It’s a bummer, but a fact of life that no matter how hard we work to eat right and hit the gym, our bodies sometimes just don’t burn calories at the rate we’d like them to. There are many factors that affect metabolism and chief among them are gender, age and activity level, according to registered dietician and nutritionist Emily Hein of Zen and Spice Nutrition.

“Some people are born with a speedy metabolism,” Hein says. “Men burn more calories than women, even while they’re just resting, and our metabolisms slow down after the age of forty. However, there are ways to improve your metabolism.”

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And one of the best ways you could be boosting metabolism is by spicing up your food with red or green chili pepper, says New York-based dietician Jessica Cording.

“Although there aren’t any foods or spices that can magically guarantee a boost in metabolism, there is research suggesting there are some that may help, such as red and green chili pepper,” Cording says.

The secret to the metabolism-boosting properties of spicy food is a chemical called capsaicin, which gives a pepper its heat. Studies have shown that eating a chili pepper-infused dish, such as a lean protein topped with spicy peppers, can provide a temporary metabolism boost of up to 8 percent.

The reason spicy foods help us to burn more calories, according to dietary research, is the same reason that a plate of hot food makes us sweat. As our bodies work to process the chemicals that make the foods so spicy, they kick into overdrive to cool us off, which burns more calories than if we’d eaten milder foods.

And another study showed that people who ate a meal topped with hot sauce were more likely to feel full faster and consumed 200 fewer calories that test subjects who ate mild food.

The effects of capsaicin for long-term weight loss aren’t really known, but some studies show that ingesting capsaicin an hour before low intensity exercise helped obese patients lose more weight than patients who didn’t ingest capsaicin.

Another spice to try for weight loss is cinnamon. In one test of males with healthy glucose tolerance levels, subjects who took five grams of cinnamon 12 hours before an oral glucose test showed more glucose, insulin, and gastric emptying rates than the test subjects who had ingested a placebo.

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What does that mean? It means that subjects who ate cinnamon weren’t as prone to the hunger spikes and mood changes associated with rising and falling blood sugar levels as those who hadn’t eaten cinnamon, leaving them with more stable energy levels and therefore less susceptible to suspect food choices.

However, when it comes to metabolism, it’s important to remember there are no easy fixes or miracle drugs. The best way to keep your body burning calories at a steady rate, according to Cording, is to watch your diet.

“Having balanced, smaller meals and snacks evenly spaced throughout the day instead of two or three large meals helps keep your metabolism revved up,” Cording says. “In general, an adequate diet that meets your basic needs will help prevent deficiencies, which can slow metabolism.”

But hey, since you’re snacking, there’s nothing wrong with adding a dash of cayenne to spice up your fruit or adding a tablespoon of cinnamon to pump up your oatmeal for an added metabolism boost.

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