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Fat-Burning Spices & Herbs

There’s growing evidence that certain low carb spices and herbs tip the scale in your favor. Go ahead, break free and spice things up.

  • Top 8 spices that increase weight loss
  • Atkins list: 60 spices and herbs
  • Using spices on a low carb diet
  • Special section on Indian spices



Low carb spices are the new superstars for Atkins dieters who want to eat healthy without compromising taste. Some weight loss spices are already in your kitchen.

Low carb spices increase weight loss. If you’re starting low carb and stocking your kitchen or a full spice enthusiast, these top eight help burn more fat more rapidly than the rest.


Cayenne Pepper

Capsaicin is a natural compound that gives hot peppers their fiery heat. Eating capsaicin found in cayenne peppers leads to short increases in metabolism.

Peppers are rich in vitamins, work as effective appetite controllers, benefit heart health and smooth digestion.


Cayenne Burns Fat

Capsaicin has long been studied for its fat-burning abilities and thermogenic properties (the stimulating of the central nervous system to produce heat in the body, leading to an increase in calorie burning).

Nicholas Perricone, M.D., cites several of these studies in his wildly popular The Perricone Weight-Loss Diet and concludes that capsaicin acts as an appetite suppressant:

  • Studies by the Journal of Obesity also found that the spice increases fat oxidation, “ramps up energy expenditure, and stimulates activity by the sympathetic nervous system,” helping the body to shed excess weight.
  • A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition supplementing men and women with capsaicin resulted in increased breakdown of abdominal fat.
  • Although the capsaicin found in cayenne pepper increases the rate of thermogenesis, it also appears to promote a sense of fullness so you’ll consume fewer calories overall.
  • A recent study showed that capsaicin was more effective at increasing fat loss when eaten with green tea. It’s thought that the combination helps to promote satiety, so we eat fewer calories.


Not a fan of fiery cuisine?

Research has found that cayenne’s ability to reduce appetite is equally effective whether ingested as food or in capsule form.



Cinnamon is a low carb spice that fights carb cravings, reduces blood sugar and LDL cholesterol levels, and promotes healthier circulation.

Cinnamon also prevents the metabolic syndrome commonly seen in pre-diabetics and many overweight people.


Cinnamon and Glucose

Cinnamon changes how your body uses glucose. It encourages your body to produce insulin, making cells increase their metabolism.

Instead of storing excess glucose, your body burns it.

A 2003 study published in Diabetes Care showed as little as one teaspoon of cinnamon a day can boost the body’s weight loss ability by reducing blood sugar and promoting healthier processing of carbs.


Cinnamon and Blood Health

Cinnamon lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol an average of  7 to 27%, and total cholesterol by 12 to 26%.

Cinnamon promotes better blood circulation, helping you get fit faster.


Cinnamon and Carb Cravings

Cinnamon is a natural sweetener with its own brilliant nutty flavor. Known for fighting carb cravings, it works wonders for a sweet tooth, while keeping you at a safe distance from fatty sugars and desserts.

But before you pile it on by the spoonful, note that cinnamon has a chemical called coumarin, which can lead to liver damage if consumed in very large amounts.


Mustard Seed

Like the other hot ingredients on this list, spicy mustard helps boost metabolism and allows you to burn fat more quickly, thanks in part to its thermogenic properties.

Scientists at England’s Oxford Polytechnic Institute recently found that eating just one teaspoon of hot mustard can “boost metabolism 20 to 25% for several hours after eating, resulting in a burn of about 45 more calories after eating a 700-calorie meal.”

TIP: Substitute mayo with mustard. Why? Because for the same creamy texture, you will only get 1/10th of the calories.



Turmeric is frequently used in Indian cooking and is one of the many spices that gives curry its distinctive flavor.

The deep yellow-orange color is from a pigment named curcumin, a compound that helps control weight.


Turmeric Minimizes Fat

A study published in the Journal of Nutrition showed when curcumin supplements were given to mice on a high fat diet, they lost both fat and body weight, despite taking in the same amount of food.

Human research needs to confirm these results, but as a low carb spice, turmeric offers a variety of other health benefits.


Turmeric and Cholesterol

Curcumin also lowers levels of “bad” cholesterol in your body. Curcumin instructs your liver to produce mRNA, which flushes bad cholesterol (LDL) from your body, keeping your weight down.

Turmeric has lowered LDL in animals, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

The U.S. National Institute of Health backs this up, although it warns more extensive human studies are necessary.

Because it is a reasonably mild low carb spice, you can use it many dishes, mixing it into curry, meat and poultry, or sprinkling it on to salads, meats and vegetables.



Across Asia and Europe, garlic is a much-loved flavor-giver. I add garlic to almost everything.

Garlic is the new “salt and pepper” on my low carb food list. But garlic is also good for losing weight and blood sugar.

