Hundreds of weight-loss supplements claim to have remarkable benefits. We take a look at the more reputable ones.
Once you decide on an eating and exercise plan, there are extra measures you can take to boost your weigh-loss efforts. Herbs and supplements can help turn fat into muscle, reduce appetite and boost energy and endurance levels. Many herbs boost your metabolism and resting thermogenesis (resting metabolism).
Medical herbalist Dominique Finney says the best time to lose weight is when you are resting. “The most effective weight-loss programs incorporate herbal medicines with exercise. The aim is to keep your energy boosted all day and night, even when you are sleeping. “Herbal medicines can also assist with detoxification of the liver, digestive tract and bloodstream. We all carry from three to 10 kilograms of excess putrid matter in our digestive tract and the herbs help eliminate this.” We look at the most common supplements.
Black walnut is famous for its cleansing properties. It helps add motion to the large intestine and eliminates build-ups in the bowel. Herbalists classify it as an astringent because it is rich in tannin, which helps to tone the body.
Guggul has been used in ayurvedic medicine for centuries to treat a variety of conditions. It is known for increasing the thyroid gland’s actions to boost metabolism and it is stimulant-free. Studies have shown it reduces cholesterol and can help reduce body fat levels.
Hydroxycitric acid (HCA) is used in Indian and Thai food as a condiment. It acts as an appetite suppressant and stops carbohydrates being turned to fat in the liver. Animal studies show HCA could reduce fat production from 40 to 70 per cent for up to 12 hours after eating.
Carbohydrate blockers contain white kidney bean extract, which interferes with alpha-amylase, an enzyme in the body which breaks down carbohydrates. The carbohydrates are excreted before they enter the bloodstream. Finney advocates eating a good mix of carbohydrates and protein, rather than using carbohydrate blockers. “You will lose weight quickly, but the weight loss is unsustainable.”
Body builders have been using amino acids for years to sculpt and tone their bodies. Amino acids are particularly helpful for those who are doing a lot of exercise as they are the building blocks for protein, and are needed to build and repair muscle.
The list doesn’t end there. Eating a green food daily such as spirulina, barley or alfalfa will help reduce your appetite. If your thyroid is slow in regulating your metabolism, you could try a kelp supplement. Supplements help speed up weight loss, but diet is crucial. Finney says the key is still burning more kilojoules than you put into your mouth.
Chromium and magnesium
Magnesium has been found to raise the resting metabolism of obese people. Chromium picolinate not only works as an appetite suppressant, it helps curb cravings. Naturopath Aimee Robbins says increased chromium levels help muscle cells and the liver store more glucose, boost energy levels and reduce body fat. “High glucose storage in the liver also reduces hunger pains and the desire for food.”
This herb cleanses the liver and kidneys, while removing excess fluids. It’s good for those on a low-carb diet, where it’s important to keep the organs of elimination flushed. A study on mice saw them lose 30 per cent of their body weight when fed dandelion over a 30-day period.
Brindleberry has been used in Thai and Indian cuisine for years and is probably the best herb to suppress your appetite between meals. “It should be used with chromium to assist increased muscle and liver uptake of glucose,” Robbins says.
Guarana is one of the richest sources of caffeine – it has three times as much as coffee – which is why it suppresses the appetite. Because of its stimulating effect it helps burn fat, is a tonic and diuretic and boosts energy.
Drink yourself slim
Tea boosts the metabolism, flushes out toxins and curbs hunger pangs. The caffeine increases body function to help burn kilojoules and the polyphenols aid fat digestion. The weight-loss benefits of green tea are well known, but oolong, brindleberry, dandelion, St Mary’s thistle, globe artichoke and guarana teas also help shed kilos.
Spice up your food
Forget flavouring your food with salt. Try adding some herbs and spices. Research shows most herbs are rich in antioxidants, which support weight loss. Try allspice, basil, cloves, coriander, dill, fennel leaves, mint, nutmeg, parsley, rosemary or sage. Cinnamon is another winner that enhances insulin activity.