9 Herbs and Spices to Help You Lose Weight

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Top view of several white bowls holding a variety of spices

Ever experienced diet boredom? Well, adding herbs and spices is the easiest and healthiest way to make your skinless, boneless chicken breast that much more exciting.

"What's more, many herbs and spices provide health benefits like weight loss, fighting inflammation, lowering blood sugar and cholesterol and even fighting dementia," says Karen Ansel, RDN, CDN, a nutrition consultant based in Long Island, New York. "Using them in place of salt can also boost your heart health and lower your risk of stroke," she says.

There is no magic-bullet herb or spice to help you drop 10 pounds (sigh), but some offer unique slim-down benefits, like slightly boosting your metabolism, helping ward off hunger or balancing your blood sugar levels.

Credit: Magone/iStock/GettyImages

Ever experienced diet boredom? Well, adding herbs and spices is the easiest and healthiest way to make your skinless, boneless chicken breast that much more exciting.

"What's more, many herbs and spices provide health benefits like weight loss, fighting inflammation, lowering blood sugar and cholesterol and even fighting dementia," says Karen Ansel, RDN, CDN, a nutrition consultant based in Long Island, New York. "Using them in place of salt can also boost your heart health and lower your risk of stroke," she says.

There is no magic-bullet herb or spice to help you drop 10 pounds (sigh), but some offer unique slim-down benefits, like slightly boosting your metabolism, helping ward off hunger or balancing your blood sugar levels.

1. Fenugreek

A bowl of curry made with fenugreek

Fenugreek is a spice widely used in Indian cuisine as well as in North African and Middle Eastern dishes. "If you crave fatty foods, curry powder may help quash your craving. Curry contains fenugreek, a seed that helps suppress fat cravings. It may also help control blood sugar, too," says Ansel. Studies show fenugreek may stimulate insulin and slow the absorption of sugars in the stomach, which is why some people with diabetes use it as a supplement to lower their blood sugar. Add a pinch to plain Greek yogurt and use it as a savory dip for freshly sliced cucumbers and red bell peppers. Caution: Fenugreek can cause diarrhea and more serious reactions, such as breathing problems. Women who are pregnant should not take fenugreek, and it may be unsafe for women with hormone-sensitive cancers, says the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH).

Read more: 10 Surprising Flat-Belly Foods

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Fenugreek is a spice widely used in Indian cuisine as well as in North African and Middle Eastern dishes. "If you crave fatty foods, curry powder may help quash your craving. Curry contains fenugreek, a seed that helps suppress fat cravings. It may also help control blood sugar, too," says Ansel. Studies show fenugreek may stimulate insulin and slow the absorption of sugars in the stomach, which is why some people with diabetes use it as a supplement to lower their blood sugar. Add a pinch to plain Greek yogurt and use it as a savory dip for freshly sliced cucumbers and red bell peppers. Caution: Fenugreek can cause diarrhea and more serious reactions, such as breathing problems. Women who are pregnant should not take fenugreek, and it may be unsafe for women with hormone-sensitive cancers, says the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH).

Read more: 10 Surprising Flat-Belly Foods

2. Cumin

Top view of tacos made with cumin seasoning

Research reveals that cumin may be a natural weight-loss aid, helping to decrease body fat. "One study even found that it was as effective as the weight-loss drug Orlistat. If that weren't reason enough to add it to your spice rack, it has also been shown to lower cholesterol and triglycerides," Ansel points out. A small study, published November 2014 in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, found that overweight or obese women who consumed a little less than one teaspoon of cumin powder a day (or three grams) lost 3 pounds more than a control group of women over a three-month period. The cumin-eating group also decreased their body fat percentage by about 14.6 percent — almost three times that of the non-cumin group (4.9 percent). Try stirring a heaping teaspoon of cumin into hummus or make a savory lentil chili with cumin cream. Keep in mind that the spice is considered safe but, like anything else, should be eaten in moderation: Chronic overconsumption can pose side effects, such as bleeding, respiratory complications and dermatitis, according to a November 2018 review in Phytotherapy Research.

