather, I had lost 2 lbs. Sure enough, spicy foods have been shown to help curb appetites and boost your metabolism, so this didn’t come as a shock. Also, as mentioned earlier, I had stopped eating doughnuts. Devastating, but effective.
Since I don’t know when I’m going to die, I can’t yet speak to the effects these foods have had on my longevity – though a 2015 study found that increased chili-intake can reduce the risk of death by 14%, compared to the most spice-averse group. I’ll report back to you on that. For now, I’m going to eat a package of Peeps.