BBC2’s Food Detectives - http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07bk7fy - 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.