Weight loss spices: Myth or a great strategy?
Today I asked my colleagues what the one health goal that they all wanted to achieve this summer was. To my surprise, almost 95% of them said they would like to lose weight and get back in shape. So, naturally, I asked them a follow-up question, “How do you plan to get back in shape?”. The answers were your usual potpourri of controlling portion sizes, exercising more and even weight loss supplements. But one answer stood out, and I was quite surprised to hear it. Nick from accounting said he was planning to eat ‘weight loss spices’! His answer baffled me. I mean what the heck are weight loss spices in the first place? As it turns out these are spices such as pepper, turmeric, and cinnamon that are thought to help you reduce weight.
Sure, it may sound kind of counterproductive at first, but if you think about it, Nick might be on to something. Spices are known to help reduce weight; provided you eat them the right way. So, is Nick, right? Can eating spicy food help you lose weight? Well, let’s find out.
First things first
I am sure you must have read a post (or 10!) on your social media about the amazing health benefits of spices. Have you noticed how all those posts always talk in superlatives? Statements such as “this spice prevents cancer” or “weight loss spices to lose 10 kg in 10 days” are peppered throughout the post quite liberally.
Although such posts may be based on a scientific truth, they take vast liberties and spectacularly overstate the facts. The unsuspecting readers lap up the information and pass it on like it is the truth. The whole exercise is, well, to put it mildly, a gigantic waste of time.
That said, it is a fact that spices have medicinal properties and they can help you get that extra push you need for weight loss. But there is nothing miraculous about them. Let me tell you as it is you are not going to get back in shape by bingeing on spicy Indian curry or spicy Pad Thai!
The science behind weight loss spices
Many people believe that spices help in weight loss by stimulating metabolism. Now, in theory, it does sound compelling. I mean, if you have a faster metabolism, you will burn more fat, right? But do spices help in accelerating your metabolism?
The answer to this question is less exciting than you may expect. Spicy food may offer a mild increase in metabolic rate as found in this 1986 study, but it is not an improvement that will make a huge difference. You are not going to jump start your metabolism just by eating spicy food. However, spices can be of help in a different way.
By thermogenesis and appetite suppression
The so-called weight loss spices cause what is called thermogenesis or heat generation in the body after ingestion. When you eat spicy food, your body heats up, and you sweat, right? Spices such as chilies and peppers contain a chemical called capsaicin that causes this effect.
Capsaicin has been shown to increase satiety and decrease food intake and suppresses appetite which may lead to some weight loss.
Spices are good antioxidants
Some weight loss spices such as turmeric, garlic, and cinnamon have good antioxidant effects. Antioxidants are considered good for your body as they can neutralize the “free radicals” that cause problems such as aging and tissue degeneration. So, in a way, eating more antioxidant-rich spices is a good thing.
However, there comes the point, when consuming too many antioxidants don’t offer much benefit. And the threshold is lower than most people think. So, in a nutshell, the antioxidants in the spices are good for you, but that’s about it. Don’t expect any miracles.
Increased water intake
Now, this a secondary benefit of eating spicy food. If you eat spicy food, you will drink more water, which is a great thing. Many people, however, mistakenly assume that eating spicy food will help them detox. Weight loss spices do not increase the alkalinity of your body and don’t help in flushing out toxins. So, there’s that! But drinking more water is nonetheless a great thing on its own. So, if eating spicy food can increase your water intake, I say it’s a plus point.
I love spices as I am sure you do too! But if you expect that eating spicy food or a lot of weight loss spices will help you lose weight, don’t hold your breath. Sure, spices can assist you by suppressing your appetite or even providing mild health benefits. But to think that spicy food is the magic bullet that will melt your belly away is a childish notion, to say the least. Read more about the reasons for weight gain here.
Spices such as turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, chilies, peppercorns, and clove are good for you bit they are no miracle potions.
There are a lot of misconceptions about food, in general, these days. You hear people claiming how eating certain foods cures diseases or makes you live longer on social media platforms. Although the information may sound real, I would suggest you take it with a pinch, or rather a spoonful of salt!
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