Spice it up- Herbs and Spices Support Weight Loss
Fresh or dried herbs and spices might be one of the most magical gifts from Mother Nature to help us in our wellness and weight loss journeys. They help to control cravings, support weight loss, boost metabolism and reduce inflammation.
If you have wellness or weight loss on your New Year’s resolution list, or if you want to boost your already incredible wellness HealthStyle, then herbs and spices are for you! Once you are hooked on the benefits (and you will be), then the fun begins with the incredible versatility of how to add them into your everyday diet and lifestyle. The herbs don’t need to be fresh to get the benefits, so living in the cold country in winter is no excuse (and for those of you in the warmer regions, we are jealous of your fresh herb supply)! Herbs and spices can be added to just about anything we eat and drink. Yes, you can add herbs to your beverages too! For those of you that are participating in Sober January, this is a great opportunity to get creative with those Mocktails and herbs and spices. The foods running through our head right now that are dying to be enhanced with herbs...scrambled eggs and veggies, soups, winter salads, crockpot dishes, pastas, tacos, olive oil and fresh bread….wow, we’re hungry.
So let’s talk benefits and how to use these herbs. But first did you know the difference between spices and herbs? Herbs and Spices come from different parts of the plant. An herb is the green, leafy part of the plant. A spice can come from the root, stem, seed, fruit, flower or bark of the tree or plant. ... Cilantro is the aromatic leaf of the plant, Coriandrum sativum, while coriander is the seed that comes from that same plant. Simple, now eat, drink and be well.
Bee Pollen: Contains phenylalanine, a natural appetite suppressant. This is great sprinkled on salads, smoothie bowls, nut-butter toast or soups.
Chickweed: This herb has a great folk reputation for shedding weight. You can eat it raw, in salads. Alternately, you can steam it and eat it like a vegetable. For a great weight loss salad, mix chickweed, dandelion, evening primrose, stinging nettle (cooked and cooled), plantain and purslane. Add this to your regular salad.
Cilantro: Helps support healthy liver function, and helps to balance blood sugar. Mexican dishes await you! Try this fresh on all your tacos and fajitas.
Cinnamon: Naturally warming and sweet, it will help to reduce sugar cravings. Numerous studies have shown that the potent polyphenols in cinnamon help to reduce sugar cravings by controlling blood glucose levels. What doesn’t taste good with a sprinkle of cinnamon!?
Cloves: This warming and sweet spice boasts numerous health benefits in addition to reducing sugar cravings, including stomach soothing and blood sugar regulating properties. Try ground cloves for a dish or beverage you normally would add cinnamon to. Think Mocktails or Hot Chocolate, spicy and warm!
Fennel: Removes mucus and fat from the intestinal tract, and is a natural appetite suppressant and will increase energy. This slightly licorice tasting herb is great raw, in salads, or added to egg dishes, soups and chicken.
Fenugreek: The seeds of this herb have a taste similar to maple syrup or burnt sugar. Great for Middle Eastern dishes; you can add ground seeds to spice blends, tea blends, or curry powder. You can also add a pinch to plain yogurt or over sautéed greens like kale.
Nettles: Is high in nutrition, rich in vitamins C and E and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, silica, and potassium, which are important for healing broken bones, muscle strains, and tendon injuries. Nettle tea is used to curb appetite and cravings and assist in weight loss.
Psyllium or Flax Seed: Studies show that the granules of these seeds consumed with water before a meal helps control the appetite. Just be sure to drink it about 30 minutes before.
Turmeric (Curcumin Compounds): Substances found in turmeric, called curcuminoids, help block carbohydrate absorption. Clinical data shows curcumin has a potent effect of blocking alpha-glucosidase. Alpha-glucosidase is an enzyme in your small intestine that converts starches and table sugar to monosaccharides like glucose, the simplest form of sugar. Blocking this enzyme delays sugar absorption and helps keep blood sugar stable, thereby warding off sugar cravings. This intense yellow herb is the rage right now, try it in a “Golden Latte” or use it traditionally in middle eastern dishes.
While regular exercising and eating a balanced diet may go a long way in boosting your metabolic rate, fresh and dried herbs and spices are a great natural source for helping to boost your metabolism. (Metabolism is nothing but the rate at which the calories consumed are broken into energy and used by the body)
Ashwagandha: This ancient Ayurvedic herb is excellent for boosting stamina, metabolism and tackling insomnia. Ashwagandha helps in balancing hormones and can even heal thyroid issues helping you lose weight. The powder can be mixed with milk and consumed twice a day. (3). It is also great added to smoothies.
Cinnamon: Not only will it curb your sugar craving, but It speeds up your metabolism by better utilization of carbohydrates and prevents the body from storing fat. (1)
Cayenne Pepper: Capsaicin, the compound that gives peppers their heat, may help fight obesity by decreasing calorie intake, shrinking fat tissue, and lowering blood fat levels, as well as fight fat buildup by triggering beneficial protein changes in your body (2). Start your day with 12 oz warm water, ½ lemon, juiced, and ⅛ tsp cayenne; you’ll cleanse your body, hydrate it and get your metabolism kicked into gear.
