Using Herbs for Weight Loss
Copyright 2006 Mary Desaulniers In this world of extreme makeovers and desperate diets, there are two definitive actions that bring about effective long-term weight loss—(1) a high nutrition and high protein, low calorie meal plan and (2) consistent, regular exercise routine. Forget about magic pills that melt the fat away or sauna wraps that steam away inches. There are, however, herbs for weight loss that can supplement—not replace— healthy eating and exercise. These herbs can help increase the body’s digestive and metabolic efficiency and make easier the process of long-term health and weight management. The principle behind weight loss is that energy intake must not exceed energy expenditure. What you eat must have fewer calories than what you put out in day to day activities.
A body composed of lean muscle (built from protein and exercise) will use more calories than an unexercised body. There is every reason to maintain a solid exercise regimen and high protein consumption because you need both to turn your body into a fat-burning machine. Some herbs that can help weight loss and make this process more efficient are Green Tea, Flaxseeds, Psyllium and Chromium. Green Tea is not only a powerful anti-oxidant but a fat-burner as well. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (January 2005), consuming green tea rich in catechins leads to a lowering of both body fat and cholesterol.
These compounds enhance nervous system activity at the level of the fat cell, causing it to release more fat. In another recent study, one group of subjects was given green tea extract (with 150 mg of caffeine) and 375 mg of catechins three times a day. A second group was given just 150 mg of caffeine alone and a third group was given a placebo. These subjects spent three 24 hour periods in an energy chamber during which they received their green tea, caffeine or placebo 3 times a day. Results show definitely that the green tea group burned the most energy—by almost 5 percent more when compared with those who received the placebo alone and 3.2 percent more than those who received the caffeine alone. In addition, fat burning was increased in the green tea group. Researchers speculate that a special antioxidant compound in green tea called EEG may trigger fat oxidation and thermogenesis (fat burning). What is also interesting is that the maximum fat-dissolving capacity of green tea comes from the tea in concentrate form, which provides the benefits of 5-6 cups of tea in a single dose of tea powder. Green tea is an herb that has demonstrated effectiveness in encouraging weight loss.
Flaxseeds provide essential fatty acids which are building blocks the body uses to make fats. The body must get various kinds of fats ( fish oil, flaxseeds oil) not only to ensure proper health but to stabilize blood sugar level. Stabilized blood sugar means stabilized appetite. Unusual hunger and food cravings develop in people who do not consume sufficient essential fats. These people often turn to a high consumption of carbphydrates ( bagels, donuts, chips) because their bodies are on a frantic search for the missing nutrient—essential fats. Moreover, the body has an intelligence of its own; when it is deprived of fats, the body will lower its metabolic rate, store fat as well as make fat. A body deprived of essential fats will turn into a fat-producing machine. Flaxseeds are therefore another form of herbal tools for weight loss. Psyllium is a soluble fiber that comes from the small reddish black seeds of the “Plantago Psyllium” plant. Psyllium seeds not only help ease constipation, they are effective in lowering cholesterol and promoting weight loss when used in conjunction with exercise and healthy eating.
Psyllium helps stabilize sugar in the blood which also controls food cravings. The bulk in psyllium adds to the sensation of fullness and satiety when it is taken in its recommended dose:1-3 tsp of powdered psyllium dissolved in water taken 3 times a day before meals. In a British study, women who took psyllium with water 3 hours before a meal consumed less fat and fewer calories during the meal. Chromium is a trace mineral found in whole grains, potatoes, prunes, nuts and brewer’s yeast. It seems to help the body use insulin more effeciently so that normal blood sugar levels are maintained. Chromium also helps the body break down protein and fat. In a recent study, people consuming 400mcg of chromium picolinate a day lost 6 pounds over 3 months while another group receiving a placebo lost only 3 pounds. The most significant aspect of the study was that the weight lost by those taking the herbal supplement chromium was in the form of body fat, not muscle. While all four herbs have demonstrated that they can help promote weight loss, they are by no means magic pills and should be taken in conjunction with a solid nutrition and exercise program.
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