For those looking to lose excess weight, adding hot chili peppers to your diet can help support your goals. Over the last several decades, research into the effects of capsaicin for weight loss indicates it can help boost metabolism and aid in weight loss. Let's dive into how capsaicin works and tips for incorporating it into your nutrition plan.
Capsaicin is the organic compound that makes chili peppers spicy hot. Contrary to popular belief, the seeds don't have the highest concentrations of heat — it is the membrane that connects the seeds to the chili that contains the highest levels of capsaicin. In addition to supporting weight loss and metabolism, the University of Michigan Health System states capsaicin may also help improve digestion, fight unwanted bacteria in the gut and fight free radicals.
The same discomfort that capsaicin can cause in the mouth may help relieve pain when applied topically. Capsaicin-based topicals may even be prescribed for certain skin and other health conditions.
Capsaicin applied topically has not been shown to support fat burning — so if you're looking to help boost your metabolism and facilitate weight loss, you'll have to eat some heat. The heat you feel on your tongue when eating a hot pepper triggers a reaction in your cells. This powerful process is linked to diet-induced thermogenesis. This supports using capsaicin for weight loss, as it heightens metabolic functions that generate energy expenditure.
While consuming hot chili peppers is typically safe, you may experience temporary discomfort depending on the level of heat. If you don't have a tolerance for hot spicy foods, there are dietary supplements derived from cayenne that can help you get the capsaicin, without potentially burning your mouth.
If you have a sluggish metabolism or tend to overeat, any additional energy from foods not needed by the body for immediate use can be stored as body fat. When you want to lose weight, activating brown adipose tissue (BAT) is another way that increases your potential to burn fat. BAT activates when you get cold by producing heat to help you maintain your core body temperature. But additionally, according to the Mayo Clinic, BAT appears to use stored body fat as fuel. Using capsaicin for weight loss triggers a metabolic reaction that activates BAT and encourages the conversion of fat to fuel, potentially resulting in weight loss. But metabolic changes aren't the only reason to add capsaicin to your routine. A randomized controlled trial from researchers in the Netherlands shows that capsaicin can help increase satiety, fullness and tends to help prevent overeating.
Hot peppers are rated on the Scoville Heat Scale. From sweet bell peppers with trace amounts of capsaicin to the Carolina Reaper and Trinidad Scorpion peppers (that are so hot they repel elephants). There are many varieties you can add to boost diet-induced thermogenesis. Here are six you could try:
Note: When handling chili peppers, don't touch your eyes, nose or mouth until you've washed your hands with soap or vinegar. If you are daring and choose to use habaneros, ghost peppers or the Carolina Reaper, it is wise to wear disposable gloves!
If you don't love hot and spicy foods that make your tongue tingle and burn, you may prefer using a capsaicin-rich dietary supplement. Using capsaicin for weight loss, whether eating capsaicin-rich chilies or taking a high-quality supplement, can help boost metabolism, reduce appetite and burn fat.