Spices and seasonings

Can Spices and Seasonings Make You Gain Weight? (What Science Says)

Spices and seasonings have been part of the human culinary culture with their use in food dating back to many centuries.

Their widespread application both in the industrial sector and domestic setting has made them come under tight scrutiny from curious nutritionists and food lovers.

In summary, spices and seasonings alone will not make you add weight since their composition and the way we consume them makes it impossible to ingest surplus calories from them.

There is however a twist to this.

The possibility of gaining weight from consuming spicy junk food where these spices and seasonings have been used cannot be overlooked.

Since spices make food attractive, aromatic, and tasty, we can conclude that spices alone will not add to your calorie numbers, but spicy junk food will definitely make you add weight.

There is also another exceptions to this, where the spices and seasonings used contribute to a larger portion of the food, or where the spices are high in fats and carbs.

What are Spices and Seasonings?

Spices, herbs, and seasonings are usually classified as condiments in the food world.

Condiments are food components that are added to the main dish as supplements to enhance the flavor of the main dish.

The difference between spices and seasonings is usually a matter of an acceptable regional culinary nomenclature.

In essence, both terms have been used interchangeably to mean the same thing, although a slight difference exists between them.

Spices and seasonings
  • Spices are aromatic food flavoring components usually obtained from dried seeds, barks, fruits, or roots of a plant. Examples include cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, pepper, nutmeg, paprika, turmeric, and coriander seeds.
  • Herbs on the other hand are obtained from either fresh or dried leaves of aromatic shrubs such as mints, rosemary, parsley, basil, chives, and coriander leaves.
  • Seasonings are what we get when we combine spices, herbs, and other flavor enhancing condiments such as salt and sugar. Examples include chili sauce, vinegar, ketchup, brown source, and shrimp paste.

From these definitions, I will be using these terms interchangeably since there is no much of a difference.

Do Herbs and Seasonings Have Calories?

With reference to the definition of calories in my previous article here, it is true that herbs and seasonings contain calories, though mostly in very small quantities that can pass as zero calories.

As you can see in this calorie database here, most herbs and spices have less than 10 kcal calories, which as discussed earlier in my article linked above, can be rounded down to zero.

This question is thus important here since calories are directly linked with weight gain and weight loss.

The more calories you consume; the more weight you gain if your body isn’t burning them at the same rate of ingestion.

So, are there calories in spices and seasonings?

If we consider how an average foodie consumes spices and seasonings, we can say that the amount of calories consumed in spices alone is almost negligible.

This is due to the serving size consumed relative to the amount of spices and seasonings in the food.

To get an idea of how negligible the calories in spices and seasonings are, I would recommend you try this simple calorie intake calculator.

You can see that an average adult needs more than 2000 kcal calorie intake per day to gain weight.

With most spices and seasonings at 10 kcal average calories, you can breathe easy and have your spices in peace.

However, the consumption should be done in moderation because as we said earlier, there are spices that defy these metrics.

You can still check them out first in the calorie database resource I provided above and see how much you can safely consume in a day.

Calories in Common Spices and Herbs

Since most spices and herbs are primarily used as condiments, their intake in a day is usually very small compared to other main dishes.

This means that most of them pass as zero-calorie foods.

See this compilation of some common spices and their calories per serving.

Spice/SeasoningCalories
Basil0 kcal
Black Pepper5 kcal
Parsnip128 kcal
Cardamon16 kcal
Sesame seeds825 kcal
Chicory roots43 kcal
Poppy Seeds42 kcal
Chilli23 kcal
Chives1 kcal
Cider Vinegar3 kcal
Cinnamon17 kcal
Cloves16 kcal
Coriander Seeds1 kcal
Cumin23 kcal
Curry powder20 kcal
Dandelion25 kcal
Dill0 kcal
Fennel73 kcal
Garlic4 kcal
Ginger2 kcal
Iodized salt0 kcal
whole Onion34 kc
Mint1 kcal
Nutmeg11 kcal
Paprika6 kcal
Persley1 kcal
Oregano3 kcal
Rosemary1 kcal
Safron6 kcal
Cayenne Pepper3 kcal
Turmeric7 kcal
Vanilla extract37 kcal
Minced onion64 kcal
Taro116 kcal
Licorice68 kcal
Caraway Seeds20 kcal
Almond Extract37 kcal
Fenugreek36 kcal
Poultry Seasoning12 kcal

I can see how the sesame seed value has shocked you.

Well, 825 kcal is still not a lot considering the daily calorie requirements for weight gain.

