Celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito's latest book, The Negative Calorie Diet, is all about eating whole foods to fuel your metabolism. In this excerpt he talks spices — and the best ones to incorporate into your diet for maximum benefits.
Spices offer a variety of fat-burning and health-promoting benefits. Here are my favorite "negative calorie" condiments and spices:
1. Cayenne pepper
Regarded across various cultures as a medicinal food for at least 9,000 years, cayenne pepper can rev up metabolism and boost fat-burning by up to 25 percent. Just remember: A little goes a long way!
2. Black pepper
This kitchen staple has a thermogenic effect and has been shown to help alleviate sluggish digestion. I strongly encourage you to keep a pepper mill filled with peppercorns and grind your pepper fresh for each use.
This bright orange spice has been valued for its medicinal properties for centuries. It has been shown to reduce triglyceride levels, boost fat-burning, keep blood sugar levels steady, and fight inflammation in the body.
Whole-grain mustard (not honey mustard or any other sweetened mustards) adds flavor to many dishes and helps you feel full. Among condiments it has one of the highest metabolism-boosting effects.
Oh, the things you can do with horseradish. I love it in a Bloody Mary, paired with roast beef, and stirred into cocktail sauce. I love it even more now that I know it can help to increase my fat burn and boost my metabolism.
This sweet spice may delay the rate at which your stomach empties, meaning it can make you feel fuller for longer. It also lessens the production of insulin after you eat.
Insulin is the hormone that turns excess sugar into fat. Tamping down insulin production can mean less weight gain. Cinnamon is a natural way to sweeten your food, too, so you don’t have to rely on added sugar.
In research, ginger has been shown to enhance thermogenesis and reduce feelings of hunger. Fresh is best. I prefer young ginger, which is just-harvested and moist with a pink tinge and mellow flavor. Look for it in Chinese markets in the spring and early summer. At other times, any fresh ginger from the supermarket will do.
This common cooking ingredient is thermogenic, and thus helps speed up your metabolism. It can also cut blood pressure and does so by generating a substance called nitrous oxide, which can relax vessels, leading to decreased blood pressure in people with normal blood pressure and those with hypertension.
Garlic also helps normalize cholesterol; it acts like a natural detergent in the arteries by breaking up fat molecules.
This is a terrific detox spice. Cardamom, which can be bought ground or in pod form, has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine as a natural detoxifier, as a digestive aid, and even as an immunity booster. It tastes like a cross between citrus and pepper and is delicious in baked goods and Indian dishes.
Popular in Indian, Mexican, South American, and Middle Eastern cuisines, cumin is one of the spices you will find in any curry blend. It has long been used as a digestive aid and adds a delicious, mildly spicy flavor to many dishes.
Excerpted from my book The Negative Calorie Diet, available now.
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