Ginseng: Is valued for its ability to boost energy levels and speed metabolism. Enjoy in hot tea, smoothies or oatmeal.
Turmeric (Curcumin Compounds):. Curcumin present in turmeric helps in burning fat effectively and boosting your metabolism. Just another reason to try that Golden Latte. Or if you’re bold, mix 1 tbsp turmeric powder, ⅛ tsp black pepper (this will help your body increase absorption and bioavailability of the curcumin compounds) with one ounce your favorite juice and “shoot it”. This is not for the faint hearted, so just do it quick.
Reduce Inflammation throughout the body
Hopefully one of the benefits of improving wellness and losing weight is an overall reduction in inflammation throughout the body. This might be the silent killer that we can’t see and don’t pay attention to. Inflammation is a result of eating the Standard American Diet, being sedentary and having an overall unhealthy lifestyle.
Inflammation is part of the body's immune response. It can be beneficial when, for example, your knee sustains a blow and tissues need care and protection. However, sometimes inflammation can persist longer than necessary, causing more harm than benefit. In essence, inflammation is the body's attempt at self-protection to remove harmful stimuli and begin the healing process. Research has shown that eating foods such as processed foods or fried foods that contain sugars, trans and saturated fats, Omega 6 and processed grains can contribute to the inflammation in our bodies.
The good news is we can help reduce the inflammation in our bodies and improve our wellness with the choices we make, starting with adding the right herbs and spices into our foods.
Basil: Basil is a common aromatic herb in the mint family, and is a nutrient-dense, beneficial herb. Basil, of course, is used to add flavor to a variety of recipes, but what may surprise you is the many benefits of basil that make it well-known for its immunity-enhancing and anti inflammatory properties. So, Italian for dinner anyone?
Black Pepper: This unassuming spice actually packs an anti-inflammatory punch. The distinctive flavor of black pepper comes from the chemical piperine. Even at low doses, piperine has been shown to reduce inflammation.
Chili Pepper Flakes: The chemical capsaicin is what makes a pepper hot. And it’s capsaicin that’s been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect in your body. Any type of chili pepper, such as cayenne or jalapeno, contains capsaicin. You can use chili peppers fresh or powdered in a wide variety of dishes, including desserts.
Cinnamon: Yes this has anti-inflammatory properties as well. Studies have shown that the spice has anti-inflammatory properties, which can ease swelling. Might want to make a sprinkle of cinnamon a daily ritual!
Green Tea: Recent studies have shown green tea can reduce inflammation of the digestive tract, potentially helping conditions like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
Ginger: Research has shown that ginger has a better therapeutic effect than non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to treat pain and inflammation. Ginger also inhibits the activation of several genes involved in an inflammatory response. Ginger is delicious in many savory dishes, as well as in teas, juices and desserts. Try it fresh or ground, both are amazing.
Rosemary: In one study, participants were given small amounts of various common herbs and spices for a period of 7 days. Rosemary showed one of the strongest protective effects against inflammation and oxidation. Rosemary is so amazing fresh and minced on just about any protein when grilling. Add a bit of olive oil and fresh lemon juice. Also a fresh sprig of rosemary is a great garnish for Mocktails.
Turmeric: Yes, now you see why it is the magic herb. The anti-inflammatory agent in turmeric is its yellow pigment called curcumin. Ayurvedic and Chinese medicines have long used turmeric and curcumin to reduce inflammation as well as treat digestive disorders, wounds and infections. Fresh or powdered turmeric is excellent in curries, soups or other dishes. Fresh turmeric can be added to fresh vegetable juices and smoothies. Supplements of curcumin are also available. (4)
So with all this goodness about herbs and spices helping to support your wellness goals, what is your next healthy meal or beverage and what herbs and spices are you highlighting?
To wrap up the goodness of using herbs and spices….let’s look at the benefits of the most popular herbs/spices that we haven’t mentioned yet.
Oregano: Boosts immunity, aids in digestion, is antibacterial, improves heart health, detoxifies the body, aids in bone health and increases energy.
Sage: Boosts cognition, treats inflammation, prevents Alzheimer's, is an antioxidant, strengthens immunity, aids digestion, helps to manage diabetes, improves bone health and is great for healthy skin.
Mint: Aids digestion, helps with nausea, treats asthma, prevents respiratory disorders, helps in weight loss and improves sterility.
Thyme: Is antifungal and an antioxidant, protects the heart, helps improve circulation and boosts immunity.
Garlic: Helps prevent heart disease, reduces the risk of cancer, helps to control high blood pressure, helps kill the germs that cause colds and flus, helps protect against Alzheimer’s and dementia and helps control diabetes.