Black pepper is a nutritious and low-cal seasoning, but it won't make you lose belly fat. While preliminary evidence points to black pepper's potential benefit for fighting obesity in some cases, other studies have failed to show any fat-burning benefits. Don't count on black pepper as a weight-loss cure, but instead use it as a source of flavor in a weight-loss diet.
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Black Pepper and Weight Loss
Black pepper made headlines as a potential fat burner after the release of a Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry paper in 2012. The study looked at the effect of piperine, one of the chemicals found in black pepper, on fat cells in a test tube study and found that piperine hindered the development of new mature fat cells. While these results might indicate that black pepper prevents new fat cell growth, it's too early to say whether it prevents obesity.
In addition, a later study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2013, found that people who ate black pepper had no appreciable increase in their calorie burn throughout the day. Because burning more calories is essential for fat loss, including belly fat, this suggests that black pepper might not have a significant effect.
Potential Use in Weight Loss
Though it might not directly cut belly fat, black pepper is a welcome addition to a calorie-controlled fat-loss diet. A teaspoon of pepper has only 8 calories but offers tons of flavor, which makes it a lower-cal substitute for marinades and sauces. Putting a dash of pepper with a squeeze of lemon juice on grilled vegetables or chicken breast, for example, saves you roughly 60 calories compared to 2 tablespoons of Italian dressing. Use lemon juice and pepper instead of tartar sauce to flavor grilled fish, and you'll save around 55 calories.
Black pepper is also virtually sodium-free, since each teaspoon has just 1 milligram of sodium. That makes it an optimal seasoning for reducing your sodium intake -- 2-tablespoon servings of Italian dressing and tartar sauce contain 298 and 200 milligrams of sodium, respectively. While a low-sodium diet won't make you lose fat, it can cut down on fluid retention and bloating, which can help your stomach look flatter. Black pepper also has beneficial antioxidants that might help stabilize your blood sugar after a meal, reports Penn State.
Serving Tips and Suggestions
You can use black pepper to season virtually any savory food. Combine it with extra-virgin olive oil, apple cider vinegar and fresh chopped oregano for a delicious homemade salad dressing or marinade, or season chicken or turkey breasts, salmon, trout or lean beef with black pepper before grilling for low-cal flavor. You can also get more experimental by using black pepper to season a watermelon, feta and basil salad, or by tossing fresh sliced strawberries in a mixture of black pepper and balsamic vinegar for a nutritious dessert that's sweet, sour and spicy.
- Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: Piperine, a Component of Black Pepper, Inhibits Adipogenesis by Antagonizing PPARγ Activity in 3T3-L1 Cells
- British Journal of Nutrition: Acute Effects of Mustard, Horseradish, Black Pepper and Ginger on Energy Expenditure, Appetite, ad Libitum Energy Intake and Energy Balance in Human Subjects
- HealthAliciousNess: Nutrient Facts Comparison Tool
- Harvard Health Publications: 5 Ways to Use Less Salt
- Penn State: Antioxidant Spices Reduce Negative Effects of High-Fat Meals