Attraction is a mysterious force, but research increasingly shows that unlocking the secrets to desire may be simpler than you’d think. Easy hacks like wearing the color red, demonstrating generosity, or sticking to a signature scent all have the ability to send a person’s attraction soaring. Now, one study has added to that list another simple way to make your date subconsciously swoon: by serving spicy food.
The study, conducted by researchers at St. Cloud State University, recruited 89 women to assess the effects of flavor on attraction. They split the women into three groups and served them various food items before showing them pictures of men and asking them to rate their attractiveness on a nine-point scale. Confirming their hypothesis, the women who had eaten spicy foods rather than sweet or bland foods rated the men’s portraits 21 percent more attractive overall.
The fact that spicy food stirs attraction could be true for a few reasons. Culturally, we associate spiciness with other interpretations of “hotness,” which could make a date seem more desirable. To this point, the study noted that because “spicy flavors elicited higher levels of physical attraction as well as romantic interest, it was supported that words such as spicy and hot can become embodied into a person’s cognitive processing of relationships.”
The act of eating spicy food is also associated with thrill seeking and adventure, a cognitive connection that could further fuel desire. One study by the dating site Match.com found that 85 percent of their singles agreed that a sense of adventure was a “very attractive” quality in a date.
Finally, there are the physical effects of spicy cuisine. According to Northwestern University’s Helix Magazine, when we eat very spicy foods, many of us experience a mood boost. That’s because the chemical compound capsaicin, found in many spicy peppers, neurologically registers the same way a physical burn would and therefore triggers the brain’s natural pain response. The brain releases endorphins and dopamine, lighting up our pleasure and reward centers and causing what some people describe as a temporary euphoria, similar to a “runner’s high.” It should come as no surprise then that whoever is sitting across the table might benefit from our elevated mood with all those endorphins flowing.
So, on your next date, spice things up and see where it takes you. It may just turn up the heat in your relationship. And for more dating tips, check out these 23 Subtle Ways to Make Yourself More Attractive.