Sniff Your Way Slim: 3 Scents That Could Help You Lose Weight

Article posted in: Lifestyle
fresh mint

There’s a powerful weapon in your weight loss arsenal right in front of you: Your nose.

Just as smell is a key component of tasting food’s flavors, the stuff you sniff can have a huge effect on how full you feel. Science shows that stuffing your nose with the right aromas can give you satiation feelings that are just as powerful as those you get from putting the right foods in your mouth. So get your nostrils primed to help you slim down, and sniff this trio of science-backed, hunger-busting scents:

1. Olive oil
In a study from the German Research Center for Food Chemistry, subjects were given yogurt that had been doctored with olive oil, butter, lard or canola oil as a supplement to their normal diet. Those eating the olive oil-infused yogurt experienced the greatest feelings of fullness, which confused the scientists: Olive oil and canola oil have the same satiety-producing fatty acids, so they weren’t sure why olive oil would do more for satiety.

They discovered that it’s the smell: Certain chemicals in the aroma of olive oil help control blood sugar after you eat, meaning you don’t feel hungry as quickly. In a secondary study, the scientists compared subjects eating yogurt enhanced with just the smell of olive oil compared to those eating plain yogurt. Even without the oil’s fats, those eating the aroma-enhanced yogurt consumed fewer calories throughout the day than the plain yogurt folks, and had more serotonin—a chemical associated with satiety—in their blood.

Try using just a teaspoon of olive oil with some salt, pepper and lemon juice to dress a salad instead of glopping on a creamy, fatty dressing. You’ll not only save calories, but might feel fuller the rest of the day thanks to the aroma of the olive oil.

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2. Mint
There’s a scientist at Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia who tests the effects of smelling mint on lots of different bodily effects: This research has shown that the smell of peppermint can help increase motivation and cognitive stamina, and also stem your appetite. In one mint-sniffing study, participants who smelled peppermint every two hours ate 1,800 fewer calories over five days than when they weren’t smelling the mint.

If you don’t want to keep a jar of dried mint leaves on your desk, you can mimic this effect while getting your daily hydration: Add a few chopped mint leaves—or a drop of peppermint oil—to a big bottle of water and sip some every few hours. You’ll get the appetite-suppressing benefits of mint plus hydration benefits that can keep your body at its highest levels of calorie burn—meaning you could lose even more.

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3. Any foods with a smell that sticks with you
Scientists have begun to study a concept called “retro-nasal aroma.” In English, it’s the idea that after you eat a food, its smell stays in your nose for a certain period of time—like how you might still smell grapefruit or orange after you’re done eating it. Scientists have found that the longer the smell sticks with you, the better for your weight loss efforts. In one study, desserts supplemented with more retro-nasal aroma (pumped into the nose artificially) caused subjects to take smaller bites of dessert. And in another study, scientists found that the more of this stick-with-you smell, the more satisfied you’ll feel with a meal.

But retro-nasal aroma differs depending on who you are: Different foods leave behind different amounts of smell for different people, so there isn’t a magic bullet food that can give you this stay-full smell effect. So pay attention! As you’re eating in the next few days and weeks, try to notice when the smell of a food that you love sticks with you after you eat it. That food can be your personal secret weapon—and until you find it, paying attention to the smells and tastes of your food can help you feel more satisfied. In multiple studies, paying attention to such factors in a process called “mindful eating” helped dieters feel more satisfied—even when eating less food—when compared to eating while distracted.