9 Foods and Herbs That May Help With Weight Loss

9 Foods and Herbs That May Help You Shed Pounds

foods for weight loss
Melina Hammer/Moment/Getty Images

Obesity affects more than one-third of adults in the United States, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A major health threat, obesity is known to increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and several types of cancer. 

Certain foods and herbs are touted as a natural solution to taming appetite and reducing food intake. Although more research is needed before they can be recommended for any health condition, many of them can be delicious additions to any diet.  

If you're looking to shed pounds, it's important to combine a healthy, balanced diet with regular exercise. Some studies show that managing your stress levels and improving your sleep quality can also help you slim down. Click through to see the foods and herbs!

Chili Peppers

Cayenne is an ingredient in chili. Phillip Jones/E+/Getty Images

If you're looking to lose weight, spicing up your meals with chili peppers might help. In a recent study from the journal Physiology & Behavior, researchers found that eating cayenne peppers may ease appetite and promote calorie-burning—especially among those who don't usually eat spicy foods. 

The study involved 25 people, none of whom were overweight. Of the study participants, 13 regularly ate spicy food and 12 did not. After consuming dried, ground cayenne pepper, study members showed an increase in their calorie-burning rate. In addition, those who weren't accustomed to spicy foods experienced a decrease in hunger for fatty, salty, and sweet foods.

In another study, scientists fed lab rats high-fat diets with or without capsaicin. Results revealed that the capsaicin-treated rats lost eight percent of their body weight over the course of the study. What's more, capsaicin appeared to trigger changes in the treatment group's levels of at least 20 proteins involved in breaking down fats.

More: Capsaicin for Weight Loss

Past studies have shown that capsaicin (the substance that gives chili peppers their spicy kick) may curb hunger and rev up metabolism. Preliminary research also suggests that capsaicin may enhance health by reducing levels of blood fats (harmful substances known to contribute to heart disease).


Saffron is an ingredient in soup, paella, and sauces. Philippe Desnerck/Photolibrary/Getty Images

An extract sourced from the saffron plant (crocus sativus) is gaining popularity as a natural weight-loss aid. Long used in herbal medicine, saffron extract is thought to help promote weight loss by reducing dieters' intake of calories.

While research on saffron extract and weight loss is fairly limited, there's some evidence that it might be beneficial for people who are trying to lose weight. In a 2010 study of 60 healthy but overweight women, for instance, researchers found that participants given saffron supplements ended up losing more weight and snacking less often than those given a placebo. The study's authors suggest that saffron extract may help increase feelings of fullness after eating, as well as boost mood. 

More: Saffron Extract for Weight Loss

Several other natural remedies may help curb cravings and aid in weight loss. For example, research shows that adding cayenne pepper to meals may help suppress appetite, as well as speed up the body's calorie-burning rate.


Galangal is an ingredient in Thai green papaya salad. Austin Bush/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images

Here's one more way that getting rid of excess fat might help boost your health: in a recent study from the journal Chest, researchers found that weight loss could greatly reduce the severity of asthma symptoms.

Along with making changes to your diet and exercise routine, seeking out certain natural remedies may also support your weight loss efforts. For example, an herb called galangal has been found to offer anti-obesity effects in preliminary research. This research includes a mouse-based study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food in 2012, which determined that the antioxidant-packed herb may help thwart the buildup of fat tissue and influence hormones known to play a major role in fat metabolism.

More: The Benefits of Galangal

In addition to galangal, natural remedies like green tea and capsaicin may also help fight obesity, according to preliminary studies.

Rice Protein

green smoothie
Rice protein can be added to almost any smoothie recipe. Westend61/Getty Images

Looking for a natural weight-loss aid to help you shed fat mass? Usually taken in powder form and frequently used as a dairy-free alternative to whey protein, a substance known as rice protein is thought to build muscle mass and trim away body fat. While athletes often use rice protein to boost their strength and improve their exercise performance, some dieters take rice protein (usually in smoothies) to help them slim down.

So far, there's little scientific support for the claim that rice protein can help promote fat loss. However, a preliminary study published in Lipids in Health and Disease in 2012 indicates that rice protein may help protect against obesity. In tests on rats, the study's authors observed that treatment with rice protein may slow the buildup of body fat by altering the body's breakdown of triglycerides (a type of fat found in your blood).


salmon salad
ingwervanille/E+/Getty Images

Getting your fill of omega-3 fatty acids may boost your defense against obesity-related diseases, according to a new study from the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The study focused on Alaska's Yup'ik Eskimos, an indigenous group estimated to consume 20 times more omega-3 fats from fish than people in the lower 48 states.

