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Chilli Su B

BBC2’s Food Detectives - - investigated the claim last week that eating chilli can help you lose weight.

It wasn’t a proper trial, of course, but the research is there. Chilli peppers in your food – or more precisely, the capsaicin that they contain – cause you to burn more calories than the same meal without chillis.

As usual with herbs, though, it’s slow and steady that does the job. The calorie increase is modest; you couldn’t simply eat chilli with everything, without dieting and exercise as well.

And you can’t put too much chilli into one meal without it becoming too painful to eat – which, of course, would be one way of losing weight!

But chilli isn’t the only herb, or food, that can promote weight loss. Some foods, like cabbage and celery, take more energy to break down than they give you; again, a modest but helpful step in the right direction. Many herbs, notably nettles, ginseng and coffee, will speed up your metabolism temporarily, though in the case of ginseng and coffee, there may be a price to pay. Plenty of others have diuretic properties, so that it can appear that you have lost weight when you have simply – again, temporarily – lost some fluid.

These herbs appear routinely in weight loss pills and supplements, and they do give quick results. But it doesn’t last long

There’s a lot more potential in using herbs to help retrain your palate, so that you don’t crave sugar and carbohydrates so much. The key to this is the bitter-tasting herbs, like dandelion or vervain or wormwood. Taken regularly over time, they will change the way you relate to food, and some of the job of losing weight will happen without putting yourself on a diet.

It’s much more sustainable that way.

EDITOR: Sue has an excellent Herb Handbook which can be bought directly from her website or from Amazon.

Meet The Author...
Su Bristow
Who Am I?
I studied at the School of Herbal Medicine for four years, and qualified in 1989, becoming a member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists ( The road to herbal medicine led from my early interest in organic gardening and healthy eating, through the study of social and physical anthropology at Cambridge, where I specialised in medical anthropology. What fascinated me was how people deal with their health problems when they have only the natural resources around them, and their own ingenuity. I went on to learn massage and reflexology, and worked at a residential naturopathic clinic, where I learned about the use of diet and other natural ways of healing. After qualifying as a herbalist, I set up practice in mid-Devon. Since then I have continued to expand my expertise, with counselling skills, first aid, and knowledge of the Chinese and Ayurvedic systems of herbal medicine. Besides one-to-one consultation, I have also taught evening classes, students of the Westcountry Massage Association, and various private courses.
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