Apart from making massive changes in our diet such as low carb diet, low fat diet or choosing a different style like Mediterranean diet, there are a couple of simple changes you can make to your regular diet which would add nutrients, flavors as well as help burn fat.
Spices are one such addition that you should make to the diet. It adds the zing to regular meals and plus packs in some great antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and anti-microbial properties.
And they also have anti-obesity properties.
How do spices help in weight loss?
The way we burn our calories is split into three categories: our metabolic rate, the physical activity we do and the energy utilised to digest food or dietary thermogenesis.
Dietary thermogenesis accounts for 10% of the total energy spent in a day.
Just like herbal drinks, spices raise dietary thermogenesis. This further leads to greater satiety and breakdown of fat. Spices have been found to increase metabolic rate similar to caffeine and alcohol.
Capsaicin and capsinoids are active ingredients found in chilli and these are found to increase energy expenditure in humans. Capsinoids are also found to activate brown fat- the fat tissue in our body that burns fat. (Read Brown Fat & weight Loss: The Scientific Truth)
The spicy taste of spices is attributed to various bioactive compounds present in them. These activate certain receptors in the body called Transient Receptor ion channels and TRPV1 and activation of these receptors reduces fat deposition.
Apart from helping in weight loss, these spices also help in improving metabolic health. Obesity is associated with metabolic syndrome- a condition presenting with a number of symptoms like high cholesterol levels, inflammation, insulin resistance etc.
The spices have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. They help in reducing insulin resistance, diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol levels.
For example curcumin found in turmeric targets inflammation and other metabolic health related symptoms in addition to helping in weight loss.
20 Awesome Spices Scientifically Proven To Aid Weight Loss
Here is a list of popular spices that are proven by research to help in weight loss.
Turmeric is the spice that has turned the health industry upside down. Its not just a spice or herb, it is blessed with a number of medicinal and pharmacological properties.
It is found to be better than a number of conventional medicines including painkillers like ibuprofen.
Turmeric is a rhizome that looks similar to ginger but has a bright orange or yellow hue on the inside. It is used commonly in Asian cooking.
Curcumin, the prime active ingredient of turmeric, helps in weight loss by targeting multiple aspects like preventing fat deposition, reducing inflammation, promoting antioxidant status and improving metabolic health.
A clinical trial was conducted where individuals were given curcumin supplements in addition to diet and life style changes for weight loss. Curcumin increased weight loss outcome by diet and lifestyle changes to 4.9% and boosted fat reduction by 8.43%.
It also reduced abdominal fat. Curcumin was found to cause a weight loss of 1 kg every 10 days. Now thats something to look forward to in a kitchen spice! (Read 8 Benefits of Turmeric in weight loss)
How to take turmeric for weight loss?
You can include fresh roots in daily cooking or juice it. 2-4g is the recommended daily intake for fresh roots. You can include as much as ½-1 tsp of turmeric powder in cooking everyday.
Turmeric powder needs to be taken with pinch of black pepper and oil for better absorption. You can also consult a doctor about curcumin supplements.
2. Black pepper
Black pepper or Piper nigrum is a spice that is included in almost every cuisine. It grows on flowering vines and the fruits are ripe black peppercorns.
Piperine is the active ingredient of black pepper that can help in weight loss. Research shows that black pepper extract and piperine prevent growth of fat cells and thereby inhibit fat deposition.
Animal study shows that high doses piperine is effective not only in reducing weight, but also improving insulin sensitivity and reducing high cholesterol levels. (Read How black pepper aids in weight management)
How to take black pepper for weight loss?
You can add ¼ tsp of freshly ground black pepper powder to your meals. Freshly ground is preferred as piperine is a volatile component.
If opting for bioperine or piperine capsules consult a doctor about safety of these supplements for piperine is known to increase the absorption of drugs which could be toxic.
Cinnamon is a delicious spice that has a sweet and spicy taste. It is obtained from bark of the trees. Ceylon cinnamon is the best variant that you could opt for.
Cinnamaldehyde is the active ingredient of cinnamon that has been identified with anti-obesity properties. It mediates its anti-obesity properties by inhibiting the production of ghrelin-hunger hormones and activates genes to burn fat.
In fact, in a clinical trial in humans cinnamaldehyde is found to cause thermogenesis just as well as capsaicin and is thought to be a viable alternative to capsaicin because it is more tolerable and not as pungent as capsaicin.
How to use cinnamon to lose weight?
You can add 1-2 tsp of cinnamon to your diet daily. Cassia cinnamon is high in a substance called coumarin which has been linked to heart diseases and other health issues. Therefore its best to take Ceylon cinnamon in moderate amounts in diet.
Ginger root or Zingiber officinale is used as a spice primarily in Asian cuisine but also popular in Western cuisine especially candied ginger or ginger biscuits.
The root is brown in color with yellowish-white hue on the inside and has a sharp hot taste. Gingerol is the main bioactive ingredient of ginger which gives it a unique flavour and fragrance.
A recent study published in European Journal Of Nutrition, 2016 demonstrated that consumption of 2g ginger powder for 12 weeks led to modest decrease in BMI.
