Baby, it is cold outside, and to be honest, it feels pretty chilly indoors as well—a thick winter sweater notwithstanding. While the modern-day risk of frostbite is incredibly low and there are indeed some benefits to cold temperature exposure (hello, faster metabolism!), it’s not always comfortable—especially on those days when you feel like you just can’t get warm! Sure, you could cozy up to a fire, hit the sauna, add yet another layer of clothing, or cuddle up with a loved one or favorite furry pet; but how about warming up from the inside-out with metabolism boosting spices?
That’s right: certain spices can help “turn up the heat”, boost metabolism (some spices have been suggested to increase calorie burning by up to 20% for hours after eating), and even better, make your food more flavorful all at the same time. And because they are so flavorful, you can also cut back on unnecessary additives, including sugar, oils, and salt. But wait, there’s more. Packed with antioxidant phytochemicals, these metabolism boosting spices may also help support healthy levels of inflammation, reduce oxidative stress, and provide other surprising health benefits.
Here’s a rundown of just a few of the metabolism boosting spices that are perfect for helping warm you up on a cold winter day.
Top 5 Metabolism Boosting Spices
- Chili Peppers
The component of chili peppers that makes them spicy—capsaicin—not only gives your food a noticeable surge of heat, it’s also been shown to be a metabolism boosting spice that can increase body temperature and calorie burning. What’s more, research suggests capsaicin can help burn fat as fuel rather than being stored as fat. By doing so, chili peppers may even support the health of blood vessels. And if you find you feel better after eating chilis, there’s a reason for that too. They appear to help release endorphins in the brain.
It’s easy to incorporate chilis into your foods—as long as you like (or at least, don’t mind) a little heat. Just sprinkle fresh or ground chilis into chili, stew, eggs, or any dish that needs some colorful flavor. Just remember to take it slowly and start with small amounts—you can always add more. A little can go a long way, and depending on the type of pepper, things can get hot quickly.
Not only can cinnamon help warm you on a cold day, it is considered another metabolism boosting spice. Well-known for its beneficial effects on digestion, cinnamon has been shown to support healthy blood sugar levels and boost insulin sensitivity. Due to its rich supply of polyphenols, phenolic acid, and flavonoids, cinnamon is considered to have powerful antioxidant properties. And some research suggests it helps reduce exercise-induced muscle soreness by supporting a healthy inflammatory response.
With a hint of sweetness, cinnamon can be added to many foods (and even drinks), while providing just 19 calories per tablespoon yet 4 grams of fiber and no sugar. As with most spices, a little goes a long way in terms of both flavor and benefits. Yet cinnamon goes well in just about anything, from protein shakes to oatmeal to coffee and tea. And when mixed with a bit of chili pepper, it can add surprisingly delicious depth to soups, stews, chili, and chocolate.
While cumin is most well-known for spicing up Indian dishes, it is also found in Asian, African, Latin, and American cuisines. Made from the seeds of the Cuminum cyminum plant, this aromatic spice provides a surprising abundance of nutrients, including vitamins A, C, E, B6, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, minerals like calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium, and more.
Cumin is not just flavorful, it may also help folks lose weight, improve digestion, decrease stomach discomfort, relieve gas, support the immune system, and help regulate blood sugar levels. Consuming as little as one teaspoon of cumin a day, as reported in one study, helped women lose more body fat and weight than those following a similar diet who didn’t use this metabolism boosting spice.
Like the other spices discussed, cumin imparts a warm, spicy flavor that’s delicious in meats, soups, stews, and chili. It can be added to many hearty recipes and is quite versatile. Interestingly, cumin is also purported to help prevent food-borne illnesses.
Most people are familiar with the unique taste of ginger—usually in the form of ginger snaps, gingerbread cookies, and holiday houses. Yet this delicious, warming, metabolism boosting spice is full of nutrients and has a long history of uses as a complementary medicine.
For instance, if you’ve ever experienced motion sickness or digestive discomfort of any kind, you may have been told to use ginger, which been shown to be particularly effective at helping reduce nausea with as little as 1 to 1.5 grams. It also supports digestion.
Ginger is yet another spice that offers antioxidant properties and promotes healthy levels of inflammation, which may be why studies have shown it may help reduce muscle soreness after exercise as well as to help relieve joint discomfort. Like cinnamon, ginger also appears to help support healthy blood sugar levels.
Whether you choose fresh or ground ginger, it can be used in a wide variety of recipes, including gingerbread (of course), stews, Asian dishes, meat and fish preparations, smoothies, stir-fry recipes, salads, and more. Thanks to its deliciousness and versatility, it’s easy to get more of this metabolism boosting spice into your nutrition plan.
We can’t talk about spices without talking about turmeric, which is related to ginger. Turmeric is a common spice, and it’s the main ingredient in curry powders. It’s not just the most popular spice in Indian dishes; it has also been deemed one of the “most powerful herbs for helping improve health.”
Used historically in the Ayurveda system of holistic medicine, turmeric has been used more than 4,000 years to promote health and wellness! This amazingly popular yellow spice is a key source of curcumin, which appears to be the powerhouse behind turmeric’s beneficial effects. That being said, it’s unlikely that a single component is responsible for all the benefits that turmeric has to offer, especially considering that it contains a variety of other compounds with antioxidant properties. Turmeric’s most widely touted benefits are unquestionably its antioxidant properties and capacity to promote a healthy inflammatory response.
Turmeric has also been shown to have fat-fighting properties and help balance blood sugar. In addition, it may help reduce digestive and stomach discomfort. Don’t just save turmeric for your coconut curry. This popular metabolism boosting spice adds a new dimension to numerous other foods and can even be added to protein shakes as well as more savory dishes, including roasted vegetables, stews, and sprinkled on fish. It can also be consumed as an herbal tea.
More Metabolism Boosting Spices?
If the above spices don’t offer quite enough variety for you, you can also try black pepper, cardamom, garlic, and even horseradish—which all have unique benefits of their own. The key take-away is to be generous with these metabolism boosting spices to take advantage of their rich flavors and potential health benefits, including turning up the heat and your calorie burning power. Now, are you as hungry as I am?