For the study, researchers looked at data on 330 people from the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta region of southwest Alaska (70 percent of whom were overweight or obese). In participants with low blood levels of omega-3s, obesity appeared to increase levels of C-reactive protein and triglycerides (both linked to a higher risk of heart disease  and diabetes). However, among obese people with high blood levels of omega-3s, triglyceride and C-reactive protein concentrations were similar to those found in normal-weight study members. 

More: Omega-3 Fatty Acids

According to the study's authors, these findings suggest that omega-3s may protect against some of the harmful effects of obesity. Look for omega-3 rich fish such as halibut, herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, and anchovies. 


ginger and lime tea
Ginger lime tea. Zoryana Ivchenko/Moment Open/Getty Images

In a recent study from the journal Sleep, researchers identified another health hazard that may result from being overweight: excessive daytime sleepiness. In their analysis of 7.5 years of data on nearly 1,400 men and women, the study's authors determined that obesity and weight gain were closely linked to daytime drowsiness. What's more, obese people were more likely to be tired during the day no matter how much sleep they logged at night.

While making changes to your diet and exercise regimen are essential for slimming down, certain natural remedies may support weight-loss efforts as well. For example, there's some evidence that the herb ginger  may help promote weight loss. In fact, some preliminary research indicates that ginger may enhance thermogenesis (a biological process involved in burning calories).

More: Ginger for Weight Loss

Other natural remedies that show promise for weight loss include cayenne, green tea, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Yerba Mate

Yerba mate tea
Bobbi Fabian/Photolibrary/Getty Images

Here's more incentive to watch your weight: a recent report from JAMA Oncology shows that obese postmenopausal women face an increased risk of invasive breast cancer, compared to women of normal weight. Analyzing data on 67,142 postmenopausal women followed for about 13 years, the report's authors found that women with a body mass index greater than 35 had a 58 percent higher risk of invasive breast cancer and were more likely to develop large tumors.

While following a balanced diet and exercising regularly are essential for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, certain natural remedies may help support your weight-loss efforts. For instance, there's some evidence that yerba mate may help with weight control by lowering dieters' odds of overeating. Often taken in tea form, yerba mate has also been found to protect against obesity-related health issues such as insulin resistance.

More: Yerba Mate for Weight Loss

Other types of tea may also help with weight loss. Preliminary research indicates that green tea, for example, may help promote weight loss by suppressing appetite and revving up metabolism.

Kelp Noodles

Clear and slightly crunchy, kelp noodles offer a no-cooking-necessary alternative to traditional pasta. Made from kelp, water, and sodium alginate (a form of seaweed-derived salt), kelp noodles can also serve as a wheat-free addition to the gluten-free diet.

Some fans of kelp noodles claim that the iodine-rich food can help with certain health conditions (such as thyroid disorders), promote weight loss, and protect against heart disease and osteoporosis. However, there's no evidence that eating kelp noodles can treat or prevent any type of health problem.

More: The Benefits of Kelp Noodles

For more ways to boost your intake of iodine (a trace mineral that helps nourish your thyroid and regulate your metabolism), try incorporating seafood (especially cod, sea bass, haddock, and perch) and sea vegetables (such as include wakame, arame, and hijiki, in addition to kelp) into your diet on a regular basis. 


citrus peel
Naringenin is found naturally in grapefruit and orange peels. Westend61/Getty Images

An antioxidant derived from citrus fruit such as grapefruit and oranges, naringenin may help ward off weight gain and other risk factors for type 2 diabetes, according to a recent animal-based study.

For the study, researchers fed a group of mice a high-fat diet in order to bring about symptoms of metabolic syndrome, a condition characterized by a cluster of health problems (such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance) linked to increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. A second group was fed the same diet, but also treated with naringenin. Study results showed that naringenin reduced cholesterol levels, prevented the onset of insulin resistance, and normalized metabolism of blood sugar. What's more, the naringenin-fed mice were protected from developing obesity.

