Dieters: Think of spice as your secret weapon! When you eat something spicy, you feel more full and it stays with you longer. Oh, you don’t like hot food, you say? Of course, if you can make it hot enough to taste spicy that’s the best, but even if you just add enough so it doesn’t taste hot but has just a little bite, it will help.It will linger on the back of your tongue and give your food a more fulfilling taste.
You can accomplish this in many different ways… by using ground spices like cayenne and hot curry, by using hot pepper flakes, by adding bits of chopped hot peppers, or by using hot pepper pastes like Ahi Amarillo or chili paste, or simply by adding a shot of hot pepper sauces like Tabasco. Each ethnic group has its own offering in this spice department!
Here’s why it’s so satisfying to add some spice from chilies to your diet. Chilies contain capsaicin, which stimulates the nerves in your mouth, which in turn stimulate the brain, which in turn releases endorphins. And we all know about endorphins. They make us feel really good. The spicier the food then, the more endorphins get released. So here’s where you have to figure out how much makes sense for you.
Chilies will also speed up your metabolism, so it has been suggested that will help in weight loss, but it has not been proven. Sounds good, though! Some of you won’t be able to take this advice due to stomach issues, but actually studies have shown that there is no higher incidence of ulcers in Mexico and other countries where chilies are a predominant food than any place else. You just have to know your own body and what it can tolerate. Peppers are really good for you in other ways. They are really high in beta carotene and vitamin C, two things that fight cancer and heart disease.
Added into a dish with a little salt and some citric acid (like lemon or lime juice or wine), they can be invaluable in increasing flavor. So how do you figure out how much of these flavors to add? First, always, always, always taste what you are serving to your guests before you give it to them. Soup is a good one to start with because you can take out a ladle full and experiment on it without ruining the whole batch. Add small amounts at a time of each individual spice – first salt, then lemon, then Tabasco sauce. Experience the difference in the taste after each addition. Get each one right and then move on to the next. If you overdo one, start over. This little exercise will tremendously increase the flavor in your cooking and help you to understand the power of spices and how they work together. Give it a try and report back!