We're always looking for that extra nudge in boosting our metabolism, which can increase our energy and aid in weight loss and weight stabilization. Some foods and ingredients, such as salsas, chili peppers and other hot and spicy flavors, are often touted as being able to boost metabolism. In many cases, it may be true.
Metabolism is defined by the U.S. National Institutes of Health as "the physical and chemical processes in the body that create and use energy." This includes bodily functions such as digestion, respiration, circulation and brain, nerve and muscle function. Metabolism also influences weight loss. A faster metabolism contributes more to weight loss than a slow metabolism.
Capsaicin is what gives chili and cayenne peppers their sweat-inducing, mouth-blistering heat. We've all experienced it---the hotter the salsa, the more you sweat, which can increase your heart rate and blood flow. But not all salsas are created equal in heat, so check the ingredients; some mild salsas contain negligible amounts of peppers. Capsaicin is also available as a dietary supplement.
While capsaicin is often linked to an increased metabolic rate, specific information varies by study. In 2008, a study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry indicated that "the consumption of [capsaicin] is linked with increased metabolic rate and core body temperature." Prevention Magazine reports that about 30 milligrams of capsaicin, or one tablespoon of chopped red or green chili pepper, has been shown to temporarily boost metabolism by 23 percent. Be Well @ Stanford claims that there could be as much as a "50 percent increase in metabolism for three hours after eating capsaicin." Other reports indicate that an increase may be as negligible as less than 10 percent.
A number of factors--the person's existing health, the amount of capsaicin consumed--may influence individual results. As ThaIndiannews.com points out regarding the 2008 study, "These studies required relatively high amounts of capsaicin (probably more than someone could eat)."
Other benefits of capsaicin (if you can take the heat) is that it can enhance food flavor, which helps you feel full and thus reduce your caloric intake. Chili peppers and flakes are easily added to many dishes. Substituting spices for salt or fat can also assist in overall weight loss and better health.
Salsa (the dance)
Don't forget that regular exercise, both cardiovascular and weight-based, is beneficial in keeping one's metabolism and weight at healthy and sustainable levels.