10 Herbs and Spices That Can Help You Lose Weight

Incorporate these ten herbs and spices into your diet to help you naturally lose weight and improve your health.

Spices on a table
by
Kelsey Kunik, RDN
— Signos
RDN
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Updated by

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Science-based and reviewed

Published:
July 19, 2024
July 2, 2024
— Updated:

Table of Contents

You may already have an arsenal of spices in your pantry and maybe even a couple of fresh herbs on your windowsill to enhance the flavor of your meals, but did you know these flavor boosters could also support your weight loss journey? In addition to improving flavor without extra calories, salt, or additives, herbs, and spices offer a variety of health benefits and may even help you lose weight over time by helping you burn fat, increase your metabolic rate, lower your blood sugar, or act as an appetite suppressant. 

In this article, we'll explore the medicinal benefits of some of the most popular herbs and spices known for their weight loss properties. Whether you're a novice in the kitchen or a seasoned chef, you can use spices and herbs for weight loss and to enhance the flavor of your meals. 

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10 Herbs & Spices to Help You Lose Weight

Spoonfuls of spices

Herbs and spices make it easy and enjoyable to eat fresh, homemade dishes more often, which can help support your weight loss goals. Make it a habit to use these ten herbs and spices in your everyday cooking to support your health and natural weight loss. 

1. Turmeric

Turmeric is often called the "golden spice" for its deep yellow color and is known for its health-boosting properties thanks to its active compound, curcumin. This powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound can improve overall health by helping manage conditions like metabolic syndrome, arthritis, anxiety, and high cholesterol.1 High levels of oxidative stress in the body may contribute to weight gain and adverse health conditions by increasing sugar conversion into fat.2 Turmeric’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects help fight this process and support weight loss by promoting fat breakdown and reducing fat storage. 

Incorporating curcumin as turmeric into your diet is simple—add it to smoothies and curries or make a soothing golden milk drink. Pair it with black pepper to enhance curcumin absorption by up to 2,000 percent, and enjoy the natural, flavorful support for your weight loss journey.1

2. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is known for its sweet and warm flavors, often used in sweet foods, baked goods, or warm beverages. One key way cinnamon can help your weight loss journey is by supporting your blood glucose levels. As a spice that can lower your blood sugar levels, cinnamon can prevent the spikes and crashes that often lead to cravings and overeating. This steady energy release can help you maintain a balanced appetite and reduce the likelihood of reaching for unhealthy snacks. 

The best part is that the amount of cinnamon you need to make a big difference in your blood sugars is possible by adding it to your food. A 2019 study found that between 3 and 6 grams of cinnamon a day, just one to two teaspoons, significantly lowered pre and post-meal blood sugars in healthy adults.3 Additional research has found that at least one teaspoon of cinnamon daily is associated with significant BMI and body weight reductions, especially in people with PCOS, a condition associated with poor blood sugar regulation.4

Incorporating cinnamon into your diet is easy, and the options are truly endless. Sprinkle it on oatmeal, yogurt, or fruit, add it to smoothies, sprinkle it on sweet potatoes, or use it in baking and cooking for a sweet and healthful twist. By making cinnamon a regular part of your diet, you can enjoy its flavorful benefits while supporting your weight loss goals. 

3. Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper, a spice that packs a punch of heat, is a powerful tool for weight loss thanks to its active ingredient, capsaicin. Capsaicin has thermogenic properties, which can increase your body’s temperature and boost your metabolism.5 Increasing your metabolism may help you burn more calories throughout the day, even while resting. 

Capsaicin may also help reduce your appetite, making you eat fewer calories without intentional restriction. In one study, supplementing with capsaicin resulted in an average of 257 fewer calories eaten daily, resulting in weight loss.6 Additionally, this spicy pepper may promote fat oxidation, helping your body break down fat more efficiently.7

If you enjoy a kick of heat, incorporating cayenne pepper into your diet is simple. You can sprinkle it in soups, stews, and sauces to give them a spicy kick. You can also sprinkle it on roasted vegetables, eggs, or even popcorn for an extra flavor. If you’re a fan of smoothies, add just a pinch to your morning blend for a metabolism-boosting start to your day. 

