Hot chicken? Yup. Shrimp vindaloo? Oh, yeah. Kung pao tofu? Give it to me. No one needs a reason beyond TASTES DAMN GOOD to dream about fiery food. But is there something else driving your deep need for heat?
It’s possible! Admittedly there’s not a ton of solid science that puts a microscope to why people sometimes get a Fatal Attraction-level fixation with spicy foods. But there are plenty of science-backed clues that could help explain your sudden unyielding passion for the peppa.
If “because they taste good” isn’t enough of an answer, here are six more reasons why you might be feeling the urgent need to spice up your life.
You’ve got a bun in the oven
Pregnancy is pretty notorious for triggering cravings, which can start raging as early as 5 weeks. For that, you can thank your rollercoaster hormones — rising and falling mood juices can also trigger sensory changes that affect the way you think about different foods.
That said? We’re all special snowflakes, and pregnancy affects every person differently. So, if you suddenly have an out of nowhere hankering to add hot peppers to your burrito order, there’s no reason why you can’t blame it on the baby.
Oh, but btw, since we’re talking about spicy food cravings and pregnancy? Your newfound pepper passion won’t predict your baby’s sex. Sorry.
You’re about to get your period
Hormone changes can also trigger food cravings during the luteal phase of your cycle — aka the week before your period. Like cravings during pregnancy, most people seem to want to go for the sweet stuff, a small study said. In other words? There’s a biological reason why you’re hit with the urge to polish off several chocolate donuts in one sitting.
There’s less — err, zero — evidence specifically looking at pre-period cravings for spicy foods. But again, that’s not to say hot food cravings aren’t possible. So, if you consistently feel the need for hot wings the week before your period, hey, now you know why.
You’re all stuffed up
Fun fact: A research review showed that capsaicin, the active compound in hot peppers, can temporarily ease congestion.
You might have experienced this firsthand when your nose started running like Niagara Falls after you decided to try sprinkling ghost pepper powder on your chili. And maybe, just maybe you remembered that instance subconsciously when you were stuffed up with a cold and needed something to help you breathe again.
You’re kinda bummed out
Hot foods have the whole hurts-so-good thing going for them. The burning you feel when capsaicin hits your mouth subsequently triggers the release of feel-good endorphins, which ease the pain and give you a little mood boost.
There’s no evidence that people who are sad or depressed crave spicy foods more often than anyone else. But who knows? Maybe it’s sort of like the spicy cravings for a stuffy nose thing. If you experienced a happiness hit from hot foods before, maybe you’ll start to reach for them instinctively anytime you feel dumpy.
Or maybe you’re stressed
Stress is known for sending some people straight to the pantry or fridge. A study showed that most of the time, it’s for so-called foods that happen to be high in fat or refined carbs.
That’s because when life feels out of control, we generally seek comfort. For many people that means chowing down on stuff like ice cream, mac and cheese, or chips. But if you associate spicy flavors with times when you felt happy and cared for, you might be more likely to reach for them when you’re stressed.
You’re just really frikkin’ hot
Ever wonder why cultures in hot climates often tend to have the spiciest eats?
It all comes down to the fact that capsaicin actually triggers the body to start sweating, which helps cool you down. Maybe you’ve experienced this firsthand (or your body somehow knows it instinctively —hey, trust yourself!) and, as a result, feel the need for fire anytime you start getting a little fiery yourself.
- Can’t get enough sriracha? Here are 50 genius ideas for adding it to pretty much everything.
- When hot sauce isn’t enough, here’s how to make jalapeno hummus, jalapeno pesto, and even low-carb jalapeno crepes.
- Yum, noodles. We’re talking Cucumber Noodles with Spicy Soy Sesame Dressing noodles, or Spicy Peanut Carrot Noodles.
- Craving Indian? Try this fiery Chicken Vindaloo , South Indian Egg Curry, or Coconut Shrimp Curry.
- If you want channel the spice into a stir-fry, how about 20-Minute Thai Basil Beef?
- Three words: Buffalo Tempeh Sandwich.
There are a bunch of different things that *might* be causing your spicy food obsession, but no surefire answer according to science. Still, feeling a sudden need for fire probably doesn’t mean anything bad! So, heed that craving and enjoy every sweaty bite, baby.