But it means you have to really moderate it if you want to benefit from its very important nutritional benefits that I highlighted in this article on seed cycling.

As highlighted in the table above, it is clear that most spices can actually be consumed without being worried about weight gain.

Let us see the outliers in this category of foods.

Common Spices That Can Make You Gain Weight

As noted earlier, there is a correlation between weight gain and calories that you should always remember in your weight loss journey.

You gain weight if your calorie intake is higher than the calories you burn.

Burning calories depends on factors such as age, sex, health status, and level of activity of an individual.

Again, an average person will need to take in more than 2000 calories and burn less the number to gain weight.

Considering our table above, some spices taken with other main foods can contribute a lot of calories in a diet.

If you maintain a routine of consuming these high-calorie spices and seasonings, you will definitely add weight faster than you thought.

These are the top 10 common spices with high calories that can contribute to weight gain:

  1. Sesame seeds – 825 kcal
  2. Parsnip – 128 kcal
  3. Taro – 116 kcal
  4. Fennel – 73 kcal
  5. Licorice – 68 kcal
  6. Minced onion – 64 kcal
  7. Chicory roots – 43 kcal
  8. Poppy seeds – 42 kcal
  9. Vanilla extract – 37 kcal
  10. Almond extract – 37 kcal

You better track these spices if they form part of your regular diet.

This is because studies have shown that you can gain weight through eating spicy foods with high calories.

The other low-calorie spices can be considered as spices with no calories since their proportion in a serving is almost negligible.

Can Spices Help You Lose Weight?

Spices are known to be good in helping the body burn fat faster and reduce food cravings, which subsequently, help in weight loss.

There are spices and seasonings that promote weight loss by helping you shade off those carbs.

This has more to do with their functionality in the human body than with the amount of calories they contain.

Some examples of weight loss spices include:

  1. Cayenne pepper and Turmeric which increases body temperature thus boosting metabolism. This accelerates the rate of burning fat in the body.
  2. Cinnamon is known to reduce appetite and activate enzymes that break down carbs.
  3. Garlic helps the body cells to burn fats.
  4. Ginger a natural medicinal spice with thermogenic properties that help burn body fat and also increase metabolism.
  5. Cardamom also helps to boost metabolism.
  6. Dandelions help in intake of vitamins and minerals that neutralize excess sodium in the body thus contributing to weight loss.
  7. Black pepper contains piperine compounds that help the body to metabolize fats and oils.
  8. Cumin seeds are also very important in helping the body burn fats faster.
  9. Fenugreek reduces appetite which is an important factor in weight loss

Seasonings and Sodium Intake

Since salt is a common ingredient in seasonings, there are concerns that taking spicy food will lead to excessive sodium intake that will eventually lead to weight gain.

Although limited specific studies exist on this subject, it is important to know some little facts about sodium ions in the body.

Without going into complex details of ion exchange, I will put it in a simplified way for the purpose of understanding their role in weight gain.

Recent Studies have shown that eating foods with high levels of sodium causes thirst which eventually increases cravings for junk foods such as soda.

The acceptable amount of sodium intake for an adult in a day is between 1500 to 2000mg.

If you eat foods with lots of salt, it is possible that you are exceeding this limit.

This does not only cause dietary problems but may also lead to health complications related to high blood pressure.

So, as I have always advised here, moderation is very important in food nutrition.

Read Also: Is it Necessary to wash Meat Before Cooking? What Science Says

Health Benefits of Spices

If you follow a moderate diet plan with spices, you can be sure to reap some benefits from those herbs and seasonings.

This is because spices have been known to possess medicinal properties that have benefited humans for a long time.

Some of these benefits include:

  1. Having anti-inflammatory properties that reduce chronic body inflammation and swelling due to their high levels of antioxidants.
  2. They help to boost body immunity which is important in fighting infections.
  3. Some spices and herbs help to improve the brains functionality and reduce memory loss.
  4. Spices such as pepper, cinnamon, turmeric help to boost metabolism.
  5. Spices can help reduce diabetes in the body by lowering sugar levels.
  6. Reduction of nausea especially in expectant women.
  7. Some spices such as cayenne pepper have properties that inhibit growth of carcinogenic cells that may be cancerous.

Final Word

Spices make our food tasty and desirable.

As noted in this article, spices alone cannot have enough calories to make an average person gain weight.

However, they can contribute indirectly to weight gain if not well monitored.

You need to ensure you keep your body active so that you can burn those calories faster than you ingest them for a healthy life.

If you are fond of eating spicy food, it is important to do it in moderation for you to enjoy its full benefits.

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