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Research reveals that cumin may be a natural weight-loss aid, helping to decrease body fat. "One study even found that it was as effective as the weight-loss drug Orlistat. If that weren't reason enough to add it to your spice rack, it has also been shown to lower cholesterol and triglycerides," Ansel points out. A small study, published November 2014 in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, found that overweight or obese women who consumed a little less than one teaspoon of cumin powder a day (or three grams) lost 3 pounds more than a control group of women over a three-month period. The cumin-eating group also decreased their body fat percentage by about 14.6 percent — almost three times that of the non-cumin group (4.9 percent). Try stirring a heaping teaspoon of cumin into hummus or make a savory lentil chili with cumin cream. Keep in mind that the spice is considered safe but, like anything else, should be eaten in moderation: Chronic overconsumption can pose side effects, such as bleeding, respiratory complications and dermatitis, according to a November 2018 review in Phytotherapy Research.

3. Rosemary

Artichokes, rosemary, olive oil and lime on a cutting board

Approved in Germany for the treatment of digestive ailments, rosemary has been used for years for its medicinal benefits. More recently, rosemary has been found to help ward off hunger and may aid with weight loss. "Rosemary is naturally rich in carnosic acid, a substance that keeps the pounds off by inhibiting the formation of fat cells. It also helps muscles soak up glucose, helping lower blood sugar levels and potentially moderating hunger," says Ansel. Try cooking with the herb in innovative ways, like using it as a kabob skewer: Thread stalks with fresh cantaloupe or watermelon wrapped with prosciutto and lightly grill them. Just keep in mind that eating rosemary in excess can have some serious side effects, according to the Handbook of Herbs and Spices.

Recipe: Broiled Heirloom Tomato & Rosemary Frittata

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Approved in Germany for the treatment of digestive ailments, rosemary has been used for years for its medicinal benefits. More recently, rosemary has been found to help ward off hunger and may aid with weight loss. "Rosemary is naturally rich in carnosic acid, a substance that keeps the pounds off by inhibiting the formation of fat cells. It also helps muscles soak up glucose, helping lower blood sugar levels and potentially moderating hunger," says Ansel. Try cooking with the herb in innovative ways, like using it as a kabob skewer: Thread stalks with fresh cantaloupe or watermelon wrapped with prosciutto and lightly grill them. Just keep in mind that eating rosemary in excess can have some serious side effects, according to the Handbook of Herbs and Spices.

Recipe: Broiled Heirloom Tomato & Rosemary Frittata

4. Mustard

Top view of wooden spoons holding different types of mustard

Mustard seeds, the small round seeds of various mustard plants, may slightly boost your metabolism. "Mustard may help you burn more calories. In one study, researchers fed volunteers a meal that contained a little less than an ounce of mustard. Afterwards the volunteers' calorie burn rose for four hours," says Ansel. That small study appeared in the February 2013 issue of The British Journal of Nutrition. Plus, unlike many other high-calorie condiments, mustard has only three calories per teaspoon, which can also help keep your calorie intake down. To include more in your meals, whisk mustard into your favorite vinaigrette and drizzle it on sandwiches, salads, cooked string beans, broccoli or asparagus. Some people may be allergic to mustard seed, though, so use caution if you've had a reaction to the spice or haven't eaten it before.

Read more: 12 Foods That Help You Fall (and Stay) Asleep

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Mustard seeds, the small round seeds of various mustard plants, may slightly boost your metabolism. "Mustard may help you burn more calories. In one study, researchers fed volunteers a meal that contained a little less than an ounce of mustard. Afterwards the volunteers' calorie burn rose for four hours," says Ansel. That small study appeared in the February 2013 issue of The British Journal of Nutrition. Plus, unlike many other high-calorie condiments, mustard has only three calories per teaspoon, which can also help keep your calorie intake down. To include more in your meals, whisk mustard into your favorite vinaigrette and drizzle it on sandwiches, salads, cooked string beans, broccoli or asparagus. Some people may be allergic to mustard seed, though, so use caution if you've had a reaction to the spice or haven't eaten it before.

