It’s not a secret that eating certain foods instead of others is one of the key factors in play when one wants to lose weight. Natural foods like vegetables, fruits and legumes are well known for their healthy impact and for inducing a more balanced and nutritious diet.

On the other hand, some people may prefer to follow other paths in their journey towards weight loss. How many impromptu diets, eating fads and weight loss diet plans have we heard of and read about? Are they all effective? Are their results permanent? And most importantly, are they healthy?

Apart from flash-diets, breathless workouts at the gym, scrupulous vegetarian regiments and all the other ways and means people use to try and regularise their weight, one of the most important and healthier ones is surely the inclusion in one’s diet of a number of beneficial herbs and spices. We’ve all, for example, heard about the benefits of green tea, which is known to contain anti-oxidants and nutrients which have a powerful positive effect on the body.



Image credit: Kayleigh Karr


Another less known but very important natural plant and spice which can affect our metabolism is chilli in the form of chilli peppers and consequently chilli powder, which can be used to garnish different recipes. This is because capsaicin – the chemical that gives chillies and chilli-based spices such as cayenne and paprika their characteristic pungency – stimulates a natural process whereby some of the food we eat at each meal is converted immediately to heat. It’s no secret that eating hot foods such as curries and Mexican chillies makes us feel warm. Really hot versions can even make us sweat and go red in the face. This effect is called thermogenesis, which is the process of converting energy into heat in a living organism. Thermogenesis can be produced either through the process of shivering, whereby our body transforms chemical energy into heat, or else through the thyroid hormone and the nervous system. In this case, thermogenesis acts as a stimulant to raise energy expenditure and fat oxidation. Researchers from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology have in fact found that capsaicin can induce thermogenesis, thereby stimulating muscle activity, burning fat, and also increasing metabolism.



Image credit: Franco Morini


Another study carried out by Purdue University in the US and published in the medical journal Physiology and Behaviour maintains that spicing up one’s daily food intake with a sprinkling of red chilli peppers can diminish hunger pangs, in that after studying the diet of a group of people who were given chilli pepper regularly to eat with their meals for a number of days, it was found that ingesting 1g of chilli pepper daily reduced cravings for salty, sweet and fatty foods, and increased energy expenditure. This theory was also maintained by a group of Canadian researchers in a paper published in the British Journal of Nutrition, where they revealed that according to their studies, adding chilli powder to food tricks people into thinking that the meal contains more fat than it actually does, which is why after eating chilli peppers or chilli powder, people tend to feel less hungry and also to eat significantly less at subsequent meals.

All of these studies sound very interesting for someone who is always on the look out for healthy ways to improve their diet. However, before rushing over to the supermarket to buy a ton of chilli peppers, one must keep in mind, as Dr Wendy Doyle of the British Dietetic Association said, that “this research is very interesting, but for effective weight loss, one has to take a lot of other factors into consideration. There’s no point in eating a lot of chilli if you’re also eating a high-fat diet and not getting any exercise, because you still won’t lose weight.”




In conclusion, though it is true that there are various natural edibles which can aid us while we’re focusing on a more healthy and weight control regime, not one magical ingredient is enough to supplant all the other factors we must take into account. In other words, buck up, because you still need to do some exercise every day. And if you plan on eating take-out every evening, you won’t get any thinner for sure, no matter how much chilli you ingest.