By Dr. Mercola
Adding herbs and spices to your food gives your meals an "upgrade" in more ways than one.
First, you get the extra flavor enhancement and complexity that only natural spices can bring, and second, you get health benefits galore because herbs and spices contain antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and unique medicinal properties.
Among them, certain herbs and spices can actually help you maintain a healthy body weight by promoting weight loss. So if you're trying to lose a few (or more) pounds, consider being very generous when adding the following spices to your food.
Top 10 Herbs and Spices to Help You Lose Weight
Ginseng is valued for its ability to boost energy levels and speed metabolism. Panax ginseng, in particular, has been linked to weight loss benefits, with one study showing obese, diabetic mice given panax ginseng extracts not only had improvements in insulin sensitivity, but also lost a significant amount of weight after 12 days.1
2. Cayenne Pepper
Capsaicin, the compound that gives peppers their heat, may help fight obesity by decreasing calorie intake, shrinking fat tissue, and lowering blood fat levels, as well as fight fat buildup by triggering beneficial protein changes in your body.2
Part of the benefit may be due to capsaicin's heat potential, as it is a thermogenic substance that may temporarily increase thermogenesis in your body, where your body burns fuel such as fat to create heat, with beneficial impacts on metabolism and fat storage. Research suggests that consuming thermogenic ingredients may boost your metabolism by up to 5 percent, and increase fat burning by up to 16 percent.3 It may even help counteract the decrease in metabolic rate that often occurs during weight loss.
This spice may help to boost your metabolism, and it also has impressive benefits for blood sugar regulation, making it an ideal seasoning for people with diabetes or pre-diabetes. Cinnamon has been found to significantly reduce blood sugar levels, triglycerides, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and total cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes, as well as increase glucose metabolism by about 20 times, which would significantly improve your ability to regulate blood sugar.4
4. Black Pepper
Black pepper contains a substance called piperine, which not only gives it its pungent flavor, but also blocks the formation of new fat cells.5 When combined with capsaicin and other substances, black pepper was also found to burn as many calories as taking a 20-minute walk.6 As an aside, black pepper also increases the bioavailability of just about all other foods -- herbs and other compounds – making it a healthy choice for virtually any meal.
Every part of the dandelion is edible and full of nutrition. And because they help slow your digestion, they can make you feel full longer, helping you maintain a healthy weight. Dandelions have antioxidant properties and contain bitter crystalline compounds called Taraxacin and Taracerin, along with inulin and levulin, compounds thought to explain some of its therapeutic properties. Along with being full of dietary fiber, dandelions also contain beta carotene, vitamin K1, vitamins and minerals, and are known for being beneficial for normalizing blood sugar and cholesterol, as well as cleansing your liver.
The mustard plant is actually in the cruciferous family of vegetables (along with broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, for instance). Mustard seeds have been shown to boost metabolic rate by 25 percent, which means you'll burn calories more efficiently. In fact, just 3/5 teaspoon of mustard seeds daily may help you burn an extra 45 calories an hour.7
If you're a fan of curry, you're probably also a fan of turmeric, as this is the yellow-orange spice that makes the foundation of many curry dishes. Curcumin, one of turmeric's most thoroughly studied active ingredients, reduces the formation of fat tissue by suppressing the blood vessels needed to form it, and therefore may contribute to lower body fat and body weight gain.8
Curcumin may also be useful for the treatment and prevention of obesity-related chronic diseases, as the interactions of curcumin with several key signal transduction pathways in the body result in improvements in insulin resistance, hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, and other inflammatory symptoms associated with obesity and metabolic disorders.9
Ginger is another warming spice that has anti-inflammatory properties and is known to help soothe and relax your intestinal tract. Research also suggests that ginger may have thermogenic properties that help boost your metabolism, as well as have an appetite-suppressant effect when consumed, suggesting a "potential role of ginger in weight management."10
Cardamom, an aromatic spice with a spicy-sweet flavor, is another thermogenic herb that helps boost your metabolism and may boost your body's ability to burn fat. Cardamom is a popular herb used in Ayurveda, an ancient holistic system of medicine and natural healing from India.
Cumin is useful for digestion and energy production, and may improve glycemic control in people with type 2 diabetes. The spice has a long history of medicinal use, and has also been found to enhance memory and provide potent anti-stress benefits.
What Else are Spices Good For?
Far more than you might imagine …Herbs and spices are actually some of the most potent antioxidants in your food supply; in many instances surpassing other more well-known sources of antioxidants. For example, spices such as cloves and cinnamon have phenol levels that are 30 percent and 18 percent of dry weight, respectively. Compare that to blueberries, which are widely touted for their antioxidant capabilities; they contain roughly 5 percent phenol by dry weight...
Another example is oregano, which has 42 times more antioxidant activity than apples, 30 times more than potatoes, 12 times more than oranges, and four times more than blueberries! One tablespoon of fresh oregano contains the same antioxidant activity as one medium-sized apple.
While each spice has a unique set of health benefits to offer, one study, published in the Journal of Medicinal Foods,11 found a direct correlation between the antioxidant phenol content and the spice's ability to inhibit glycation and the formation of toxic advanced glycation end products, making them potent preventers of heart disease and premature aging. According to this study, the top 10 most potent herbs and spices are:
1. Cloves (ground)
2. Cinnamon (ground)
3. Jamaican allspice (ground)
4. Apple pie spice (mixture)
5. Oregano (ground)
6. Pumpkin pie spice (mixture)
10. Gourmet Italian spice
Rounding Out Your Comprehensive Weight Loss Plan
Always remember to buy certified organic spices, as most conventional ones are irradiated, resulting in the formation of harmful radiolytic byproducts, including formaldehyde. For most people, simply adding spices to your meals will not be enough to trigger significant weight loss, although this will certainly support and help you achieve your weight loss goals. If you are serious about losing weight, you'll need a more comprehensive plan that includes: