Jamaican food is incredibly tasty, and that is due in no small part to the amazing Jamaican mainstay in flavoring agents: jerk seasoning. Jerk seasoning is a spicy, complex mixture of herbs and spices that gives island food its distinct flavor. While some people simply can’t handle the delicious burn, most people will agree that jerk sauce is the most treasured item in their pantry. So, why is it that Jerk seasoning is so tasty?

It’s Made of Everything Great in the World
Every amazing flavor that unites and divides us as humans is in your jerk seasoning. Of course, Jerk Seasoning only HAS to have 2 ingredients: scotch bonnet peppers, and pimento. However it’ll also commonly it’ll include garlic, cloves, cinnamon, thyme, and ginger, most of which will elicit strong opinions at the average American dinner table.

Mix them together in the right configuration and you’ll get that distinctive island flavor that you crave. But what is it really that has you coming back for more, even if you (literally) burned yourself on that jerk sauce the first (several) time(s)?

Spicy flavors are Addicting
The chemical that makes spicy food burn is called Capsaicin, and you can taste it even in relatively tiny quantities. For example, ghost pepper contains over 1,000 times as much capsaicin as poblano pepper, but (while it doesn’t actually really hurt) you can still taste it in the poblanos.

Capsaicin triggers the release of endorphins from your pituitary gland. Those hormones then work to block the pain, and make you feel happy. It’s the same reaction as the one your body produces if you injure yourself, or if you exercise vigorously. It’s the runner’s high that keeps people exercising despite the fact that running often feels pretty awful while you’re doing it.

Of course, spicy foods aren’t like exercise, but that doesn’t mean that this endorphin reward is necessarily a bad thing. You see…

It’s Good For You (Probably)
Multiple studies have shown that people who eat a lot of spicy foods tend to live longer and suffer from fewer diseases than people who don’t. Unfortunately doctor’s haven’t quite been able to figure out why. Possible culprits range from “anti-inflammatory compounds in spices” to “Spicy foods encourage lower calorie intake”, to “People who eat spicy foods eat better in other respects.”

The rest of the ingredients of your Jerk seasoning are a lot less controversial. Garlic is great for your blood pressure, Cinnamon and cloves are an antiseptic and a pain-killer respectively, and both are packed with healthy trace nutrients. Ginger is amazing for your digestion, and relieves nausea, motion sickness, and pain. On top of that it can do wonders for those winter sniffles.
There really is no downside to the island diet, and that should be an encouragement to all of us. Jamaica’s jerk sauce manages to combine amazing flavor with excellent health benefits, and as far as I’m concerned that makes it the cuisine of choice for anyone with access to it.

Author's Bio: 

Adler Conway is a writer and Jerk Chicken connoisseur at JCSKitchen, the premier supplier of specialty Jamaican food in the U.S. When she's not writing about food it you'll find Jamie in the kitchen, trying out the newest recipe she found on Twitter or Instagram.