  • Allicin, present in garlic, is effective for fighting high cholesterol, high insulin and unhealthy blood sugar levels.
  • Garlic controls appetite- perfect for healthy weight loss.



Where there is garlic, ginger can’t be far behind. Ginger is known for its bad cholesterol-fighting properties and is even considered a mobility and metabolism booster.

Ginger is an effective diuretic, increasing urine elimination.

Garlic hinders cholesterol absorption and improves gastric mobility by pushing food and waste through the digestive system.

According to the Mayo Clinic, preliminary evidence suggests this versatile low carb spice also helps to increase metabolism.

Ginger fights bloating and promotes better waste removal from the body. It’s a great low carb spice to indulge in, especially for women who experience weight gain from bloating and water retention.



Black Pepper

Black pepper improves digestion, speeds up your metabolism and promotes nutrient absorption in tissues all over your body.

  • Pepper’s main ingredient, pipeline (gives pepper its pungent taste) boosts fat metabolism by as much as 8% for several hours after ingesting it.
  • If you want to pack the most punch, use freshly ground pepper. It has the most concentrated amounts of piperine.



Ginseng is more of a low carb herb than a low carb spice, but it shows potential for helping with weight control.

  • In a recent USC study,  mice were given ginseng extract for 12 days. They showed a decrease in body weight and lower blood glucose levels.
  • Ginseng has stimulant properties similar to caffeine that raise your metabolism, contributing to weight loss.

Although ginseng is generally considered safe, use it with caution if you have high blood pressure or heart disease.


Bowls of Indian weight loss spices for a low carb diet.

Health Benefits of Indian Spices

The term “Indian spices” encompasses all the herbs and spices grown and cultivated across the Indian subcontinent in South Asia, including ginger, cumin, coriander, red chili, black pepper and turmeric.

The Sun of London reports Indian spices are proven weight loss ingredients, according to a Dutch study.

The study found that low carb spices in Indian cooking speed up your metabolism, which makes you lose weight faster.

Indian low carb spices offer health benefits besides weight loss:

  • Protection against cancer and Alzheimer’s.
  • The high levels of potassium found in turmeric combat heart disease, heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure.
  • The plentiful nutrients in Indian spices keep your immune system strong and ease the flow of blood to your organs, muscles, cells and tissues.


Love Low Carb Indian?

Curious about low carb Indian food? Consult our guide to low carb Indian food, recipes and eating Indian on Atkins phases.

(Includes a free low carb eBook: Carbs in 100 Indian Foods.)


Carbs in Spices and Herbs

Low carb spices and herbs are merely ground up bits of plant or bark, right? So, how many carbs could you possibly get from a 1/4 teaspoon of dried up leaves…?

Net Carbs in 1 Teaspoon

  • Basil – 0.3 g
  • Cinnamon – 0.6 g
  • Dill – 0.4 g
  • Garlic Powder – 1.0 g
  • Nutmeg – 0.6 g
  • Oregano – 0.1 g
  • Paprika – 0.4 g
  • Pepper – 0.0 g
  • Rosemary – 0.2 g
  • Salt – 0.0 g
  • Thyme – 0.3 g


Low Carb Spice Advice

Generally, don’t bother to count herbs and spices in recipes unless you are really pouring them into your dish.

Until you are using a space-age professional scale, measurements for food items are an approximation.

If you start worrying about the 0.1 gram of carbs added by oregano, you are focusing on the tiny details and not the big picture.

TIP: Herbs and spices have an average life span of six months. Date them with a permanent marker and keep them in your fridge or freezer.


Basic low carb spices in bottles. Overhead view.

Using Low Carb Spices


Greek in origin, basil came to Europe from India. Its rich aroma is found in vegetable, fish and salad dishes.

Use fresh basil with olive oil, chopped tomatoes and mozzarella cheese for a fresh Italian salad.



Dill is an ancient herb used in preserving many types of foods. It’s perfect for fish, egg, and cheese dishes.


Garlic and Onion

Garlic and onion are healthy ingredients in almost every cuisine on the planet. Add to stock, butter or cream for a savory low carb sauce.



Ginger has been proven to help with upset stomachs. It enhances both vegetable and meat dishes.



The classic Italian herb adds an aromatic flavor to any dish. Great with veggies, cheese and salads.



Mustard is the perfect spread between layers of sliced deli meat and cheese roll-ups.

Use with olive oil as a zesty marinade for chicken and seafood, and sprinkle on salad greens to add a little heat.

Avoid sweet mustard which is higher in carbs.


Salt and Pepper

Go light on the salt and pepper. Try a course Kosher or flavored sea salt.

Invest in a pepper mill that grinds the peppercorns when you need them. Fill it with a four-color or five-color peppercorn blend, and see just how much more flavor it adds to your recipes!


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Fat-Burning Spices & Herbs

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Category: Food Lists