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One of the hottest topics in weight loss research is "bioactive foods," those every day foods and condiments that may help people who eat them lose weight faster. Recent research has focused on the weight loss benefits of the condiment mustard.

Bioactive Foods to Accelerate Weight Loss

The most obvious benefit of mustard, especially when it is compared to the competing condiment, mayonnaise, is that it is low in calories. A spread of mustard on a slice of bread adds just 3 to 10 calories to a sandwich, while a luxurious dabbing of mayonnaise on an American-style sandwich can set you back 200. The fewer calories you consume, the more weight you can lose. But mustard offers a additional benefit.

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The isothiocyanate chemicals in mustard that give the condiment its mustard-y taste are aromatic and bitter. The moment the mustard touches your tongue, your brain sends a signal to your stomach to make more acid. The evolutionary explanation for this phenomenon is that poisonous foods in nature are usually bitter (not that mustard is in any way poisonous), so if the stomach breaks the down quickly, then they are less likely to poison the rest of the body. Any bitter food, but especially mustard, will cause the stomach to make more acid that digests your meal more thoroughly and more quickly.

When food is thoroughly digested, there are fewer allergy-causing compounds that can cause inflammation and water weight gain. The meal spends less time in your colon, so fewer fats are absorbed. On the other hand, proteins are more completely digested and more protein reaches your bloodstream to be circulated to your inner organs and muscles. Foods flavored with mustard don't have negative calories, but they are much less likely to pack on fat and much more likely to help you lose weight.

Green Tea for Weight Loss

green_tea_mugs.jpgNo herb is more often recommended for weight loss than green tea. It's inexpensive, it's safe, and it's familiar. Store shelves in North America are literally lined with green tea products promoted for losing weight. But does green tea really work?

The answer is that green tea can help you lose weight if you get the right formulation and you use it in the right way. Green tea with a small amount of caffeine helps you lose weight, while green tea without the caffeine only helps you keep weight off. If you drink more than the equivalent of about two cups of coffee or five caffeinated diet sodas a day, then the caffeine from other beverages will cancel out the weight loss effects of the combination of caffeine and green tea. Green tea phytosomes are more completely absorbed than other formulations of green tea, but you can simply take more of the other, less expensive product and get the same effect.

Some green tea products can help users lose as much as 20-22 pounds (10 kilos) more on weight loss diet than dieting without taking an herbal supplements at all. The makers of MonCam coated green tea tablets sponsored a clinical trial that found that the average user of their product lost 31 pounds (14 kilos) in 90 days on a low-calorie diet, while dieters eating the same number of calories who did not take a green tea product lost an average of just 11 pounds (5 kilos).

Use of the product reduced LDL ("bad") cholesterol, increased HDL ("good") cholesterol, and also stimulated the production of growth hormone by over 300%. Growth hormone ensures that reducing calories results in burning fat while protecting muscle. It's important to understand, however, that this product does not increase production of growth hormone unless users also follow a reduced-calorie diet.
 

Other Products for Weight Loss That Work, and that Don't

cinnamon_sticks.jpgWhile green tea is unquestionably the most common weight loss product, there is a dizzying array of weight loss ingredients that may or may not actually help you lose weight.

  • Cayenne pepper added to your food triggers tearing and salivation. When your mouth is moister, you taste more of the flavors in your food and you may be satisfied with less.
  • Chromium helps women lose weight when it is combined with the B vitamin nicotinate, but the commonly sold chromium picolinate may actually encourage weight gain.
  • Cinnamon may help some prediabetics lose weight if they follow a high-carb diet. Taking cinnamon does not allow you to eat high-calorie, sugar-saturated desserts with impunity, however.
  • Any kind of fat blocker, whether herbal or pharmaceutical, works by inducing a reaction that will also cause bloating, diarrhea, and gas. If you just avoid fats in the first place, you don't need the fat blocker, and you won't have the unpleasant side effects that may cause you to give up dieting altogether.
  • Hydroxycitric acid (HCA) is very helpful when your weight loss strategy is just to reduce portion size while continuing to eat the same foods, but it won't help you lose weight if you are on a high-protein, low-carb diet such as South Beach or any of the Atkins diet plans.
  • Laxative herbs, such as senna, aloe, and rhubarb root (not the vegetable), can help you lose weight but they cannot help you lose fat. Excessive use of these herbs can deplete your body of potassium, and even cause you to become chronically constipated. The weight you lose by taking laxatives always quickly comes back, as soon as your next meal. And if senna and rhurbarb root are not properly aged, they can be purgative, which is an effect most people would prefer to avoid.
  • The African herb dikanut (Irvingia gabonensis) is very helpful for type 2 diabetics trying to lose weight. It also helps with blood sugar control, blood pressure control, and high cholesterol.
And what about exercise as a method for losing weight? You will probably look better, but you won't weigh less. In fact, most people who start exercise programs gain a small amount of weight, mostly in the form of muscle mass. Herbs and spices can help your diets work better, but weight loss almost always requires eating less.

  • Astrup A, Kristensen M, Gregersen NT, Belza A, Lorenzen JK, Due A, Larsen TM. Can bioactive foods affect obesity? Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2010 Mar,1190:25-41
  • Photo courtesy of Tijmen on SXC: www.sxc.hu/photo/360016
  • Photo courtesy of Bobrus on SXC: www.sxc.hu/photo/781426