With spicy foods, pain is pleasure.
No, really. The concept even comes with a term: benign masochism.
“‘Benign masochism’ is when people come to enjoy pain,” explains Paul Rozin, a professor of psychology in the School of Arts and Sciences, whose research focuses on cultural psychology and humans’ relationship with food. “And that pain is virtually harmless, always. But their bodies think of it as harmful, and so the body rejects hot pepper because it feels full of memories of being harmed, where in fact, they’re not.”
Which leads to the messy subject at hand: Are these spicy foods—regularly consumed by billions globally—healthy or harmful?
The answer might be nestled somewhere in the middle.