How to take ginger for weight loss?
You can include 2-4g of fresh ginger roots in diet or juice them. If using ginger powder a dose of 2g per day is helpful in weight loss, but take it in divided doses in the day.
Cumin or jeera are small seeds which have a nutty warm flavour and when added to any dish they just steal the show.
They are extremely beneficial when it comes to improving digestion. Addition of 3g of cumin powder to yogurt when taken twice a day for 3 months helps in reducing weight, abdominal fat and improving cholesterol levels.
A study published in Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 2016 shows that cumin capsules taken thrice a day for 8 weeks are found to be as effective as anti-obesity drug-orlistat in reducing weight.
How to take cumin to lose weight?
Sprinkle 1/2 tsp of cumin seeds in any dish daily.
6. Cayenne/Chilli pepper
Chilli peppers come in different colors like red, yellow and green and all of them have capsaicin but only red peppers are preferred for weight loss.
Capsaicin, the pungent principle of cayenne and red chilli peppers has been associated with increased thermogenesis. Capsinoids are compounds similar to capsaicin but they are not pungent yet they inhibit fat deposition just like capsaicin.
A study published in American Journal Of Nutrition, 2009 demonstrated that capsinoids taken as 6mg/day is effective in raising fat burning rates in humans and causes abdominal fat loss.
Addition of 1 g of red pepper to diet is found to curb appetite and reduce cravings for sweet and salty food. However this effect is pronounced only in non-users of spices.
Adding red pepper to high fat diet is found to increase fat breakdown. Addition of red pepper to high fat or high carbohydrate diet increases diet induced thermogeneisis.
How to use chilli pepper or cayenne for weight loss?
Addition of red chilli powder or cayenne pepper to daily diet can help but the amount depends on your choice and tolerance. 1-2g seems safe over different meals in a day.
Garlic or Allium sativum is similar to onion but has a pungent flavour.
A recent study published in Advanced Biomedical Research, 2016 demonstrated that 400mg of garlic powder taken twice a day brings about significant reduction in body weight and fat.
Garlic essential oil also has anti-obesity effect.
How to use garlic to lose weight?
Including at least 1 clove of garlic a day in diet is helpful but as much 3-5 cloves is permissible depending upon the quantity of meal you are cooking. 1 gm of garlic powder is safe.
Fenugreek is a herb and it has small yellow brown flat seeds with a pungent but slightly taste.
Trigonelline an alkaloid found in fenugreek seeds is found to inhibit fat accumulation. Animal studies show that fenugreek extract benefit in obesity and metabolic syndrome. They inhibit absorption of fats from diet and also improve fat and glucose metabolism.
A recent study published in Clinical Nutrition Research demonstrates that consumption of fenugreek tea decreases appetite and reduces food intake.
A clinical trial showed that consumption of fenugreek seeds daily decreases consumption of dietary fat in overweight individuals. We know fat has lost the blame in the obesity battle but trans fat and fat in junk food is not counted as healthy. (Read 5 ways Fats Help In Weight Loss)
How to take fenugreek for weight loss?
You can add fenugreek seeds to your meal during cooking. Also you can soak 1 tsp of fenugreek seeds in cool water overnight and then drink the water next day as well as chew the seeds.
You can refrigerate this and have it chilled so as to reduce bitterness. You can also steep this in warm water to prepare tea.
9. Nigella sativa
Nigella sativa or black cumin or kalonji or black onion seeds is a spice that is generally used in India to season breads. The taste is pungent and bitter, somewhere between onions and black pepper.
Consuming 3g of Nigella sativa oil (1g before each meal) combined with a low calorie diet brings about a significant reduction in body weight and abdominal fat. It also helped in reducing risk of heart diseases in obese individuals.
How to take Nigella sativa for weight loss?
½ -1 tsp of Nigella sativa seeds can be used in cooking or to garnish items. Nigella sativa oil, 1 tsp before each meal) can help in weight loss.
Caraway seeds have a pungent flavour that comes from essential oils like carvone, limonene and anethole. They are used to flavour bread and rice preparations.
A recent study published in Phytotherapy Research,2016 demonstrated that daily supplementation with aqueous extract of caraway without change in diet and physical activity resulted in reduced appetite, reduced body weight and reduced carbohydrate intake.
How to take to caraway seeds to lose weight?
1 tsp or less of caraway seeds is used in cooking. They can be chewed plain if the taste is tolerable.
Saffron is obtained from the flower of the plant Crocus sativa. It is generally used as coloring or seasoning agent. Safranal contributes to its taste and fragrance while crocin is the pigment that gives it the golden yellow hue when add to dishes.
Saffron has active ingredients like crocetin, crocins and saffranal which work as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agent. They are considered to be therapeutic for obesity and metabolic syndrome.
How to use saffron to lose weight?
1 pinch of strands can be soaked in water or milk and used in desserts, savory items or even added to smoothies. You can add a few strands to chilled milk and consume it.
12. Fennel seeds
Fennel seeds are green in color when fresh and turn grey as the seed ages. They have a taste similar to anise. Fennel seeds are essential spices in Indian cooking and also used in desserts.
