Does Fenugreek Work For Weight Loss? How To Use, Side Effects


If you find that changing up your diet and exercise routine isn’t getting you to 100 percent of your weight-loss goals, it’s understandable that you might at least want to see what kind of naturopathic options are out there. And there’s ingredient you’ll see come up a lot in that search: fenugreek.

Fenugreek (pronounced “feh-nyuh-greek”) is a clover-like herb native to the Mediterranean region, southern Europe, and western Asia, according to the National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). Its seeds—which smell and taste like maple syrup—are used in cooking and as medicine.

Traditionally, fenugreek has been used in Ayurvedic medicine to help treat diabetes and to increase milk supply for breastfeeding moms. But, over time, its use has expanded to other things, including treating period cramps and promoting weight loss.

“There are many health claims, such as lowering blood pressure, improving blood sugar, enhancing exercise performance, healing wounds, easing muscle pain, increasing milk production in breastfeeding women, and reducing migraines and headaches,” says Keri Gans, RD, author of The Small Change Diet. But, like many herbs, “there is not enough scientific evidence to conclusively support any of these claims,” Gans says.

Fenugreek has some nutritional perks, though. “It is a good source of fiber, and research specifically on fiber has shown that it may help with satiety, lowering of cholesterol levels, regulating blood sugar, and reducing the risk for constipation,” Gans says.

And then there are the potential weight-loss perks. Here’s what you need to know about fenugreek, its possible impact on weight loss, and why it’s not for everyone.

So, can fenugreek help you lose weight?

The big hype around fenugreek and weight loss is that it might help reduce your appetite. There is some data to suggest fenugreek might help, but—full disclosure—it’s pretty limited.

When 12 healthy men took 1.2 grams of fenugreek seed extract for two weeks, they ate “significantly” less fat and decreased their overall daily calorie intake by almost 12 percent, per a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

Another example? When nine women who were overweight tracked how much they ate at a lunch buffet after drinking fenugreek tea, they found that the tea decreased their appetite, but didn’t actually make a difference in how much they ate at the buffet, per a small study.

And another small study of 18 people with obesity found that those who had 8 grams of fenugreek fiber with breakfast felt significantly more full than those who didn’t have the fiber. The participants also ate less lunch after having the supplement.

And…that’s about it. “The scientific research on fenugreek and weight loss is inconclusive at this time,” Gans says. “However, its fiber content may help with feelings of fullness, which may aid in weight loss.”

Okay, how should I eat fenugreek for weight loss?

There are actually a lot of different ways to use fenugreek. “Because of the maple-like taste, one of the most popular ways to use it would be as part of a spice blend,” Gans says. She suggests rubbing it on meat as a seasoning, or adding it to sauces and soups for a sweet flavor.

You can also create fenugreek water by soaking one to two tablespoons of the herb’s seeds in water overnight and drinking the results. Or, you can buy a fenugreek tea or supplement. (Just a heads up, though: Supplements aren’t well regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, so it can be hard to know how much fenugreek you’re getting.)

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Is fenugreek safe? What are the side effects?

Fenugreek is considered safe when you have it in amounts that are found in most foods, the NCCIH says. But it’s not clear how safe it is in larger doses.

It could also cause side effects, like diarrhea, nausea, and other digestive tract symptoms and, in rare cases, dizziness and headaches, the NCCIH says. Also consider this: Cases of liver toxicity have been reported in people who take fenugreek alone or in combination with other herbs.

While this isn’t a serious side effect, Gans points out that fenugreek can make your pee smell like maple syrup. So, there’s that.

Fenugreek is also not considered safe for pregnant women in amounts higher than what you’d find in food—it’s been linked to an increased risk of birth defects in animals and people. And there’s also not a lot of clear data on whether it’s safe to use while you’re breastfeeding, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

If you’re interested in using fenugreek for weight loss, Gans recommends checking in with your healthcare provider first. It’s a good practice any time you plan on taking a new supplement, just in case.

The bottom line: Fenugreek’s fiber content may help you feel fuller when you consume it, but it’s unclear if that can lead to lasting weight loss. If you’d like to try it, check with your doctor first.

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