4. Cumin

Cumin is a popular spice used in cuisines worldwide, including Indian, Mexican, and Mediterranean cooking, making it a common household spice to have on hand. Its active ingredient, thymoquinone, has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Several studies have found that cumin can support weight loss when paired with diet and exercise, resulting in more weight loss than just diet or exercise alone. This is likely due to the cumin’s ability to improve insulin sensitivity. It may also help reduce dietary cholesterol absorption, lower LDL-cholesterol levels, and improve heart health.8, 9

Using cumin in the kitchen is easy as it complements various cuisines. Sprinkle the seeds or ground cumin on roasted vegetables, meats, or fish to enhance their flavor or to add a warm, earthy flavor to soups, stews, and curries. Toast whole cumin seeds as a seasoning for salads, rice dishes, or even bread. 

5. Ginger

Ginger, known for its zesty and warming flavor, is a popular ingredient in many dishes and a powerful ally when it comes to achieving a healthy weight. Ginger has thermogenic properties that increase your body’s metabolism and help it burn body fat more efficiently. One study found that just two grams of ginger daily increased calorie burn by almost 100 calories compared with the placebo.10 Additionally, ginger has been shown to improve digestion, which is essential for efficient nutrient absorption and a healthy metabolism.11

Add a refreshing, spicy kick to smoothies, tea, and juices by adding a teaspoon or two of freshly grated ginger. You can also add it to stir-fries, soups, and marinades. Sprinkle ginger powder into baked goods or oatmeal and yogurt. You can also add freshly sliced ginger to hot water with honey and lemon for a warming tea. To always have ginger on hand, store a fresh root in the freezer and grate or slice as needed. 

6. Oregano

This fragrant herb is commonly used in Mediterranean and Italian cooking and offers various healthy benefits thanks to its potent antioxidant activity and active compound, carvacrol. Carvacrol influences lipid accumulation in the body and reduces inflammation, a key component of obesity.12 While many of the studies on the benefits of oregano on weight loss have been done with highly potent oils, including it in your diet adds plenty of flavor and may support your overall goals. 

Fresh or dried oregano can be added to various dishes, and it’s an easy-to-grow and common kitchen herb to keep in the window for an endless supply of fresh leaves. Sprinkle it on salads, soups, and roasted vegetables, or add it to pasta sauces, pizzas, and marinades for a burst of flavor. You can also make oregano tea by steeping fresh oregano leaves in hot water for a few minutes. 

7. Garlic

Pungent, aromatic, and added to many dishes, garlic supports weight loss in several ways. Allicin, the active compound in garlic, may help increase the hypothalamus’s sensitivity to leptin, an appetite-regulating hormone, helping you to feel fuller with less food while activating specific fat cells to burn more energy.13 Many studies have found that garlic may also be a spice with anti-diabetes effects, helping to lower blood glucose and decrease insulin resistance in animal and human trials.14, 15 

There’s no shortage of ways to add garlic to your diet. Fresh minced garlic can be added to stir-fries, soups, and sauces, mixed into potatoes, or spread on toasted bread. Garlic powder can be sprinkled on steamed or roasted vegetables, meats, or even air-popped popcorn for a fresh and healthful snack. 

8. Black Pepper

Even if you’re not an avid home cook, chances are you have a shaker of black pepper readily available. The active ingredient in this “king of spices” is piperine, known for its ability to boost metabolism and enhance the absorption of other powerful phytonutrients. Piperine supports visceral fat loss. This type of fat, also known as belly fat, is stored around your internal organs, increasing the risk of metabolic diseases.16, 17

Another way black pepper aids in weight loss is by enhancing the bioavailability of other nutrients and supplements like curcumin, beta-carotene, and CoQ10.18 This means that when you pair black pepper with other weight loss-promoting herbs and spices, you can maximize their benefits. 

