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I always feel like a loser when I go out for curry with my friends and have to order mild. Is it possible to improve my heat tolerance?
If you want to handle habaneros, you need to toughen up your wimpy tastebuds. The key is to keep bringing the heat, says Dr Mary O’Connell, a professor of plant sciences at New Mexico State University. Start with a mild green chilli sauce, like Mild Tabasco Green Pepper Sauce (R27, Woolworths). Adopt the habit of adding a teaspoon to eggs and bland, starchy foods like rice, which will temper the heat. When you’re ready, increase your dose to a tablespoon. One day you’ll just notice that you’re eating something without picking the jalapeños off the plate and that’s when it’s time to take on spicier sauces. Soon you’ll be ordering the extra spicy chicken pieces: oil-based compounds in hot peppers activate pain receptors on your tongue, triggering an endorphin release, says O’Connell. “The longer and more often you eat chillies, the more you’ll crave their flavour and want to eat hotter versions.”