Here’s another reason to spice up your diet. Adding chili peppers and turmeric to your meals a few times a week may help you lose weight and lower your risk of metabolic syndrome.
Or if you’re not a fan of fiery food, you can also get these healthy spices in supplement form.
The capsaicin in chili peppers and curcumin in turmeric are being shown in study after study to counter many of the factors that contribute to metabolic syndrome. I’m talking about belly fat, high blood pressure, elevated fasting blood sugar, high triglycerides, and low HDL (good) cholesterol.
I know I don’t have to tell you just how dangerous any one of these can be for your health. Metabolic syndrome can be a precursor for heart disease, diabetes, stroke, Alzheimer’s…and on and on.
Let’s take a look at the newest evidence showing how adding a little heat to your diet can freeze your risk of metabolic syndrome.
A chili a day keeps obesity away
There have been a variety of studies linking the capsaicin in chili peppers to weight loss. Now, researchers think they know how this spice works in our body to affect our fat stores.
At the February meeting of the Biophysical Society, researchers from the University of Wyoming presented a paper detailing their capsaicin studies in mice. And their discovery that the spice can actually stimulate the body to burn fat.
It does this by activating receptors in the body’s brown fat. We actually have two kinds of fat—brown and white. White fat cells store energy that we use for our daily activities, and brown fat cells burn that stored energy through a process called thermogenesis.
So basically, the researchers think capsaicin may actually be able to make white fat act like brown fat—meaning that instead of storing excess fat, your body will burn it instead.
Pretty impressive, yes? The pepper with a kick can also kick start weight loss.
To get this benefit, sprinkle cayenne pepper on your food generously and regularly. And incorporate whole peppers into your cooking. I’ve seen some people dry their own cayenne peppers and then pulverize them into a powder to add to soups and stews, or just drink down with water! If you’re going to supplement, take 500 mg to 1,000 mg of capsaicin per day.
Curcumin delivers a gut punch to heart disease and diabetes
Curcumin is the main spice in curry, one of my favorite foods. Not only is this yellow spice incredibly tasty, but thousands of studies have demonstrated curcumin’s health benefits for everything from depression to cancer. It’s got such a powerful disease-fighting punch that it’s one of my desert-island supplements.
Curcumin has strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it a key nutrient to help stave off diabetes. According to a recent review of 14 human and animal studies, the spice helps fight diabetes in several ways: lowering blood sugar, stimulating blood sugar uptake in the cells, stimulating the pancreas to produce insulin, improving how the pancreatic cells function, and reducing insulin resistance.2
Curcumin also helps protect against metabolic syndrome factors like elevated cholesterol and triglycerides, which we all know are risk factors for heart disease (especially triglycerides).
In a March Reality Health Check article, I wrote about a new study showing that curcumin supplements helped lower people’s LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise their HDL (good) cholesterol. And it reduced triglycerides by a whopping 65 percent. (Check out “The simple spice edging out some of Big Pharma’s top sellers” at drpescatore.com for more info.)
Curcumin is not very bioavailable in supplements, so in the past I’ve felt it’s better that you get this nutrient from curry and other foods with turmeric. But I recently discovered a curcumin Phytosome® extract called Meriva® where the curcumin is essentially paired with a fat. It’s absorbed so well in the body that I now regularly recommend this form of curcumin.
To help reduce your risk of metabolic syndrome and the resulting serious health complications, I recommend up to 500 mg a day. And make sure to keep a bottle of turmeric on your spice shelf. You can toss this versatile spice with roasted vegetables, add it to scrambled eggs, or mix it into chicken soup.
2“Anti-hyperglycemic and insulin sensitizer effects of turmeric and its principle constituent curcumin.” Int J Endocrinol Metab. 2014 Oct 1;12(4):e18081.