Revealed: The best drinks to extinguish the pain of spicy food – and why you should NEVER opt for iced water

With the weekend just around the corner now, many Britons will be looking forward to a night on the sofa with a delicious takeaway. 

And if your go-to choice is a spicy curry, new advice will come as music to your ears. 

Dr Daniel Eldridge, a senior lecturer in Chemistry at Swinburne University of Technology, has revealed the best drinks to extinguish the pain of spicy food. 

When your mouth is on fire, you might be tempted to reach for a glass of iced water. 

However, Dr Eldridge strongly advises against this, and instead suggests that a swig of oil, milk, or ice cream make for ideal choices. 

Dr Daniel Eldridge, a senior lecturer in Chemistry at Swinburne University of Technology, has revealed the best drinks to extinguish the pain of spicy food

Whether it's a curry, chilli sauce, or a hot pot, spicy foods all contain a family of compounds called capsaicinoids

Whether it’s a curry, chilli sauce, or a hot pot, spicy foods all contain a family of compounds called capsaicinoids

Whether it’s a curry, chilli sauce, or a hot pot, spicy foods all contain a family of compounds called capsaicinoids. 

These compounds don’t physically heat up your mouth. 

Instead, they cause a burning sensation due to a reaction with the receptors in your mouth, which sends a signal to the brain, telling it that something is hot. 

The only way to alleviate this heat is to remove the capsaicin from your mouth. 

Writing in an article for The Conversation, Dr Eldridge asked: ‘So why doesn’t drinking water help make that spicy feeling go away? And what would work better instead?’

The chemist explains that capsaicin is a hydrophobic molecule, which means it hates being in contact with water and will not easily mix with it. 

When your mouth is on fire, you might be tempted to reach for a glass of iced water. However, Dr Eldridge strongly advises against this, and instead suggests that a swig of oil, milk, or ice cream make for ideal choices (stock image)

When your mouth is on fire, you might be tempted to reach for a glass of iced water. However, Dr Eldridge strongly advises against this, and instead suggests that a swig of oil, milk, or ice cream make for ideal choices (stock image)

‘If you try to wash hydrophobic capsaicin away with water, it won’t be very effective, because hydrophilic and hydrophobic substances don’t mix,’ he said. 

Iced water is a particularly poor choice, as capsaicin is even less soluble in water at lower temperatures. 

‘You may get a temporary sense of relief while the cold liquid is in your mouth, but as soon as you swallow it, you’ll be back where you started,’ Dr Eldridge added.  

Instead, it’s best to opt for a drink that’s also hydrophobic. 

A swig of oil would do the trick, although Dr Eldridge realises that this is ‘perhaps not so palatable’, and instead recommends milk. 

‘Milk makes for an ideal choice for two reasons,’ he explained. 

‘The first is that milk contains hydrophobic fats, which the capsaicin will more easily dissolve in, allowing it to be washed away.

‘The second is that dairy products contain a protein called casein. Casein plays a large role in keeping the fat mixed throughout your glass of milk, and it also has a strong affinity for capsaicin. 

‘It will readily wrap up and encapsulate capsaicin molecules and assist in carrying them away from the receptor. This relieves the burning sensation.’

If the idea of drinking milk makes your stomach churn, Dr Eldridge has several other recommendations, including raita and ice cream. 

However, contrary to popular belief, reaching for an ice cold beer won’t help to alleviate the pain. 

While capsaicin is highly soluble in alcohol, most beers only contain between four and six per cent alcohol, with the bulk of the liquid actally water. 

Dr Eldridge added: ‘The small amount of alcohol in your beer would make it slightly more effective, but not to any great degree.

‘Your curry and beer may taste great together, but that’s likely the only benefit.’

Why are chillis spicy? 

A substance called capsaicin gives chillies their distinctive hot, peppery taste.

There 23 known types of capsaicinoids and they are all believed to stem from the chilli pepper’s pith. 

It is not actually a taste which produces the warm sensation on the tongue and in the mouth, but a reaction to pain. 

The spiciness of a pepper is determined by the genes that regulate capsaicinoid production, and less pungent peppers have mutations mitigating this process.  

The molecules have known nutritional and antibiotic properties and are used in painkillers and pepper spray. 

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Read more at DailyMail.co.uk