It may sound counter-intuitive but certain spices can actually help you to lose weight. Although we tend to prize spices for their delicious flavours, many of them are also powerful adaptogens, meaning that they can influence the body’s metabolism in a positive way. For years, many people tried to lose weight on the old-fashioned counting calorie model, but few succeeded in the long term. The lost weight crept back. This is because the body’s chemistry is much more subtle than merely putting fuel into a fuel tank. In fact one of the biggest drivers of the current obesity epidemic is inflammation which then leads to insulin resistance – as the body becomes less sensitive to its own insulin over time so the carbohydrates we eat then are more easily stored as fat. Certain spices can interrupt this process in a variety of ways. So if you are looking to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight it may be a good strategy to spice up your diet.
The king of spices, turmeric, is top of the list. It’s one of the most studied spices in the world and has a dazzling array of health-giving properties, from improving brain and heart function to helping with depression symptoms and pain-relief. Combined with black pepper, it also has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. That helps to reduce insulin resistance but that’s not all. Turmeric also helps to lessen leptin resistance. Leptin is the hormone that tells us that we’re full and so to stop eating. Many overweight people don’t get the signal to control their portion size because they have become resistant to leptin. So turmeric not only helps you control your blood sugar, it also helps you to curb your appetite.
Ginger, another Asian spice often used in curry, has anti-inflammatory properties, soothing and relaxing your intestinal tract. It also boosts metabolism and helps with fat burning. Cardamom has a wonderful spicy-sweet flavour and acts like ginger as a metabolic boost while cumin has long been known to Ayurvedic medicine as a promoter of good digestion and energy production. It also enhances memory and helps to reduce stress. A well-known spice, cinnamon, also has an impressive profile when it comes to reducing blood sugar levels (thus helping with insulin resistance) as well as lowering LDL or bad cholesterol (so lessening the risk of heart disease). Make sure that it’s genuine Ceylon cinnamon, not the cheaper version, often sold as cinnamon, which is in fact cassia. It should be avoided, as it doesn’t have the same health benefits. You can buy real cinnamon at either of the Penang Spice Garden’s shops in Penang.
So, strange as it may sound, many of the spice ingredients of a good curry can help you lose weight. Choose brown rice instead of white, and select a lean protein such as chicken or fish or else some delicious vegetables as the base of the curry. And you can learn the secrets of cooking the best Asian curries at the Tropical Spice Garden’s Cooking School.