Read more: 12 Foods That Help You Fall (and Stay) Asleep

5. Black Pepper

Close view of black peppercorns in a wooden bowl

Could an ingredient in black pepper help you slim down? A preliminary study on mouse cells, published in April 2012 in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, suggests that piperine, the pungent-tasting component in black pepper, may interfere with the formation of new fat cells. The researchers think piperine may also set off a metabolic chain reaction that helps keep fat in check in other ways; however, human studies are needed to confirm this. Regardless, as a calorie-free flavor enhancer that's easily available, it's certainly a smart way to spice things up.

Recipe: Lemon Pepper Scallops

Credit: anna1311/iStock/GettyImages

Could an ingredient in black pepper help you slim down? A preliminary study on mouse cells, published in April 2012 in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, suggests that piperine, the pungent-tasting component in black pepper, may interfere with the formation of new fat cells. The researchers think piperine may also set off a metabolic chain reaction that helps keep fat in check in other ways; however, human studies are needed to confirm this. Regardless, as a calorie-free flavor enhancer that's easily available, it's certainly a smart way to spice things up.

Recipe: Lemon Pepper Scallops

6. Ginger

Ginger tea with lemon

Used for decades to treat nausea and other digestive problems, ginger has recently gained attention as a weight-loss aid. "Ginger is a natural appetite suppressant, helping you feel full so you eat less overall," says Ansel. Researchers also believe it may create thermogenesis, an action that helps you burn more calories. An April 2018 review of studies in Phytotherapy Research largely supports the weight-lowering effects of ginger in obese animals but finds little or no change in body composition among obese humans. However, a February 2018 review and meta-analysis involving 14 randomized clinical trials with 473 people found ginger supplementation significantly reduced body weight, fasting glucose and insulin resistance. The findings were reported online in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Medicine. Larger studies are needed to confirm the effect. If you're taking blood thinners, talk to your doctor before adding ginger to your diet, as it can interact with these medications, according to the NCCIH.

Recipe: Ginger-Berry Smoothie

Credit: Allyso/iStock/Getty Images

Used for decades to treat nausea and other digestive problems, ginger has recently gained attention as a weight-loss aid. "Ginger is a natural appetite suppressant, helping you feel full so you eat less overall," says Ansel. Researchers also believe it may create thermogenesis, an action that helps you burn more calories. An April 2018 review of studies in Phytotherapy Research largely supports the weight-lowering effects of ginger in obese animals but finds little or no change in body composition among obese humans. However, a February 2018 review and meta-analysis involving 14 randomized clinical trials with 473 people found ginger supplementation significantly reduced body weight, fasting glucose and insulin resistance. The findings were reported online in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Medicine. Larger studies are needed to confirm the effect. If you're taking blood thinners, talk to your doctor before adding ginger to your diet, as it can interact with these medications, according to the NCCIH.

Recipe: Ginger-Berry Smoothie

7. Turmeric

Top view of a bowl of turmeric powder

For 4,000 years, the plant turmeric has been used to treat a variety of conditions, from infections to digestive problems. It is thought that the chemicals in turmeric may help decrease swelling (or inflammation), which could also have weight-loss benefits. However, the evidence to date on turmeric and weight loss is mixed, and further studies are needed. Turmeric is generally safe but may cause gastrointestinal trouble when people use it for long periods of time or in high doses, says NCCIH. In cooking, turmeric adds a warm, earthy aroma and flavor to poultry, seafood and vegetable dishes, including curries and chutneys.

