Why chilli peppers are a secret weight loss superfood needed in every healthy diet

The capsaicin in chilli peppers helps increase our metabolism and improves weight loss, says new science

Chilli peppers
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Some foods contain lots of micronutrients and naturally-occuring chemicals that are really good for us. Spinach, for example, contains loads of iron and has anti-inflammatory properties, while blueberries contain a ton of antioxidants, which can help fight against the process that causes cancer. Chilli peppers are one such food.

A new study has found that capsaicin, a major active compound found in chilli peppers, can help aid you in your weight loss effort. Capsaicin is already used in the treatment of pain inflammation and rheumatoid arthritis (which is why it's sometimes used as a component in the best supplements for joints) but the researchers from Peking Union Medical College Hospital suggests capsaicin can also fight against obesity.

The study's authors found "the consumption of foods containing capsaicin was associated with a lower prevalence of obesity". To test the theory, they used capsaicin capsules on participants and monitored its effects, finding "treatment of overweight or obese subjects with 6 mg/day capsinoid for 12 weeks was associated with abdominal fat loss". Total body weight dropped by an average of 0.9kgs.

Prawns in chilli pepper soup

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The research showed capsaicin achieved this by increasing body temperature and oxygen consumption. You know when you've eaten something with hot chillies in, and you begin to sweat? That's partly the desired effect, increasing the amount of oxygen you consume and raising your body temperature to burn fat.

Simply put, it revs up your metabolism. This means foods with lots of hot chillis are a great fat burner – as long as the meal is prepared in a healthy way.

Of course, you can't just rely on curries and chilli con carne to lose weight. You have to take into account portion control, to ensure you don't eat away the benefits of all that capsaicin. Our portion size guide should get you on the right track to ensure you're managing your diet well.

Bonus points if you're using a food journal: one study found recording what you ate in a food journal for 15 minutes a day actually doubled its participants' weight loss progress. The act of recording your diet forces you to think carefully and critically about what you eat rather than snacking mindlessly, leading to a much more carefully constructed diet plan.

Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and is currently Fitness and Wellbeing Editor at TechRadar, covering all things exercise and nutrition on Fit&Well's tech-focused sister site. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.