The Best Herbs and Spices for Weight Loss
If you have ever tried to lose weight, then you know firsthand that what you put on your plate (and then into your mouth!) matters. After all, the saying “you can’t outrun a bad diet” exists for a reason. When it comes down to it, the food that we eat can make or break our weight loss efforts.
When trying to drop pounds, the focus is often on the number of calories that we eat and whether the food is processed or whole. Of course, these factors are important – but there are other ways that you can boost your health and your weight loss efforts with the food that you eat. In particular, the herbs and spices that you use can add flavor (without sugar or salt), lower your risk of developing certain health conditions, and even rev up your metabolism.
At Ideal You Health Center, we understand that weight loss is about more than just calories in and calories out. Our bodies are complex, and our program reflects that, focusing on ways that you can change your metabolism from fat storing to fat burning – without ever drinking a chalky shake or eating a dry protein bar. Read on to learn more about 10 healthy herbs and spices that you can incorporate into your diet for better health – and greater weight loss.
You’re probably pretty familiar with cinnamon, having grown up sprinkling it on toast with sugar, putting it on applesauce, or using it for baking. What you may not realize is that cinnamon – an aromatic spice made from the inner bark of cinnamon trees – is rich in antioxidants. It may even increase your ability to lose weight.
According to studies, cinnamon can help to stabilize blood sugar. When your blood sugar is stable – instead of rising and lowering throughout the day – it can help to reduce appetite and make you feel less hungry.
Cinnamon also contains a compound that can mimic the effects of insulin. In this way, cinnamon can help to transport sugar from the bloodstream to cells, where it can be used as fuel. It has also been shown to decrease the levels of certain types of digestive enzymes, which slows the breakdown of carbohydrates. The end result is that cinnamon may work to lower and stabilize blood sugar, which can boost weight loss efforts.
If you enjoy curries or spicy South Asian foods, you are probably familiar with turmeric. With a vibrant color and flavor, turmeric isn’t just a tasty addition to dishes. It also has potent health benefits due to the presence of curcumin.
Curcumin is a naturally-occurring compound that studies have linked to weight loss. One study found that taking a large dose of curcumin twice a day can increase weight loss by up to 5%. A study on animals determined that a curcumin supplement blocked the synthesis of fat, thereby reducing body weight and fat.
If you want to enhance your weight loss efforts, consider adding a bit of turmeric to your stir fry or even to your tea. You may even consider making golden milk – a traditional Indian drink that gets its color from plenty of turmeric.
Cayenne is a type of chili pepper, used to bring both spice and flavor to dishes. It contacts capsaicin, a compound that can actually boost your metabolism. Capsaicin is also responsible for the heat associated with cayenne pepper.
Research shows that capsaicin can boost your metabolism, allowing you to burn more calories throughout the day. Capsaicin may also increase feelings of fullness, which can help you eat fewer calories. Finally, one study found that eating a meal that contains capsaicin – such as a spicy Mexican dish with cayenne pepper sprinkled on top – can reduce the levels of ghrelin, the hormone that is responsible for stimulating hunger.
Garlic is one of the most commonly-used spices that is added to our food – and for good reason! Not only is garlic delicious, but it has a range of health benefits. In particular, this member of the allium (onion) family can help to lower blood pressure and strengthen the immune system.
According to a number of studies, taking a garlic supplement daily can reduce the number of colds you get by 63% – and reduce the length of colds by as many as 3.5 days. Scientists have also determined that garlic (and in particular, the sulfur compounds that are released when you chop or smash garlic) are just as effective as certain blood pressure medications at lowering blood pressure.
If you aren’t a fan of garlic, you can take a supplement to reap these health benefits. Otherwise, be sure to sneak in some extra garlic into your savory dishes!
Cumin, a spice made from the dried and ground seeds of a plant in the parsley family, is known for its distinct smoky flavor. It also may help you lose weight if you eat it consistently.
One study found that women who added 3 grams of cumin to their twice-daily yogurt lost more body fat than women who didn’t add this cumin. A separate study found that adults who took a cumin supplement lost 2.2 pounds more than those who did not.
A spice made from the flowering ginger plant, ginger has long been used as a natural remedy for a number of ailments – such as upset stomachs. According to some research, ginger may also be useful in boosting weight loss.
