Last year, there was a little media fuss regarding recent research out of China, which, though not definitive, seemed to point to several health benefits inherent in eating spicy foods. Studies apparently showed that those who ate spicy items almost daily had a 14-percent lower risk of premature death from all causes over those who ate them less than once a week. The frequent consumers of heat also appeared to experience fewer instances of cancer, ischemic heart disease and respiratory ailments.
One key plant compound in chili peppers in particular, capsaicin, gets credited for its high concentrations of vitamins and antioxidants, plus an ability to improve blood vessel function. That's according to research pointed to by American doctor (and supplement salesman) Joseph Mercola. Regarding cancer-fighting, Mercola notes that capsaicin activates cell receptors in the intestinal lining, creating a reaction that reportedly lowers the risk of tumors. Capsaicin's also an anti-inflammatory and a pain reliever, working to desensitize sensory receptors in the skin and deplete "the body's supply of substance P, a chemical component of nerve cells that transmits pain signals to your brain," he says. And, if the burn couldn't get any better, studies also point to spiciness aiding a feeling of satiety at mealtime, so people tend to eat less. Plus, hot peppers might even help burn calories.
So, all this in mind — plus the fact that we have many loyal hotheads here on staff, and we're well aware we live in Green Chile Land — we've made spicy foods and drinks the focus of this Dish recipe compilation. The goal isn't so much to sear you into submission at home, but simply to celebrate the art of heat, with the following recipes submitted by local chefs, mixologists and baristas. We thank them all, and wish you a pleasant sweat.