If you love spicy food, you probably enjoy the “burn” that comes with it. But we all have our limits, and we’ve probably all eaten something that has set our mouths on fire. Good news: Research shows there’s a simple solution that soothes the burn quickly — and it’s sitting in your fridge. As it turns out, the old wives tale about milk after spicy food might be true after all!
A June 2019 study published in Physiology and Behavior found that milk is the best drink to reduce the burn from chili peppers, and it doesn’t matter if it’s whole or skim. Researchers recruited 72 participants to drink a spicy Bloody Mary mix and instructed them to drink purified water, cola, cherry-flavored Kool-Aid, seltzer water, non-alcoholic beer, skim milk, and whole milk afterward in separate experiments. Turns out, folks felt the most relief after sipping the whole milk and skim milk.
“We weren’t surprised that our data suggest milk is the best choice to mitigate burn, but we didn’t expect skim milk to be as effective at reducing the burn as whole milk,” said lead researcher Alissa Nolden, PhD, in a press release. “That appears to mean that the fat context of the beverage is not the critical factor and suggests the presence of protein may be more relevant than lipid content.”
Lactose intolerant? No problem — researchers said that even if you can’t drink milk after spicy food, participants also felt relief after sipping Kool-Aid. However, they suspect the fruity beverage didn’t actually remove the irritant but instead simply overwhelmed it with sugar. So, if you choose to go this route, we sure hope you like sweet drinks!
If you try a different beverage altogether to soothe the burn though, researchers caution that you may end up disappointed with the results — possibly even with a more firey mouth. “Beverages with carbonation such as beer, soda, and seltzer water predictably performed poorly at reducing the burn of capsaicin,” Dr. Nolden said. “And if the beer tested would have contained alcohol, it would have been even worse because ethanol amplifies the sensation.”
Good to know for the next game day or takeout night!