The study's authors suggest that naringenin enhanced metabolic health by genetically reprogramming the liver to burn up excess fat rather than store it.

More Tips

yoga for weight loss
GlobalStock/Vetta/Getty Images

In order to slim down, follow a balanced diet (including a wide variety of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and lean protein), get at least two and a half hours of moderate aerobic exercise each week, and perform strength-training exercises at least twice weekly.

Alternative therapies like yoga, acupuncture, and tai chi may support your weight-loss efforts; however, none of these approaches can promote weight loss on its own. 


Fernandez-Mendoza J, Vgontzas AN, Kritikou I, Calhoun SL, Liao D, Bixler EO. Natural history of excessive daytime sleepiness: role of obesity, weight loss, depression, and sleep propensity. Sleep. 2015 Mar 1;38(3):351-60. doi: 10.5665/sleep.4488.

Gout B, Bourges C, Paineau-Dubreuil S. Satiereal, a Crocus sativus L extract, reduces snacking and increases satiety in a randomized placebo-controlled study of mildly overweight, healthy women. Nutr Res. 2010 May;30(5):305-13. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2010.04.008.

Joo JI, Kim DH, Choi JW, Yun JW. Proteomic analysis for antiobesity potential of capsaicin on white adipose tissue in rats fed with a high fat diet. J Proteome Res. 2010 Jun 4;9(6):2977-87. doi: 10.1021/pr901175w.

Jung CH, Jang SJ, Ahn J, Gwon SY, Jeon TI, Kim TW, Ha TY. Alpinia officinarum inhibits adipocyte differentiation and high-fat diet-induced obesity in mice through regulation of adipogenesis and lipogenesis. J Med Food. 2012 Nov;15(11):959-67. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2012.2286.

Lin GP, Jiang T, Hu XB, Qiao XH, Tuo QH. Effect of Siraitia grosvenorii polysaccharide on glucose and lipid of diabetic rabbits induced by feeding high fat/high sucrose chow. Exp Diabetes Res. 2007;2007:67435. doi: 10.1155/2007/67435.

Ludy MJ, Mattes RD. The effects of hedonically acceptable red pepper doses on thermogenesis and appetite. Physiol Behav. 2011 Mar 1;102(3-4):251-8. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2010.11.018. Epub 2010 Nov 18.

Makhoul Z, Kristal AR, Gulati R, Luick B, Bersamin A, O'Brien D, Hopkins SE, Stephensen CB, Stanhope KL, Havel PJ, Boyer B. Associations of obesity with triglycerides and C-reactive protein are attenuated in adults with high red blood cell eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2011 Jul;65(7):808-17. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2011.39. Epub 2011 Mar 23.

Mulvihill EE, Allister EM, Sutherland BG, Telford DE, Sawyez CG, Edwards JY, Markle JM, Hegele RA, Huff MW. Naringenin prevents dyslipidemia, apolipoprotein B overproduction, and hyperinsulinemia in LDL receptor-null mice with diet-induced insulin resistance. Diabetes. 2009 Oct;58(10):2198-210. doi: 10.2337/db09-0634. Epub 2009 Jul 10.

Neuhouser ML1, Aragaki AK1, Prentice RL1, Manson JE2, Chlebowski R3, Carty CL4, Ochs-Balcom HM5, Thomson CA6, Caan BJ7, Tinker LF1, Urrutia RP8, Knudtson J9, Anderson GL1. Overweight, Obesity, and Postmenopausal Invasive Breast Cancer Risk: A Secondary Analysis of the Women's Health Initiative Randomized Clinical Trials. JAMA Oncol. 2015 Jun 11. doi: 10.1001/jamaoncol.2015.1546. [Epub ahead of print]

Pakhale S, Baron J, Dent R, Vandemheen K, Aaron SD. Effects of weight loss on airway responsiveness in obese adults with asthma: does weight loss lead to reversibility of asthma? Chest. 2015 Jun;147(6):1582-90. doi: 10.1378/chest.14-3105.

Yang L, Chen JH, Lv J, Wu Q, Xu T, Zhang H, Liu QH, Yang HK. Rice protein improves adiposity, body weight and reduces lipids level in rats through modification of triglyceride metabolism. Lipids Health Dis. 2012 Feb 13;11:24. doi: 10.1186/1476-511X-11-24.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

Continue Reading