We’ve all been there; you say you’re going to eat a few chips to satisfy your craving for something spicy, crunchy, and delicious.The next thing you know, the bag is empty because you couldn’t stop eating. It’s no secret that spicy chips can be extremely addictive, but why?
Spicy chips are addictive because the many ingredients contained in the chips including MSG and capsaicin, trigger the release of dopamine. This causes a happy feeling that humans can get addicted to.
The rest of this article will explain in greater detail why so many people are addicted to spicy chips and why people crave spicy foods. We will also explore the effects of indulging in these cravings too often and the signs of food addiction. If you can’t stop munching on Flamin’ Hot snacks, keep reading!
Why You’re Addicted to Spicy Chips
If you can’t stop eating spicy chips, you’re not alone and it’s not your fault. Many people feel out of control around these snacks. Their components are meant to make you want to keep eating.
One of the ingredients in many hot chips is monosodium glutamate (MSG). This substance is used in processed foods to enhance flavor, especially in spicy processed foods. MSG is made by fermenting carb sources, such as sugar cane and molasses. In addition to enhancing the flavor of the spicy chips, it also triggers the glutamate receptors in taste buds, making the food taste more delicious.
When food tastes good and is rich in sugar, fat, and salt (which spicy chips usually are), people can get addicted to the feel-good chemicals released in the brain after eating — such as dopamine. Once you experience the happy feeling associated with dopamine, you get addicted to this feeling and want to eat more to continue experiencing it.
The obsession with receiving the award of happiness from dopamine release can override other signals from the brain, such as feelings of fullness. This is why some people continue to eat even past the point of fullness. It’s also why you may not be able to stop yourself from reaching for another Flamin’ Hot Cheeto, even when you’re no longer hungry.
Another ingredient in spicy chips, capsaicin, is a chemical meant to stop us from eating something. Capsaicin is what causes the pain or burning feeling of eating spicy foods, which is meant to warn people against eating it. However, when our bodies are in pain, the brain goes into survival mode and releases endorphins to alleviate the pain. Then, it releases dopamine as a reward for survival.
And since dopamine makes us feel happy, eventually, humans may associate this feeling of pleasure with spicy food.
Reasons for Craving Spicy Foods
If you find yourself constantly craving spicy chips or reaching for extra hot sauce, you may be wondering why your body craves spice. Here are some common reasons why people crave spicy foods:
- You feel hot or overheated. There’s a reason why so many people eat chips and spicy salsa by the pool! Even though it may seem counterintuitive, many people crave spicy food in hot weather. The capsaicin that causes people to get addicted to spicy foods also plays a role in thermoregulation, thereby maintaining the body’s temperature. This ingredient usually triggers sweating, which helps cool you down.
- You’re pregnant. Many pregnant people crave spicy foods because of the hormonal changes they experience during pregnancy.
- You’re on a diet. If you’ve recently cut spicy foods out of your diet, your body may be craving capsaicin and the good feeling it gets from consuming it.
- You’re sad or stressed. Although people want to feel good all the time, they are more inclined to crave the release of dopamine when they are feeling down or anxious.
- You recently ate a lot of spicy food. It is more common to eat spicy food in some social situations than in others. So, if you were recently on vacation, constantly snacking on spicy tacos, salsas, and other spicy foods, you’re more likely to crave these foods once out of that social situation.
There are many more reasons why people crave spicy foods but the above are some of the most common.
Effects of Eating Too Many Spicy Chips
I love spicy food, and many others do, too. It’s okay to enjoy spicy foods and chips in moderation, but overdoing the spice can have negative effects on your health. Here are some negative consequences of eating too much spicy food:
- You can get heartburn. Heartburn occurs as a result of stomach acid coming up your food pipe. Capsaicin slows down your digestion, which causes food to stay in your stomach longer. This increases the probability of heartburn.
- You go to the toilet more often than usual. When someone eats too much capsaicin, the stomach’s lining gets irritated, which can cause diarrhea and vomiting.
- Your skin suffers. If you’re experiencing more acne breakouts than usual or have eczema, your spicy food may be the source. Spicy food causes inflammation in the gut, and sometimes that inflammation is so intense that it can be seen on the skin in the form of acne or eczema.
- You may have bad breath. Heartburn is painful and irritating enough as it is. However, it can also cause a smelly gas to come out of your mouth as the contents of your stomach move back up your esophagus. Gross!
- You lack sleep. Heartburn also makes it harder for people to fall asleep. Therefore, if you are going to eat some spicy chips, try to have them earlier in the day rather than later.
- You could gain weight. It’s no secret that spicy chips aren’t exactly the epitome of a healthy snack. Many of these chips are high in fats, oils, and calories, and consuming too many of these substances can cause weight gain.
Spicy chips may be delicious, but unfortunately, eating too many of them is bad for your health. Therefore, they are best enjoyed in moderation.
Signs of Food Addiction
It can be difficult to tell when a habit of overeating spicy chips crosses over into food addiction territory. Here are some signs that your problem with spicy food has become an addiction:
- You often have intense food cravings, even when you’re not hungry.
- You always eat more than you intended and may even have an “all-or-nothing” attitude towards food. For example, you believe you should either eat no cake or the entire thing instead of only having a slice.
- You eat past the point of fullness, even to the point of discomfort or pain.
- You feel guilty after overeating but continue to do it.
- You set certain “food rules” that you always break.
- You hide or stash food so you can eat it in secret.
- You prioritize eating over everything else, including work, spending time with friends and family, or enjoying your hobbies.
If any of this sounds familiar, you may be addicted to spicy food. Consulting a nutritionist, psychologist, or doctor could benefit your mental and physical health.
If you always crave Flamin’ Hot Cheetos or Takis, you’re not alone. Many people get addicted to spicy chips because the MSG and capsaicin present in spicy foods trigger the release of dopamine. Dopamine is a feel-good brain chemical that people want to experience again and again.
Enjoying spicy chips now and then is okay, but eating too much spicy food can harm your body.