It’s a burning question. We all understand how onions bring on the tears but why does pepper make us sneeze?
There are 2 reasons why pepper is particularly sneeze-inducing. The first is that, like other spices, it is often used when finely ground. As with any other tiny particle in the air, it can stimulate nerve cells inside the nose and trigger the sneeze reflex to forcefully clear out the offensive particulate.
The other reason is on account of the chemical composition of pepper. Pepper contains a chemical called piperine, which gives the plant its flavour. Piperine stimulates the nasal nerve endings, causing the brain to trigger muscles in the nose and throat to get rid of the particles.
Piperine is present in white and green pepper but black pepper is the most irritating.
Know yer nose!
- When you sneeze, air rushes out of your nose at 100 miles per hour!
- The human nose has 5 million scent receptors
- Sneezing is called sternutation
- Our nose produces 1 to 2 pints of mucus every day
Fenugreek spices up the male libido
Fenugreek is a spice that is best known for its use in curry dishes. But its benefits go beyond your taste buds — it can help you amp up your sex life.
A 6 week study reported in the journal Phytotherapy Research found that a fenugreek supplement boosted libido in 82% of men. 63% of the men taking the fenugreek noted an improvement in the quality of sexual performance and 67% of men indicated that it enhanced their sexual recovery time.
Fenugreek (known by its botanical name Trigonella foenum-graecum), is a plant used both as an herb (the leaves) and a spice (the seed); it’s a common ingredient in many curries. It has been studied in the past for its effects in blood sugar maintenance in diabetics and its cholesterol-lowering effects among those with hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol and high triglycerides).
Fenugreek seeds are rich in a chemical compound known as saponins. According to the study authors, one of the common saponins found in fenugreek is diosgenin which affects the production of a number of sex hormones. The men in the study reported pronounced and welcome improvements to their sexual desire, arousal and performance. In addition, 82% of the men taking the fenugreek also reported higher levels of general energy. Whether the latter effect was a direct result of fenugreek or from increased sexual activity was not described. But we’re guessing the men in the study don’t really care!
Fenugreek has also been shown in studies to lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. It has been used for treating menopausal symptoms, treating digestive problems and to stimulate the production of milk in breastfeeding women.
Fenugreek Increases Sexual Desire and Arousal in Women
In a 2012 study, researchers recruited 80 women aged between 20 and 49 who reported they had low sex drive. They were randomly divided into either a control group, who received a placebo or a group that was given an oral dose of fenugreek supplement (600 mg/daily).
The results showed a significant increase in sexual desire and arousal as well as a marked increase in sexual activity. Discussing the findings, doctors said estradiol stimulates vaginal lubrication and blood flow, positively affecting a woman’s capacity for sexual arousal and orgasm, and that the study results appear to support this beneficial effect in women.
A recent study has determined that not only do spice rubs enhance flavour of grilled meat but they actually keep you healthy too.
Professor J Scott Smith of Kansas State University found that black pepper in particular almost entirely eradicates the formation of carcinogens called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) which can form on the surface of meat when it is cooked at high temperatures. According to the National Cancer Institute, HCAs have been found to cause changes in DNA that may increase the risk of cancer.
Smith found that blending black pepper with other spices could limit the formation of HCAs.”Blending pepper with antioxidant-rich spices works so well in ground beef patties and on steaks that the spice formulation eliminates nearly 100 per cent of HCAs,” Smith writes in Science Daily. “In these cases, the spices are added at a level that is quite practical, so the result is flavorful and healthy.”
Smith also found that herbs and marinades are beneficial in reducing HCAs. He stresses that marinades should only be done for a couple of hours because “marinating too long has the opposite effect because it can cause the antioxidants in the sauce to decompose”.
Smell is as powerful sense. A sniff of freshly baked bread can transport you back in time, remembering your grandma’s kitchen or a favourite bakery from your youth.
Smells are your brain reacting to combinations of molecules hitting receptors in your nose and interpreting those signals into something you recognize. Until recently scientists may have understood the structure of the smell molecule but it was nearly impossible to determine what smell you would be getting. A group of researchers set out to get it straight.
Scientists at Rockefeller University recruited 49 people and polled them on their perception of scents from 500 different chemicals. The subjects were asked to select a descriptor for each scent, choosing from a list of 19 “smell categories”: spices, bakery, sweet, fruit, grass, cold, decayed, wood, chemical, sour, acid, flower, musky, burnt, warm, fish, garlic, sweat and urine.
The researchers took all the collected data and started creating algorithms that could pair a molecule’s structural and chemical information with the “sent” it was most associated with. Through the IBM-run crowdsourced effort, the teams developed a system: in goes the molecule with its structural and chemical information, out comes the name of the scent. Though it is still early in this research the scientists expect they will eventually be able to mix smells with perfect accuracy.
It’s conceivable that an odour wheel could be created, much like a colour wheel, only for smell. So, one day we may actually be capable of mixing smells like we mix paint, based on the structure of molecules rather than subjective opinions. Who doesn’t want a future where you sit down in chemistry class, look at a molecule and shout, “Hey, professor, that molecule smells like piss!”
