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Food for Thought: How to build your tolerance for spicy foods

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According to research from the American Heart Association, individuals who consume chili pepper may live longer and may have a significantly reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease or cancer.

When it comes to spicy foods, it seems as though some people can't get enough, while others run away at the mere hint of a little heat in their food.

According to foodservice experts, 78% of consumers say they enjoy at least moderately spicy foods, and 55% of consumers say they crave spicy food flavors. If you are one who avoids spicy foods you might be surprised to learn the many health benefits of chili peppers - for instance.

According to research from the American Heart Association, individuals who consume chili pepper may live longer and may have a significantly reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease or cancer.

Here are a few ways you can build your spicy food tolerance, according to SeriousEats.com:

1. Start small: Begin by dousing your mac and cheese with extra black pepper or sprinkling crushed red pepper flakes into your soup.

2. Savor the flavor: Focus on tastes and aromas that make you want to keep eating. Fresh spices, used sparingly can add great flavor.

3. Increase the spice ... slowly: When your taste buds get accustomed to these small measures of spice, bring it up the heat. Try adding seeded, chopped chiles to your meals. Start with milder ones like poblanos and cubanelles before moving onto jalapenos and serranos.

4. Keep it on the side: Serve spicy sauces or salsas on the side, so each person can add to their liking.

5. Have coolants on hand: Have a little milk to go with your meal or mix a spoonful of sour cream into the salsa. Dairy products go a long way in taming any spicy pain.

6. Don't force it: Not everyone's stomach can handle spicy foods. If you repeatedly experience pain after incorporating spiciness into your diet, then stop.

EASY RECIPE

Creamy Tomato Soup

Serves: 4 quarts

Ingredients

1 yellow onion, thinly sliced

5 cloves fresh garlic, minced

2 bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

2 (28-ounce) cans San Marzano tomatoes, crushed

1 cup heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 (2 ounce) package fresh basil, leaves torn

Kosher salt and black pepper

Steps

In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat, and cook onions in oil until completely soft and translucent. Add garlic, red pepper, and bay leaves, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add tomatoes and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Add cream and basil, and simmer for 5 minutes, or until mixture has slightly thickened. Remove bay leaves.

Working in batches, puree in a blender (or use an immersion blender) until completely smooth. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as desired. Serve.

- SouthernKitchen.com

DRINK

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