Did you know that seasoning can be the main course when it comes to weight loss? You might have heard about the fat-burning properties of cayenne or turmeric, but there's an unsung hero when it comes to spices that scorch fat: black pepper. Yep, the unassuming stuff sitting unnoticed on a table near you.
Black pepper contains a compound called piperine, which has been used in Eastern medicine for centuries to treat ailments such as inflammation and upset stomachs. Researchers have found that piperine's anti-inflammatory properties could even extend to preventing new fat cells from forming.
What the Research Says About Piperine
A 2012 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry investigated why piperine seemed to reduce the number of fat cells in the bloodstream. The researchers found that it actually switches off the genes responsible for fat formation!
And animal research printed in Biochemical and Biophysical Research found that mice fed a high-fat diet that was supplemented with piperine lost belly fat and overall weight without having to eat less.
It's due to two processes: Adipogenesis, which causes a decrease in waist size, body fat and cholesterol levels; and thermogenesis, which switches on fat-regulating receptors in the body, raises basal body temperature and revs your metabolism.
Other Health Benefits of Black Pepper
By itself, black pepper has a host of other benefits: Despite its irritating rep, it actually helps digestion, stimulating the stomach to produce hydrochloric acid, which helps break down food. As yes, you learned that time you snorted from a shaker as a toddler, pepper makes you sneeze—that's because it's a natural decongestant. The next time your nose or chest is congested, stir a teaspoon of black pepper in a cup of tea along with honey.
Pair Black Pepper With These Foods for Added Benefits
For an extra kick, combine black pepper with cayenne. Cayenne contains a powerful fat-burning compound of its own called capsaicin. A 2010 study by the University of Oklahoma Health and Exercise Science Department found that consuming black pepper, cayenne, and caffeine in combination had the potential to burn as many calories as a 20-minute walk!
Researchers think capsaicin has the ability to turn on brown fat, the "good" fat which helps the body burn the bad stuff. A study by Canadian researchers found that men who ate spicy appetizers consumed 200 fewer calories at later meals than those that did not. And you don't have to go crazy with the hot sauce. Researchers at Purdue University found that just 1 gram of red pepper (about 1/2 a teaspoon) was enough to reduce appetite and burn more calories after a meal. Scientists think capsaicin stimulates weight loss at a molecular level by altering key proteins found in fat. So combine black pepper with habañeros, red cayenne chiles or poblanos for an extra kick-start to your metabolism.
And adding black pepper to turmeric can boost that activity of that spice's fat-burning compound, curcumin, by up to 2000%! A 2009 study by the USDA found that mice who ate diets supplemented with turmeric gained less body fat and overall weight even when their food wasn't changed. One of curcumin's biggest benefits is as an anti-inflammatory: It's more difficult for your body to lose weight when it's fighting off chronic, low-level inflammation, which is believed to be responsible for most diseases and conditions in the body, including heart disease and arthritis.
A study published in the journal Oncogene found that curcumin is one of the most effective anti-inflammatory options available; it also reduces cholesterol and improves heart health. So use that combination of wonder spices to reap the biggest benefits you can.