First things first - Loading up your food with enough chemical heat or making it extremely spicy does not make you tough. As a guy, you're not impressing anybody this way. The smartest thing to do is to eat your food how you actually like it and to let other people do the same. If how you actually like eating your food is by loading it up with chilies, then more power to you!
Some say that “Men who like spicy food more are more of an alpha”. But the most likely explanation for that particular preference is not that you're a total badass. The more likely explanation is that your nervous system has simply become desensitized to these. One of these can taste ten times as hot to somebody else as it does to you.
The Science behind the Peppery Burns!
You're not having different reactions to the same sensation, you're having different sensations before you perceive. Let's get our nomenclature straight. When we say “spicy” in this context we’re not talking about spices. Generally, while referring to chilies or capsicum (also known as chili pepper) we get to know about a chemical inside these chilies called capsaicin. There’s a whole science behind why some people seem to like the heat more than others.
It's important to understand that capsaicin is not acting on our taste buds, it's acting on a pain receptor that we have called TRPV1. TRPV1, known as a capsaicin receptor, is actually a receptor that is associated with detecting and regulating our body temperature. A part of its role is to tell us when there’s something, which from a temperature perspective, is hot enough.
Are spicy food lovers more manly?
Does ordering the hottest thing on the menu make you more of a man?
A new study published in the journal Physiology & Behavior has revealed - Men who like spicy food tend to also have high levels of testosterone. The French researchers served potatoes to 114 men who were given the choice to use a spicy pepper and salt in their meal. Naturally, during the experiment, the men with more “dude” hormone consistently asked if someone could “please pass me the hot sauce, bro.”
They concluded that the amount each man poured onto his food correlated with the amount of testosterone in his system. Well, the hormone is no doubt responsible for all the masculine characteristics in a male. And testosterone levels affect everything in men from the reproductive system and sexuality to muscle mass and bone density. So does it have anything to do with spicy food? Let’s get this straight.
Even though testosterone is found in both men and women, there’s significantly more of it in men. It's been associated with high sex drive, dominance, aggression, and daring nature. In all, greater quantities of testosterone are linked to characteristics that define the typical “alpha” male. Conversely, men with low testosterone levels have been associated with lethargy or depressive mood. This is purely anecdotal but you may notice some men being on the less thrill side, while some being gutsy all the time.
Now obviously high testosterone alone doesn't determine “spice excitement”, there are a ton of other factors. A separate 2013 study done with mice also correlated higher testosterone and spicy food consumption, though we might assume it could have to do with just being more “alpha”. Well, one thing is clear - As spicy grows in popularity, researchers are struggling to explain how and why men like it so much.
It doesn't sound that appealing though but, it's a big part of many cultures. So basically, men who love spicy food are more manly you might say - they have qualities traditionally ascribed to men, such as strength or bravery! But even if you disregard this theory, there are many benefits to eating the hot, spicy stuff spicy which are undeniable.
Reasons why you should add spicy foods to your diet
There are some specific reasons why you should seriously consider eating spicy foods for your health's sake. This has nothing to do with your gender. If you enjoy a little spicy kick in your meals, you're in luck. Spicy foods offer plenty of benefits that promote optimum health. So if peppers still aren't a regular addition to your diet pay special attention to these 5 reasons why you need them in your diet.
1. It helps you lose weight
In a 2017 study report, researchers found astonishing effects of capsaicin found in chili peppers on treating obesity. They found that this compound is remarkably effective in minimizing fat accumulation and lowering body weight.
2. It lowers your blood pressure
Peppers are rich in vitamins A, C, and D, both of which are essential to keeping your heart muscles healthy. In fact, one medium-sized red bell pepper will already give you 25% of your daily vitamin C needs and 75% of your vitamin A requirement per day. Additionally, the heat from the pepper helps improve blood circulation which puts you at lower risk of hypertension.
3. It's good for your heart
Apart from keeping your heart muscles healthy and improving your circulation, consuming chili peppers has even more effects on your heart health. Among its most important benefits include lowering bad cholesterol levels in your body and consequently minimizing your risk for coronary heart disease.
4. It minimizes your risk for cancer
In 2016, an anti-cancer research study published had focused on the ability of capsaicin to combat cancer in humans. This study was led by researchers from the University of Maryland their work concluded that capsaicin doesn't just help minimize the risk of cancer, more importantly, it can suppress the growth of cancer cells as well as tumors.
5. It makes you feel good
Capsaicin helps you feel good in more ways than one. In a study published by Pharmacological Reviews in 2012, researchers proved that this compound helps manage pain. Additionally, it is known to boost serotonin and other hormones that control your mood and disposition. Simply adding it to your diet could put you in a better position to minimize stress and combat depression.
But how did eating spices became a toxic and weird measure of masculinity?
Every research on this competitive behavior in men points out a lot of things. Men can be extrinsically motivated to consume spicy foods (outside of their own needs) to validation of their strength from others. Women, on the other hand, are intrinsically motivated to consume spicy foods for their own personal gratification. Men who intentionally chose spicier foods despite their ability to handle such sensations had an overall higher sensitivity to reward behaviors.
Studies have shown that it’s not only about tolerance, among men who try to be “macho” by eating chilies. There’s an interesting relationship between the trait to handle spicy food and bodily responses. Our brains respond to food’s heat by releasing a neurotransmitter known as endorphins, as well as dopamine. Doing those Jolo chip challenges can equate to the feeling of a “runner's high”, or somewhere near it. If we simply put the more spicy foods one consumes, the more they are can be seen enjoying it. This also suggests a slight addictive nature to these foods, which has more to do with this reward-seeking and risky behavior engagement.
Looking at the psychology of spiciness is only one part of the story. The 2019 guidelines released about the mental needs of men say that associating masculinity with actions is a really big problem. We, as a society, haven’t been thinking of it from the brain down. And undoubtedly, such a toxic male culture is truly an epidemic. So does it really have something to do with the spices? Nope. It’s all about behavior. Everything we do is evidence of what we are and need, and thus, it keeps us affecting negatively. So spreading toxic masculinity through our words is definitely harming men and this “spices and manhood” behavior is just a minimized version of it.
Letting men figure out their emotions in these strange, primitive ways is also encouraging them to use their feelings as coping mechanisms. This is a clear sign of “male depression”. There’s so much pressure on some of them to conform and act tough.
The Bottom Line
Putting too many chilies in your food or anything like that doesn’t promote your toughness or courage in any way. And this goes both ways. Spices or anything does not define your gender or how “masculine” you are. Adding the number of spices that your body needs is a wiser choice because of its enormous benefits. Also, spices have a vital role in Indian cuisine and culture. We Indians love spicy food, no doubt. So eat spicy according to your tolerance of spicy, not what others think you can handle!