viernes, 7 de octubre de 2011

Cooking Lessons 2: Don't be a pussy. Chiles are good for you

If you've read some of my recipes, I'm sure you've noticed that even my sweet recipes contain at least trace ammounts of some powdered chile. This may or may not be due to the fact that I'm so Mexican, nopales grow out of my forehead. A quick Google search of the key word "chileheads" yields 123,000 results in 0.21 seconds, the first one being a british site peddling seeds.

No, guys, chileheads are everywhere. From Great Britain to India, to Peru, to Mexico, to the USA, everybody's doing it... so why aren't you? Because you're a pussy, that's why.

So what exactly makes your pussy-ass mouth burn and your pansy-ass nose water when you eat chiles? Interesting question, my young padawan! You can blame 2 organic compounds for that: Capsaicin and Allyl-isothiocyanate.


Capsaicin (8-methyl-N-vanillyl-6-nonenamide, ((CH3)2CHCH=CH(CH2)4CONHCH2C6H3-4-(OH)-3-(OCH3)) is the main culprit. It's an organic compound that is extremely irritant to pretty much everything it touches in mammals. It's extremely hydrophobic, which means no ammount of water will ever wash it off (although most fats will), and it turns out it has antifungal and possible antimicrobial properties. No lethal dose has been described for humans, but in can kill mice with as little as 50mg/kg.
Even the fucking molecule looks evil
It has been proposed that Capsicum's high concentration of capsaicin may be an evolutionary development, since birds don't have any receptors for it anywhere and are more likely to spread their seeds undigested in their droppings, unlike mammals, whose molars crush the seeds.
Two weeks from now, this'll be jalapeño heaven

The burning your mouth like Satan took a shit in it comes from a very interesting mechanism. It binds to a receptor called Vanilloid Receptor subtype 1 (VR1), which can also be stimulated by heat and abrasion. The thing is, capsaicin does not cause any chemical burns, or any kind of tissue damage whatsoever, it just tricks your brain into thinking you're on fire.


The ages-long argument of chiles related to peptic ulcer was later debunked, when the correlation between Helicobacter pylori and peptic ulcer was demonstrated. In fact, it's even less damaging than aspirin.

Allyl-isothiocyanate (CH2CHCH2NCS), on the other hand is responsible for the nasal discharge. It binds to the same receptors as capsaicin, but being a more volatile son of a bitch, is more likely to reach your nose and sinuses. The mucosal membranes interpret this as a potential environmental agression, so they start secreting large ammounts of very fluid mucus to trap the alleged offending particles.

It's found in larger ammounts in mustard and wasabi than chiles. It is fairly toxic, with a median lethal dose of 150mg/kg, and has been extensively used as a lachrimator (tear gas) and, in WWI as part of the infamous Mustard Gas. It's also mildly soluble in water, so yeah, drink up.
Do not click here: Mustard gas effects on skin

So these are, essentially, chemical weapons. How the fuck can they be good for me, you ask? Well, for one, concentrations of both compounds in food are nearly negligible, so you won't die. Also, the continuous stimulation of VR1 receptors triggers the release of large ammounts of endorphins, which are the brain's way of getting high naturally. Chiles are also high in vitamin C and it has been proven that capsaicin can increase your metabollic rate and make you burn as many as 200 extra calories per day. Also, since they overstimulate the papillae on your tongue and the olfactory receptors in your nose, they can pontentiate other flavors, like chocolate. The trick is just learning how to balance them out.

So stop being a pussy and start experimenting. I promise you, you won't die.

Sources: 
Joshua J. Tewksbury, Karen M. Reagan, Noelle J. Machnicki, Tomás A. Carlo, David C. Haak, Alejandra Lorena Calderón Peñaloza, and Douglas J. Levey (2008-08-19), "Evolutionary ecology of pungency in wild chilies", Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105 (33): 11808–11811, doi:10.1073/pnas.0802691105, retrieved 2010-06-30

Story GM, Crus-Orengo L (July–August 2007). "Feel the burn". American Scientist 95 (4): 326–333. doi:10.1511/2007.66.326 doi:10.1511/2007.66.326

López-Carrillo L, López-Cervantes M, Robles-Díaz G, et al. (2003). "Capsaicin consumption, Helicobacter pylori positivity and gastric cancer in Mexico". Int. J. Cancer 106 (2): 277–82. doi:10.1002/ijc.11195. PMID 12800206

2 comentarios:

  1. El chiste es que no se me va a quitar lo enchilado y no voy a comer a gusto! :O
    Aunque it's pretty interesting to read all this stuff about what do chiles do. :B

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  2. Definitivamente los chiles son un fetiche tuyo, y el capsaicin es el Ron Jeremy de ellos

    ResponderEliminar

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