Hot foods and hot drinks fill the belly with warmth, but can also flush the face. Facial flushing happens when the blood vessels near the surface of the skin dilate 1. Sometimes, the flushing is accompanied by a sensation of heat on the face followed by sweating. Medications and social anxiety can cause flushing, but often the instigator is what you eat.
Common kitchen-based culprits for facial flushing after eating include spicy foods made with hot peppers, ginger, curry powder, and sometimes large quantities of garlic and onions 1. High calorie, high carb foods may also be to blame because they take a lot of energy to burn and spike blood sugar levels, resulting in dilated blood vessels and a red face. These foods include sugary treats, pasta and breads containing refined white flour.
Known vascular dialators include caffeinated hot drinks, such as coffee, tea and cocoa. Check to see if your herb tea or energy drink contains kava, which can cause flushing. Excessively sugary, caffeinated soft drinks may also induce a facial flare up. Avoid flushing from hot drinks by letting them cool down a bit before imbibing. However, all alcoholic drinks can dilate facial blood vessels.
If your face turns red after drinking sodas or eating foods containing aspartame, you could be sensitive to this sugar substitute. Other food additives that may trigger the allergic reaction of flushing include the flavor enhancer monosodium glutamate -- MSG -- and the preservatives sodium nitrate and sulfites. Sulfites occur naturally in some foods and are a byproduct of the beer and wine fermentation process, but can be added to deter mold growth and to increase crispness. Scrutinize packaging labels to see if sulfites and sodium nitrates are listed in smoked or preserved meats, frozen shrimp, desserts, fried foods and bottled salad dressings and sauces.
Cooling Foods and Libations
Alternate caffeine drinks with decaf varieties or herb teas. So-called "white" alcohol, such as vodka and gin, may reduce face-reddening, especially if consumed with water or a low sugar or sugar-free mixer. Remember that all alcohol may induce flushing. Cooling foods include lettuce and spinach, melons, blackberries, blueberries and cherries. Mint, lemongrass, tarragon, rosemary and thyme are considered cooling herbs.
- ULTRA F/Photodisc/Getty Images