You are naked. Naked, running through your school halls and you’re late for your final exam. Where did all these hallways come from? That dream. Again. Could your bad dreams be caused by spicy foods? Yep, that late night Thai food adventure may have caused your nightmare. Well, maybe.
Weird dreams and spicy foods: researchers weight in
There is evidence that eating a spicy meal or snack before bed can bring on some weird and vivid dreams. In a 2015 study by Canadian psychologists Tore Nielsen and Russell Powell, 396 students were surveyed about their diet and dreams over two weeks. The results were published in an article titled Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend: Food and diet as instigators of bizarre and disturbing dreams, in the journal Frontiers in Psychology. The title refers to a comic strip from1905, Winsor McCay’s Dream of the Rarebit Fiend, in which people who ate a meal of cheesy Welsh Rarebit were plagued nightmares and weird dreams (see a panel from the comic strip below)
Neilson and Powell found that 18% of participants believed that food choices could influence their dreams, blaming dairy and spicy foods for causing disturbing dreams. Say it ain’t so!
The study authors were cautious in interpreting their polls, offering several possible explanations and encouraging future lab-based testing to more stringently assess correlations. Humans aren’t immune to the placebo effect and the study results might actually be a product of it.
The researchers allowed for another possibility: maybe that bad dream is just an upset belly telling you to wake up. Sleep disruption is a common symptom of gastrointestinal troubles. When your stomach is upset the discomfort often causes a person to drift in and out of sleep. Since we tend to remember the dreams we wake up from, waking a number of times through the night means we will remember more of them.
It is possible that when you eat just before bed you will still be digesting as your slumber hits REM, the stage of the sleep cycle where dreaming happens. As your body metabolises that late-night taco your internal temperature rises causing increased activity during REM. Consider people with high fevers experiencing vivid, even waking dreams.
Psychoactive properties in spicy foods could cause dream weirdness
Some spices have psychoactive properties that may affect dreaming. For example, nutmeg has a chemical composition similar to ecstasy. Of course, you would need to eat massive quantities to actually get high (please don’t try, the side effects are gruesome) but eating a heavily spiced meal before bed may elicit some strange subconscious activity.
The Nielsen and Powell study has relevance for people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and eating disorders. Emotional eating such as binge eating can disrupt sleep and trigger negative dreaming. It is possible that improving people’s sleep and dreaming quality through better dietary practices could be beneficial.
The researchers also suggest that fasting or dieting can influence the intensity of dreaming. Fasting is a classic method used in dream incubation rituals.
There is no magic recipe to influencing your dreams: one type of food won’t equal amazing, lucid dreams, while another will serve up nightmares. We do know that the size of the meal and the time it is eaten, not the specific type of food, can be the culprit for bringing on weird or disturbing dreams.
A panel from Dream of the Rarebit Fiend
Pizza trivia, by the numbers
• Over 5 billion pizzas are sold all over the world each year.
• Kids aged 3-11 prefer pizza over all foods for lunch and dinner.
• It is estimated that over three billion pizzas will be eaten next year in the U.S. alone. 93% of Americans eat at least one pizza per month. That’s approximately 100 acres of pizza each day, or 350 slices per second— an average of 46 slices (or 23 pounds) per year for everyone in America.
• Super Bowl Sunday is top day for pizza consumption in the US.
• In the US, 83% of pizzerias offer delivery and 91%t offer take-out.
• Women are twice as likely as men to order vegetable toppings on their pizza.
Pizza trivia: some history
• Though pizza became a popular food in the U.S. in 1945, after World War II, it was brought to America by Italian immigrants 50 years earlier.
• Pizza was being prepared by people of Pompei when the volcano erupted and buried the city.
• Pizza Margherita was given its name by an Italian tavern owner, Don Raffaele Esposito who assembled tomatoes cheese and basil, the colours of the Italian flag. He named the pizza after Margherita Teresa Giovanni, calling it the “Margherita” which is still popular in pizzerias with wood-fired ovens.
• The Hawaiian pizza was invented in the 1960s by Sam Panopoulos after adding pineapple to a pizza at the Satellite Restaurant in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada.
• Pizza as we know it could not have evolved until Europeans overcame their fear of a New World discovery – tomatoes. Native to Peru and Ecuador, tomatoes were introduced to Europe in the early 1500s. Brought back by Conquistadors to Spain. The tomato was thought to be poisonous and was viewed with suspicion.
• Gennaro Lombardi opened the first licensed American pizzeria in 1905 —Lombardi’s Pizzeria Napoletana in New York City.
Preferred crusts and toppings
• Regular thin pizza crust is the most popular crust, preferred by 61% of the population. Thick crust and deep dish tied for 2nd, at 14%. Only 11% of the population prefers an extra thin crust.
• In Japan, eel and squid are favourites
• Russians like red herring on their pizza
• Australians go for pineapple and shrimp
• Coconut is popular in Costa Rica
• In France a popular pizza is called the “Flambee”, topped with fresh cream, bacon and onions.