As a Mexican restaurant in Eugene, we thought we would share with you some background on spicy food and reasons why people love it so much. Mexican cuisine has a distinct flavor that many recognize and love. One of the major aspects of this flavor is the spiciness! Chili peppers have been used in Mesoamerican food for several thousand years. Research indicates that the plants were first domesticated in Mexico

History of the spread of chili peppers

Evidence of humans using spices to flavor food can be traced back as far as 6,000 years ago. Black pepper was so widely demanded, and its trade controlled by traders in southern Arabia, that it was considered a luxury item in medieval Europe. In 1453, the Ottoman Empire cut the spice trade route to Europe. This prompted European explorers, such as Christopher Columbus, to venture out and find a new trade route to obtain valuable peppercorns and other precious spices. Thus, prompting their accidental discovery of chili peppers in the West Indies. Although people from Mexico and Central America had already been using spicy peppers in their food for thousands of years, Europeans were able to enjoy the flavor of chili peppers for the first time. They began to incorporate them into their daily cooking, a custom that spread to other nations.

Human’s love for spice is unique

Chili pepper plants produce a chemical called capsaicin from which the spicy flavor and burning sensation originates. This active compound is used as a defense mechanism to prevent fungi and insects from invading. It also deters animals from eating the peppers who would otherwise grind the seeds to obliteration.

Humans seem to be the only species that enjoy and even prefer spicy foods. During the 1970s, Dr. Paul Rozin, professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, began investigating if any other mammal, such as dogs, pigs and rats, had a taste for spice like humans did. His findings indicated that, even when conditioned to like spicy food, all the animals preferred non-spicy food. Humans seem to be unique in finding pleasure through a little bit of pain.

Health benefits of spicy food

Some say that the reason why we love spicy food is simply because it’s good for us. Spices are naturally antimicrobial and lower blood pressure. The capsaicin found in jalapeños, cayenne pepper and red chili peppers can lower cholesterol and increase blood flow. Red and green peppers contain high amounts of vitamin C. There is also an indication that eating spicy food can temporarily boost your metabolism.

Whatever the reason is for why we love spicy, one thing we know for sure it that it tastes so good! For some tasty and spicy (if you choose) Mexican food in Eugene, Oregon, stop by Chapala Mexican Restaurant at either of our two locations. Don’t forget to ask us about our catering service!