How to take fennel seeds for weight loss?
Green fennel seeds can be used in cooking. You can also have fresh or dry fennel seeds plain 1-2 times in day, about ½ tsp would do. They also act as a mouth freshener. You can also steep them in water and cool the tea before consuming it.
13. Mustard seeds
Mustard seeds are tiny seeds which differ in color- brown, black or white depending upon species. Black are the most pungent while white is least pungent.
Mustard oil are rich in medium chain triglyceride- a type of fat which is burned to form instant energy rather than being deposited as fat. (Read Cooking oils for weight loss) Mustard oil helps in lowering cholesterol levels.
In fact adding chilli and MCT oil like mustard oil to diet helps to raise diet-induced thermogenesis by 50%.
How to take mustard seeds to burn fat?
Addition of ¼- ½ tsp of mustard seeds to a dish is safe. Mustard oil can also be incorporated in diet.
Cardamom or elachi are seed pods which are either green or black in color. It is the third most expensive spice.
It is used as a mouth freshener and also included in desserts and drinks. Animal study shows that both black and green cardamom are effective in counteracting harmful effects of diet induced obesity.
Results suggest that black cardamom is more effective than green cardamom in reversing harmful effects of metabolic syndrome.
How to take cardamons for weight loss?
Including 4-5 pods of green cardamom or 2-3 black cardamoms in a meal is permissible.
Cloves are aromatic dried buds of flowers of Syzygium aromaticum. They have a sweet warm taste.
Alcohol extract of cloves is found to reduce body weight, cholesterol, improve insulin and inhibit fat accumulation. Clove extract can be beneficial for diabetes or obesity induced insulin resistance.
How to use cloves to lose weight?
Inclusion of 2-3 cloves in a meal is safe. If using clove powder 2-3g is permissible.
16. Star anise
Star anise is a dried fruit of evergreen tree, Illicium verum. It is star shaped and has a flavour similar to licorice.
Research suggests that star anise can prevent fat cell development and inhibit fat accumulation by target PPAR-gamma: a protein that is involved in fat metabolism and highly researched upon as an anti-obesity therapeutic target.
How to use star anise to burn fat?
Adding ½ to 1 star anise in meals while cooking is safe. You can also use powdered or ground star anise. Boiling star anise in water and drinking the tea is favourable.
Nutmeg is the seed of the tree Myristica fragrans and has a sweet warm flavour. Indian cuisine incorporates nutmeg in sweet dishes while Middle Eastern use it for savory dishes.
The compounds present in nutmeg are unique: trimrystin imparts flavour and fragrance to the spice, myristicin works as a brain stimulant while eugenol works as a pain reliever.
Results suggest that active ingredients of this spice may benefit in obesity, metabolic syndrome and diabetes.
How to take nutmeg to lose weight?
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg can be added to baking dough while making cookies, biscuits or savoury items such as curries or even rice preparations.
Sesame seeds or Sesamum indicum are of varied colors from brown to white and have a warm nutty flavour. They are rich source of oil, protein and antioxidant like fibres called lignans.
Dietary sesame seeds can improve antioxidant status.
Sesamol an active ingredient found in sesame oil is found to have anti-obesity effects and also helps in improving metabolic health and is therapeutic in conditions like diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
How to take sesame seeds for weight loss?
You can add sesame seeds to the batter while cooking or use it to sauté and stir fry veggies. Sesame oil can also be used to add flavour to dishes.
Tamarind is a spice with tangy, sour flavour and consists of long curved pod with seeds and a sticky pulp.
They have high levels of tartaric acid which impart the sour flavour. Tamarind extract is used to flavour rice, curries and snacks in India and they are also prepared as sweets.
How to take tamarind to lose weight?
½ of a tamarind pod can be used in cooking. It can be soaked in water and made into a paste. However do not consume too much of it as it triggers acidity and vomiting.
20. Alpinia galangal
Alpinia galangal is part of ginger family and is used in Thai and Indonesian cuisine. It is also known as blue ginger and Thai ginger.
It has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Its taste is somewhere between ginger and black pepper.
Alcohol extract of Alpinia galangal is found to inhibit development of fat cells and activates genes that burn fat and participate in fat metabolism.
How to take Alpinia galangal for weight loss?
1-3g of Alpinia galangal can be chopped into slices or chunks and added to dishes or made into a paste and used in cooking. 1 tsp Galangal powder can be used in cooking.
Before choosing any spice make sure its organic, of good grade and free from additives, colors or fillers.
Spices should be used in moderation; in excess they can trigger acid reflux. Some spices like turmeric have anti-platelet properties so if you are suffering from a bleeding disorder consult your doctor before taking it.
Spices like black pepper can increase absorption of drugs in the body so avoid taking it close to the time of taking medicines.
Some spices like turmeric, red chilli, caraway and garlic are clinically proven to cause weight loss in humans.
Other spices also show potential anti-obesity and offer a number of health benefits in a small package with a treat to your taste buds.
If you have never used spices before slowly introduce 1-2 of them in your diet to avoid any gastric trouble. Spices combined with an energy restricted diet would accelerate weight loss.