If the thought of sticking to a healthier eating plan in order to lose some weight has you thinking bland and boring, I’ve got great news!!  After all, no matter how disciplined you are when it comes to eating healthier, if you’re not enjoying the taste of the food you’re eating, chances are you won’t stick with the plan for long.

The good news is that adding herbs and spices to your meals can make a big difference in more ways  than one –

  • your food will taste better, be more enjoyable and satisfying
  • you’ll automatically receive many health benefits because herbs and spices contain antioxidants, minerals and vitamins; some spices (like cinnamon and cloves) actually surpass the antioxidant capacity  of some more well-known sources (blueberries)
  • you’ll meet your weight loss goals faster

Also remember that using spices to enhance the flavor of food is a great alternative to adding salt which has been linked to high blood pressure, a common problem for those who are overweight or obese.

Here are 5 spices known to “amp” up the weight loss process.  Use them generously!

Ginger – a warming spice with anti-inflammatory properties, studies have shown that its thermogenic properties can help increase metabolism and decrease appetite.  Fresh ginger is readily available and easy to work with.  It can be peeled with a paring knife or vegetable peeler and sliced, or grated and added to just about anything.  Great with fish, sprinkled over squash or sweet potatoes before baking, or added to tea.  I like to mix with a little honey and use as a glaze for roasted carrots.

Cinnamon – research has shown that using as little as ¼ to 1 tsp. of cinnamon will increase your metabolism and help keep blood sugar stable.  Consuming cinnamon will also help to increase your energy levels (more activity burns more calories) and may increase concentration (helping you to stay determined in your efforts).  Cinnamon is derived from the bark of a tropical evergreen tree.  Simply sprinkle some ground cinnamon on your morning oatmeal or yogurt and berries for great flavor and proven health benefits.

Cumin – not to be confused with curcumin, the principal ingredient in the spice turmeric, cumin can be considered, well, kind of boring to look at and has an even less interesting flavor – sort of on the bitter side.    But make no mistake – it’s a virtual “super” spice.  Just one teaspoon of cumin added to one of your meals per day can help you burn up to 3x more body fat.  Cumin is a versatile spice and is found in cuisines around the world, especially in curries.    Combine ½ cup of canola oil with ½ cup of orange juice and 1 tablespoon of  ground cumin to make a glaze for roasted vegetables.

Cayenne Pepper – now we’re really turning up the heat!  Capsaicin, the compound that gives peppers their heat, increases thermogenesis or fat burning in the body and increases metabolism.    A well-known study conducted at Laval University in Quebec reported that when participants consumed cayenne pepper at breakfast it resulted in a decrease in appetite throughout the day (leading to fewer calories consumed).   This “heart-warming” spice is also known to help lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and raise good (HDL) cholesterol levels.

Turmeric – frequently in the headlines,  turmeric owes its preventive and curative skills to its active ingredient: curcumin.  Thousands of studies have been done across the globe in recent years on this amazing spice.  The conclusion:  it is as effective as pharmaceutical drugs in treating over 70 maladies – including cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.  The foundation of many curry dishes, this yellow-orange spice actually reduces the formation of fat tissue by suppressing the blood vessels needed to form it, ultimately contributing to lower body fat and body weight gain.

Hungry for more information on these and other spices?  I highly recommend you purchase (or borrow from your local library) Healing Spices by Dr. Bharat Aggarwal.  I bought this book a few years back while attending a Food As Medicine Conference hosted by the Center for Mind Body Medicine.  I liked it so much I gave each of my sisters a copy for Christmas that year!  Filled with interesting facts and great recipes, Healing Spices is a great education on everyday and exotic spices and how to use them to maximize your health.

So go ahead, spice things up a bit:  an easy way to improve your health and shrink your waistline!