According to one scientific review, ginger may help to increase metabolism and fat burning, while also decreasing the body’s absorption of fat and reducing appetite. A separate review found that taking a ginger supplement can help you lose both body weight and body fat.
The spice fenugreek is known for a number of health and wellness properties, such as increasing milk production in lactating mothers. It may also help to control appetite, which can boost efforts to lose weight.
One study found that adding 8 grams of fenugreek fiber to your diet each day can increase feelings of fullness, thereby reducing both hunger and caloric intake. A separate study found that taking fenugreek seed extract can decrease daily fat intake by as much as 17%.
Nearly every household has a pepper grinder or shaker filled with black peppercorns. You might not think much of this common spice – but it contains a potent compound, piperine, which can help you lose weight.
According to one study, adding a piperine supplement can help to lower body weight in rats on a high fat diet – with no changes in the amount of food that the rats ate. A study conducted in test tubes also found that piperine inhibited the formation of fat cells. While no human studies have been done on the effects of piperine yet, this early research shows a lot of potential.
The herb oregano comes from the same family of plants as basil, mint, sage, and rosemary. A staple in Italian, Mexican, and other cuisines, oregano isn’t just tasty. This plant contains carvacrol, a compound that may help you drop extra pounds.
One study involving mice found that when the mice ate a high fat diet that contained carvacrol, they had much lower body weight and body fat percentages. Scientists have also found that carvacrol supplements may directly affect some of the genes and proteins that are responsible for how our bodies synthesize fat. While this research is still in its early stages, oregano shows a lot of promise for being a great weight loss booster.
Ginseng is a staple in traditional Chinese medicine due to its antioxidant, brain-boosting, and immune system strengthening effects. In addition, ginseng may help fight obesity by delaying fat absorption, modifying fat formation, and stimulating weight loss.
Specifically, studies have found that taking ginseng twice a day can help change your gut microbiome and lose weight. A study involving animals found that ginseng may even alter how fat is formed in the body and delay absorption of fat in the intestines. As such, adding ginseng to your diet may help you drop unwanted pounds.
Incorporating Healthy Herbs and Spices into Your Diet
Knowing that these herbs and spices can help you lose weight is one thing – including them in the food that you eat daily is another entirely! Looking at a list like this can be overwhelming, particularly if you aren’t an experienced cook or an adventurous eater.
Many of these herbs and spices come in supplement form. If you follow the Ideal You program, you’ll receive all-natural supplements that will help you change your metabolism. You can also add supplements to your diet to get the beneficial effects of many of these herbs and spices.
You can also start small, working to expand your repertoire and palate. Sprinkle some cinnamon on your morning oatmeal, or make sure that you add a few grinds of black pepper to your omelette. When cooking lunch or dinner, consider how adding a particular spice or herb could boost the flavor – and may even aid your weight loss efforts.
One of the most common misconceptions about eating healthy is that the food will be bland or flavorless. While unhealthy fats, salt and sugar make food taste good, they also tend to cause weight gain. When we reduce or eliminate these things, we can compensate by finding ways to make our food more flavorful. One of the best ways to do so is by adding in spices and herbs that will not only make your food taste good, but may even increase your body’s ability to burn fat or suppress your appetite (naturally!).
Our website has a lot of great weight loss recipes that can help you lose weight, many of which include the very spices and herbs listed here. In the mood for Italian? Try our Zucchini Lasagna, filled with lots of fresh veggies – and oregano! Our Garlic Turkey Zoodles are another great option, containing garlic, pepper and optional red pepper (you could sub cayenne pepper for a bit more kick!).
While these herbs and spices aren’t a miracle cure, they can be an important component of a weight loss plan. The little things that we do, like making our food taste better by adding healthy flavors, can really add up to big weight loss over time.
Ready to Start Your Weight Loss Journey? We’re Here to Help.
Losing weight can be incredibly challenging, whether you have struggled with your weight for years or have gained the dreaded COVID-19 pounds over the past year. Having a team of professionals to guide you and help you make better choices can make all of the difference.
At Ideal You Health Center, we don’t believe in fad diets or working out for hours to lose weight. Instead, we offer a lifestyle change that focuses on eating real food, working with a team of weight loss coaches, and taking all-natural supplements. With our program, you will experience life-changing, sustainable weight loss that happens fast. Together, we will remove whatever barriers are holding you back from losing weight.