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Can’t Beat the Heat? Eat It!

Chile peppers are a common heat source in spicy foods—but eat them raw with caution.

As blistering-red heat advisories flash across our TV screens, the question of how to cool down during a high heat index becomes all-consuming. Air conditioning and water immersion aside, we’re advised by wide-eyed medical experts to drink lots of water, stay in the shade and dress smartly. But here at Cooking Channel, we prefer to remedy our woes with food (and drink), so we turn to the kitchen for cues on staying cool as cukes.

While a good frozen drink or dessert will give your esophagus goosebumps, there are only so many icy, slushy treats you can down before spiking your blood-sugar-level through the roof. Instead, reach for some chiles, red pepper flakes or wasabi, and plan to heat up your body with some solid, spicy food.

I know what you’re thinking: Woman, are you mad? But surely enough, it’s a widely-held belief that eating fiery fare may in fact be the best way to beat the heat. (All those southeast Asian countries must be on to something, right?) While the aforementioned frosty treats will make you feel chilly as a polar bear, they’ll also make you keenly aware of just how much hotter the surrounding air is than your innards.

No mild cucumbers in this spicy salad from Roger Mooking.

Spicy foods, by stimulating circulation and raising your body temperature, will actually make you less sensitive to the sweltering air, and by forcing you to sweat, will help cool your body down. Weird science! (They’ll also push you to reach for a glass of icy water, which makes those medical experts happy.)

These chiles rellenos have plenty of flavor, but the real heat's in the chopped chile topping.

There are many ways to inject some fire into recipes, including a variety of chile peppers and powders, which are rated on a one-to-ten heat scale. Smoked peppers give way to chipotle, and when simmered and pureed with other ingredients, a rainbow of chiles become all sorts of hot sauces. Mustard and horseradish are other commonly-used heat-adding agents, often eaten in the form of wasabi.

To get your blood pumping, we rounded up 15 of our spiciest, tastiest recipes. And if you simply don’t want to turn on your stove, or would like to make any of the below dishes spicier, take out a bottle of your favorite hot sauce and start sprinkling. But consider yourself warned.

What’s your favorite way to get your spice on?

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