Weight loss boosters
If there was a simple, cheap and effective food or supplement that was studied and proven to assist in weight loss, surely doctors would know about it right? What about the public? Anyone? In this section, I'll review what the scientific studies show in terms of foods that could help in weight management. Let's be clear, eating a new spice won't take three inches off your waist in 1 month, and 10 pounds of fat won't magically melt away in days, but in these studies, foods were compared to placebos, and did show statistically significant weight loss. Weight management is only a small part of a larger picture of health, and small ingredients add up. That extra block you walked, the apple you ate instead of a doughnut, that extra glass of water you drank, they all add up. Regularly adding foods that have been proven to assist in weight management is just another piece of the puzzle, and another ingredient in living life with a healthier body weight.
Let's review the scientifically proven foods that promote a healthy body weight and optimal health in general.
Berberine, which is thought to be the active ingredient in barberries, has been found to promote weight loss in a randomized controlled trial. Barberries taste sour and are mostly found in middle-eastern groceries. If you stumble upon them, or can find them in a specialty grocery store close to you, sneak them into smoothies, oatmeal, or wherever you see fit.
Vinegar - Acetic acid
Acetic acid sounds too aggressive, so let's call it by its real name, vinegar. Yup, all types of vinegar seem to increase AMPK activation, which is an enzyme that helps switch off fat storing and turn on fat burning. Studies have shown that amounts as small as 1-2 tablespoons per day have led to significant weight loss when compared to placebo. Studies on apple cider vinegar have shown not only weight loss, but improved blood sugar control. This seems to work with all types of vinegar. An important message to remember is that vinegar is highly acidic, and can lead to side effects. It can burn your skin, your throat or even your stomach if you drink it straight. Always dilute it with water if you're gonna drink it, or drizzle over food. Higher doses have been tested, but amounts in the order of a couple tablespoons a day are recommended, and you can spread these out evenly throughout your day. Proven weight management, for pennies a day. In our home, we use apple cider vinegar. We add it to salads, stir-frys, or sneak a tablespoon or two in most recipes.
Seeds like whole chia and flax have been proven to suppress appetite significantly, but not their oils or extracts. The flax seeds should be milled or ground, since we can not digest them whole. They contain fiber and omegas and feed our gut bacteria with prebiotic fiber. Our gut flora then produce appetite suppressing SCFA (short chain fatty acids) that make their way to our brains and decrease our need to feed. For more info on the amazing benefits of seeds, check out the article Super Seeds in my blog.
Some spices have potent properties comparable to medication, and can easily fit in a capsule to be pitted against identical looking placebos in reliable studies. Cumin, the most popular spice after black pepper, has been found to cause significant weight loss, drop in cholesterol levels and improved blood sugar control in diabetics. Saffron, the most expensive spice in the world, has been proven to assist in the treatment of depression and has led to statistically significant weight loss. Black cumin, unrelated to the already-mentioned cumin, has been extensively studied, and shown at a dose of a quarter teaspoon a day, to improve cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, blood sugar control as well as menopausal symptoms. That same minuscule dose found to have all these metabolic benefits has also been shown to significantly decrease body weight compared to placebo.
Other spices like cinnamon (Ceylon variety, not the Cassia variety) and ginger have also been found to help with weight loss in specific over weight populations.
Green Leafy Vegetables
These nutrient power houses contain fiber, calcium, thylakoids and many other appetite suppressing compounds. High fiber content adds bulk without calories and also feeds the good gut bacteria. They in turn produce appetite suppressing SCFA (short chain fatty acids). Greens also contain higher amounts of calcium and that has also been found to have beneficial effects on body weight.
Tea and Coffee
Certain teas, like hibiscus tea, are believed to have fat blocking compounds that can contribute to weight loss. The same has been found with green tea (but not with green tea extracts), and with white and oolong teas. Adding cow's milk to tea seems to blunt the beneficial effects seen in the studies. Caffeine from drinking coffee has also been shown to increase metabolic rate and can help in achieving a healthy body weight when used responsibly.
Special compounds in hot peppers, but mostly capsaicin, have also been found to increase BAT (brown adipose tissue, see the For Nerds section on fat) metabolism. Cayenne pepper is one of those that has been studied. Although a plant and not a pepper, the menthol in mint leaves has been found to increase basal metabolic rate and may help with weight loss or management.
The Take Home Message
The important thing to remember is that by regularly including all of these plants and foods in your diet, they can add up over time and increase the likelihood of having a healthy body weight. None of these foods are silver bullets when taken alone, but combining them with other plant foods and a healthy lifestyle will surely help in increasing longevity and quality of life.