Any savory dish you make at home or eat out could use a sprinkle of black pepper on top to enhance the flavor and add a burst of piperine to your diet. You can even add a pinch to sweet dishes or smoothies to balance the sweetness without an overwhelming peppery flavor. 

9. Cardamom

If you’ve ever enjoyed chai tea, you’ve experienced cardamom's warming and comforting flavor. Typically used in cuisines from India and the Middle East, cardamom is a diuretic and metabolism booster that can help you lose weight from excess fat and excess water.  In addition to discovering the diuretic properties of cardamom and its impact on lowering blood pressure, eating just one and a half teaspoons per day may increase antioxidant levels in the body by up to 90 percent.19 This same dose has been found to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce hemoglobin A1C and triglycerides when taken over time.20

In addition to drinking chai tea, you can add powdered cardamom to your morning coffee or tea for a soothing, warm beverage. It's also a great addition to smoothies, oatmeal, and yogurt. Use cardamom pods to infuse rice, stews, and curries, or crush a few cardamom pods and add them to a jug of water or herbal tea. 

10. Mint

With its refreshing and invigorating aroma and taste, Mint can support your weight management journey with its powerful effects on digestion. The Mentha genus includes 42 species of plants, including peppermint, lavender mint, spearmint, American wild mint, and more. No matter what mint you use, you can benefit from its powerful antioxidant and antibacterial properties.21 Specific compounds found in some specific mint varieties, like spearmint, may stimulate specific receptors in the body, increasing energy expenditure and thermogenesis while also decreasing the feeling of hunger.22

Add fresh mint leaves to hot water and let it steep for hot or iced tea or a delicious infused water beverage. 

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Also Read: </strong><a href=garlic-lower-blood-sugar>Is Garlic Good for Diabetes? Benefits + Side Effects</a>.</p>

How Do You Use Herbs Safely?

Spices table

Herbs and spices are wonderful additions to your diet, offering a wealth of flavors and potential health benefits. However, like any other food or supplement, they should be used safely to avoid potential side effects and interactions, especially if you have an underlying health condition or take medication. Understanding how to incorporate herbs and spices into your diet properly will help you maximize their benefits while minimizing risks.

When using new herbs and spices, start with a small amount and increase gradually. This allows your body to adjust and can help you identify adverse reactions. Even the best herbs for weight loss can cause undesired effects. For example, too much turmeric may cause an upset stomach, while cayenne pepper may lead to heartburn. 

It's also important to consider potential interactions with medications or pre-existing health conditions. High amounts of some herbs, like piperine or cinnamon, can interfere with prescription medications. Always consult with a healthcare professional, including your doctor, pharmacist, or registered dietitian nutritionist, before adding new herbs and spices to your diet, especially if you are taking medication or have health concerns. 

Learn More About How to Improve Blood Sugar Health With Signos’ Expert Advice

Understanding how your body reacts to specific food and exercise and managing your glucose levels with the right medications can help you achieve your goals for a healthy weight, improve your health, and better manage diabetes. Signos’ experts’ advice can help you do this easily and effectively, taking the guesswork out of managing your health and wellness. Learn more about glucose levels on Signos’ blog and take the free quiz to see if Signos is the right fit for you!

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Learn More: </strong><a href=healthy-dinner-ideas-for-weight-loss>9 Healthy & Delicious Dinner Ideas for Weight Loss</a>.</p>

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References

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About the author

Kelsey Kunik is a registered dietitian, health and wellness writer, and nutrition consultant

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Please note: The Signos team is committed to sharing insightful and actionable health articles that are backed by scientific research, supported by expert reviews, and vetted by experienced health editors. The Signos blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. Read more about our editorial process and content philosophy here.

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