Explore these six herbs and spices that can help you lose weight and boost your health, while also enhancing the flavor of your meals.
If you’ve ever gone on a diet or have tried to eat more healthfully, you’ve likely been told to eat pretty bland food – steamed or raw vegetables, baked chicken or turkey…the list goes on. The good news is that healthy eating for weight loss or weight management doesn’t have to be boring!
Herbs and spices are the easiest and healthiest ways to make your skinless, boneless chicken breast that much more exciting. And you’ll reap a lot of health benefits along the way.
Benefits of Herbs and Spices
“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, M.S., RDN. “Using them in place of salt can also boost your heart health and lower your risk of stroke.”
There is no magic-bullet herb or spice to help you drop 10 pounds (sigh), but some offer unique benefits, like slightly boosting your metabolism, helping ward off hunger or balancing your blood sugar levels. Let’s examine how this works and which spices and herbs for weight loss and health you may want to include in part of your weekly menu.
Best Spices and Herbs for Weight Loss & Overall Health
1. Cumin for Weight Loss and Health
You may see cumin as seeds or ground powder in the store and it’s often added to curry powders. It is commonly known for its weight-loss benefits, in addition to its positive impact on cholesterol, blood sugar control, stress management, and several health conditions.
Recent 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,” says Karen Ansel, M.S., RDN.
Another study found that overweight or obese women who consumed a little less than one teaspoon of cumin powder a day (or three grams) lost three pounds more than the non-cumin group over a three-month period. In addition, over the same three-month period, the cumin-eating group decreased their body fat percentage by about 14.6 percent — almost three times that of the non-cumin group (4.9 percent).
How to Use Cumin:
Stir a heaping teaspoon into hummus — its extra kick could keep you filling full longer. Or have fun trying it in these dishes!
2. Rosemary for Weight Loss and Health
Approved in Germany for digestive ailments, rosemary has been used for years as a spice for its medicinal benefits. More recently, rosemary is thought 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.
How to Use Rosemary:
You can buy rosemary oil or cook with it in innovative ways, like using it as a kabob skewer. Try threading stalks with fresh cantaloupe or watermelon wrapped with prosciutto and lightly grilling them. Or try one of these two delicious dishes with rosemary.
- Homemade Whole Wheat Focaccia Bread with Figs, Olives, and Rosemary
- Fish en Papillote with Vegetables, Fresh Herbs, and Lemon
3. Ginger for Weight Loss and Health
Ginger is commonly known for being the sidekick to sushi, but it can hold its own with all of its health benefits! It is packed with phenolic and terpene compounds, phytonutrients that can provide anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant benefits.
Used for decades to treat nausea and other digestive problems, ginger has also 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 believe ginger creates thermogenesis, an action that helps you burn more calories. However, research from human trials is needed to confirm these findings since the weight-loss benefits of ginger have only been observed in animal studies. Regardless as to what degree ginger may reduce body weight, it’s a healthful way to spice up your meal.
How to Use Ginger:
Try using a big pinch of ground ginger to sweeten your oatmeal instead of sugar or honey. You can also experiment with it in savory and sweet dishes, like the two below.
4. Turmeric for Weight Loss and Health
For 4,000 years, the plant turmeric has been used to treat a variety of conditions, including arthritis, digestive problems, infections and some cancers. It is thought that the chemicals in turmeric, called curcuminoids, may help decrease swelling (or inflammation), which could also have weight-loss benefits.
“Shown in some animal studies, the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects exhibited by curcumin, a yellow pigment derived from the spice turmeric, may reduce body weight and increase metabolism,” says McKenzie Hall, RD, adding that human trials are needed to verify this.
How to Use Turmeric:
Consuming turmeric/curcumin with a fat source and/or black pepper can help increase your body’s ability to absorb the mighty benefits of this spice.
Turmeric adds a warm, earthy aroma and flavor to poultry, seafood and vegetable dishes, including curries and chutneys. Here are several recipes you can try for a turmeric boost.
- Turmeric Chicken Noodle Soup
- Orange Quinoa Salad with Pomegranate and Tangy Turmeric Dressing
- Sweet Potato Turmeric Soup
5. Garlic for Weight Loss and Health
Known to have numerous health benefits, garlic can reduce blood pressure, fight inflammation, lower the risk of heart disease and possibly protect against osteoarthritis.
Garlic is commonly mentioned as one of the key herbs for weight loss because it may also help control body weight as well. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition showed that feeding mice garlic for seven weeks reduced their fat stores and body weights as well as lessoned the effects of the unhealthy diet on their blood and liver values.
How to Use Garlic:
To get the most benefits from garlic, crush fresh garlic and let it sit at room temperature for at least 10 minutes before cooking with it. This will allow the enzymes that have been trapped in the garlic to be released and help retain up to 70 percent of the beneficial compounds in the garlic compared to cooking with it immediately after crushing.
Have fun experimenting with garlic in your kitchen with these recipes.
- Garlic Roasted Tomato, Corn, and Spinach Flatbread
- Caramelized Cauliflower Fettuccine Pasta with Prunes, Garlic, and Herbs
- Garlic Soup with Bone Broth
6. Fenugreek for Weight Loss and Health
Fenugreek is a spice widely used in Indian cuisine as well as in North African and Middle Eastern dishes. It may stimulate insulin and slow the absorption of sugars in the stomach, which can lower blood sugar in people with diabetes. As a supplement, fenugreek seeds are used as a treatment for high cholesterol and diabetes.
“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 Karen Ansel, M.S., RDN.
How to Use Fenugreek:
Add a pinch to plain Greek yogurt or use it as a savory dip for freshly sliced cucumbers and red bell peppers.
Takeaways About Herbs & Spices
While these are some of the top 6 herbs for weight loss and health, other fantastic herbs and spices you can also add to the mix are cayenne pepper, black pepper, and green tea.
If possible, try to consume these delicious flavorings in their natural form. If you do decide to take them in a supplement form, make sure to do your research first. Be wary of any supplements promoting fat burning or promising any extreme results. And remember, if you’re unsure if it’s the right supplement for you, consult a Registered Dietitian!
Now which one of these herbs and spices are you going to cook with first? Comment below!