Read more: 7 Ways to Add the Health Benefits of Turmeric to Your Diet

Credit: vikif/iStock/Getty Images

For 4,000 years, the plant turmeric has been used to treat a variety of conditions, from infections to digestive problems. It is thought that the chemicals in turmeric may help decrease swelling (or inflammation), which could also have weight-loss benefits. However, the evidence to date on turmeric and weight loss is mixed, and further studies are needed. Turmeric is generally safe but may cause gastrointestinal trouble when people use it for long periods of time or in high doses, says NCCIH. In cooking, turmeric adds a warm, earthy aroma and flavor to poultry, seafood and vegetable dishes, including curries and chutneys.

Read more: 7 Ways to Add the Health Benefits of Turmeric to Your Diet

9. Cinnamon

A bowl of oatmeal with apples and cinnamon on a wooden table

Popular with both children and adults for its trademark sweet aroma and flavor, cinnamon is rich in antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties. Plus, it may help control blood sugar levels. "Cinnamon improves glucose levels for people with type 2 diabetes — this is not a direct weight-loss benefit, but many people with type 2 diabetes struggle with their weight and need to closely manage their blood glucose levels," says Sharon Palmer, RDN, author of Plant-Powered for Life. Not only great for baking, cinnamon spices up your morning oatmeal, yogurt, cottage cheese, fruit dishes or trail mix. Palmer suggests using it in savory dishes, like curry dishes and stews. It's safe for most people, but don't use cinnamon in place of your diabetes medication, NCCIH cautions.

Read more: What to Know Before You Try Cinnamon Pills for Weight Loss

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Popular with both children and adults for its trademark sweet aroma and flavor, cinnamon is rich in antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties. Plus, it may help control blood sugar levels. "Cinnamon improves glucose levels for people with type 2 diabetes — this is not a direct weight-loss benefit, but many people with type 2 diabetes struggle with their weight and need to closely manage their blood glucose levels," says Sharon Palmer, RDN, author of Plant-Powered for Life. Not only great for baking, cinnamon spices up your morning oatmeal, yogurt, cottage cheese, fruit dishes or trail mix. Palmer suggests using it in savory dishes, like curry dishes and stews. It's safe for most people, but don't use cinnamon in place of your diabetes medication, NCCIH cautions.

Read more: What to Know Before You Try Cinnamon Pills for Weight Loss

10. Cayenne Pepper

A bowl of vegetarian chili made with cayenne pepper

If you're not used to eating spicy food, turning up the heat might help boost your weight-loss efforts. Cayenne pepper (which comes from a type of chili pepper) is a source of capsaicin, a phytochemical known for its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Capsaicin may also play a role in increasing your sense of fullness, according to a January-June 2017 review article in Pharmacognosy Reviews. Separately, a June 2017 review in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition concludes that chili peppers can help with weight loss, especially among people who don't usually eat the spice, although the optimal dose remains unclear. To fire up your weight-loss efforts, add hot pepper to your favorite stir-fry, stews and ethnic-inspired dishes. Don't overdo it, though, because cayenne can irritate your stomach and interact with blood thinners.

Recipe: Carrot, Mandarin and Cayenne Smoothie

Credit: Katsiaryna Belaya/iStock/Getty Images

If you're not used to eating spicy food, turning up the heat might help boost your weight-loss efforts. Cayenne pepper (which comes from a type of chili pepper) is a source of capsaicin, a phytochemical known for its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Capsaicin may also play a role in increasing your sense of fullness, according to a January-June 2017 review article in Pharmacognosy Reviews. Separately, a June 2017 review in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition concludes that chili peppers can help with weight loss, especially among people who don't usually eat the spice, although the optimal dose remains unclear. To fire up your weight-loss efforts, add hot pepper to your favorite stir-fry, stews and ethnic-inspired dishes. Don't overdo it, though, because cayenne can irritate your stomach and interact with blood thinners.

Recipe: Carrot, Mandarin and Cayenne Smoothie

Can Spicy Food Help You Lose Weight?

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