6 Herbs & Spices for Weight Loss (According To Science)

Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Published by Christiana Mikesch, CPT | Senior Coach
Last updated: January 4, 2024
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Let’s face it, you can’t expect sustainable weight loss results without a clean, balanced diet and regular exercise. Luckily, healthy food doesn’t have to be blunt. Some herbs can make it tastier.

Besides adding flavor to your food, research shows that particular herbs can boost metabolism and improve digestion, helping you shed excess pounds faster.

As a certified personal trainer, I asked our dietitian what spices have the most power to make you slimmer and how they work. Here’s what scientific evidence shows, along with their personal opinions and experiences.

Quick Summary

  • To support your weight loss journey, incorporate spices like cayenne pepper, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, turmeric, and cumin into your diet.
  • These spices boost metabolism and improve digestion, contributing to weight loss.
  • Studies on PubMed reveal that capsaicin in cayenne pepper boosts metabolism, burning about 100 calories and reducing energy intake by 74 calories per meal.
  • In my experience, regularly using these spices in meals is an enjoyable and sustainable way to enhance weight loss efforts.

6 Spices That Burn Fat Effectively

Different spices in an organized manner

Popular herbs and spices scientists recommend to help your body burn fat and some extra calories faster include:

1. Cayenne Pepper

In my experience as a nutritionist, I've seen firsthand how capsaicin, the chemical in red pepper, effectively reduces hunger and calorie intake.

One of the studies from the PubMed website claims that capsaicin, a chemical commonly found in red pepper in a significant amount, providing its powerful spicy kick, can reduce hunger and calorie intake by decreasing the levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin [1].

Additional studies from the PubMed website also say that daily consumption of capsaicin can increase body heat, helping boost metabolism and burn around 100 calories per meal, enhancing fat loss [2] [3].

“Capsaicinoids are a group of chemicals naturally occurring in chili peppers. They have properties that may help to support weight management. [...] A daily consumption of capsaicin may contribute to weight loss through reductions in energy intake.”

- Dr. Emma Derbyshire, Registered Public Health Nutritionist 

 

2. Ginger

A ginger in white background

From my personal and professional experience with clients, I've seen ginger work wonders in reducing waist-to-hip ratios and aiding fat absorption.

Ginger has many health benefits and some studies indicate that ginger helps obese and overweight women and men decrease their waist-to-hip ratio and fat absorption, ensuring they lose more weight and get a slimmer waistline [4].

This thermogenic spice can also reduce appetite, help you control blood sugar and prevent glucose spikes after eating sugar- or carb-rich foods. It’s also known as a natural remedy that helps soothe pain, lower inflammation, ease nausea, and various digestion issues, accelerate gastric emptying, and more.

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3. Cinnamon

Many studies have proven that cinnamon may help stabilize blood glucose, improve insulin sensitivity, and curb food cravings.

Sprinkle cinnamon on your coffee, tea, yogurt, smoothie, oatmeal, roasted apple slices, oranges, savory marinades for chicken and other meats, but use no more than one teaspoon a day as too much of it can be toxic.

4. Black Pepper

Black pepper on a spoon

In my practice, I've recommended black pepper for its piperine content, and many clients have reported improved weight management.

A study has shown that piperine, the active ingredient of this commonly used spice, effectively inhibits the new fat cell formation, helps decrease triglyceride, cholesterol levels, and weight in rats fed a high-fat diet, even without changes in their food intake [5].

Besides lowering weight and preventing weight gain, piperine also has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune-boosting properties [6].

5. Turmeric

Through my dietary consultations, I've recommended turmeric for its curcumin content, and many clients have noticed improved weight loss and reduced inflammation.

A study on mice from Tufts University and other solid scientific evidence suggests that high doses of curcumin, a chemical in turmeric, can effectively reduce inflammation and aid weight loss in people and animals by raising their body temperature, increasing metabolic rate, and blocking the synthesis of fats.

Your body can best absorb this brightly colored yellow spice if you eat it in combination with black pepper. Add it to stews and soups, or sprinkle it over roasted veggies, eggs, quinoa, curry dishes, or nuts. If you don't like its taste, you can try a turmeric supplement instead.

6. Cumin

Cumin on a wooden spoon

In my culinary and nutritional guidance, I've often suggested incorporating cumin, and clients have reported significant improvements in body fat reduction and overall health. This is consistent with studies indicating that a daily tablespoon of cumin can dramatically enhance weight loss and cardiovascular health.

You can season almost any food with this universal spice - soups, stews, stir-fries, yogurt, dressings, marinades, rubs, dips, lentils, tacos, roasted vegetables, flatbread, and other savory baked food.

FAQs

What Spice Blocks Fat Cells?

Black pepper and turmeric block fat cells, as animal studies have found their ingredients, piperine, and curcumin, can prevent the formation of new fat cells, aiding in weight maintenance or reduction[6].

Can Turmeric Burn Belly Fat?

No, turmeric cannot directly burn belly fat, but its compound curcumin, with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, can regulate metabolism and balance blood glucose levels, aiding in reducing waist circumference.

Does Red Chili Burn Fat?

Yes, red chili burns fat, as studies indicate its thermogenic effects and fat-burning properties help in calorie and body fat reduction, appetite suppression, and accelerating weight loss alongside a healthy lifestyle.

Is Green Chili Good for Weight Loss?

Yes, green chili is beneficial for weight loss, containing no calories and boosting metabolism while being rich in antioxidants and compounds that balance blood sugar and improve overall health.

How Have Spices Been Used Historically in Traditional Medicine?

Spices have been used historically in traditional medicine systems like Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine for their healing properties, treating various ailments with their anti-inflammatory, digestive, and metabolic benefits.

Can Spices Affect Psychological Aspects of Eating and Satiety?

Yes, certain spices can influence psychological aspects of eating and satiety, potentially reducing cravings and enhancing the enjoyment of healthier foods, contributing to improved eating habits and weight management.

What Is the Relationship Between Spices and Gut Health?

The relationship between spices and gut health is significant, as they promote a healthy gut microbiome, crucial for effective digestion and overall health, and play a vital role in weight management and metabolic health.

How Do Different Spices Work Together for Enhanced Weight Loss Benefits?

Different spices work together to create a synergistic effect, enhancing each other's health benefits and contributing to more effective weight loss, adding flavor to meals, and boosting metabolic and digestive functions.

How Can Spices Impact Metabolic Disorders Related to Obesity?

Spices can positively impact metabolic disorders related to obesity, such as insulin resistance, inflammation, and high cholesterol, with their regular inclusion in the diet helping to mitigate these conditions and support weight management.


  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15611784/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24246368/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22378725/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29393665/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3113382/
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22463744/
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About The Author

Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Senior Coach
Christiana Mikesch, CPT is a personal trainer and author with contributions to publications like the Chicago Tribune and Yahoo. She emphasizes a holistic approach to weight loss, combining an energy-fueling diet, goal-oriented workouts, and daily habits. Her approach avoids short-term goals and fosters a lifelong commitment to health and well-being.
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Dr. Kristy June Dayanan, BS, MD is an author with a BS degree from University of the Philippines and an MD from University of Perpetual Help System. Her ability to simplify medical science complexities and dietary supplement jargon for the average reader makes her a valued medical fact checker and reviewer.
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Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
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