From jalapeños to habaneros, spicy peppers may be the missing ingredient in your weight-loss plan. Not only do they fire up your body’s calorie-burning centers, but they also keep you feeling full longer, concludes a new study review published in the journal Nutrition Today.
Hot peppers have been linked to weight loss in rats, and plenty of researchers have tried to test these findings on humans. A team from the Netherlands analyzed 12 of these spicy studies and turned up the following eye-watering details: After eating moderate or high doses of hot peppers—roughly half or more of a medium-size jalapeño pepper—energy expenditure and fat metabolism both shot up among the study participants.
Other experiments linked even very small portions of hot peppers to increased levels of fullness and a drop in hunger. In fact, one of those studies found people who ate just a bites’ worth of a jalapeño (mixed into a full glass of tomato juice) consumed 16% fewer calories throughout the day. They also reported feeling 12% fuller even though they were consuming less food.
The study authors attribute all these benefits to capsaicin, the pungent ingredient that gives hot peppers their fiery kick. When you eat a spicy pepper, capsaicin binds to one type of taste receptor on your tongue, which then triggers the release of neurotransmitters in your brain that control hunger and feelings of fullness.
The review study concludes 2.25 to 30 grams of capsaicin—or roughly .1 ounces to an ounce of the spicy stuff—is enough to ignite these health benefits. You’d get that much from even a quarter of a jalapeño (or less of spicier peppers like serranos).
If you can’t stand the heat, the study suggests that cooking the peppers or mixing them into smoothies or omelets can turn down the pepper’s temperature without sucking out its waist-slimming benefits.
By Markham Heid
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