When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned the popular weight-loss supplement ephedra (Ephedra sinica) in April after the deaths of 155 users, dieters started looking for safer alternatives. Fortunately, a number of natural compounds have proven effective for assisting with weight loss—without ephedra’s adverse cardiovascular side effects.

Of course, diet and exercise are the cornerstones of any weight-loss program, but nature has provided ways to reduce hunger, kick-start metabolism, and increase energy. Whether you’re cutting carbs or slashing calories, adding the following supplements to your weight-loss program can safely and effectively help you shed those stubborn pounds.

5 Supplements For Dieters

Supplement

What it does

Recommendations

Contraindications

Grape seed extract
(Vitis vinifera)

New research shows that this potent antioxidant can tame hunger by delaying food absorption, stimulating fat breakdown, and increasing energy.

50–100 mg/day

None known.

Green tea
(Camellia sinensis)

A Chinese emperor serendipitously discovered green tea’s healing properties more than 4,000 years ago. Since then, studies have shown that the catechins in green tea, particularly epigallocatechin gallate, inhibit fat metabolism and help burn calories.

375 mg catechins/day in supplement form

Because green tea contains caffeine, some people may experience the jitters or insomnia. Do not take supplement form if you are pregnant or nursing.

Guaraná
(Paullinia cupana)

The Guarani Indians in Brazil use it like chocolate, but throughout South America guaraná is used for weight loss. Modern research has found that guaraná delays gastric emptying so you feel full longer.

As a tea, 1/4–1/2 teaspoon brewed in 8 ounces of water 3x/day (use standardized extracts according to label directions)

Contains caffeine and may cause insomnia, anxiety, and heart palpitations. Do not use if you are pregnant or nursing.

Hoodia
(Hoodia gordonii)

African tribesmen have eaten the hoodia cactus for centuries to stave off hunger during long hunting trips. Now, preliminary research shows that hoodia works by fooling the body into thinking it is full and can reduce caloric intake by 30 percent to 40 percent.

400–800 mg/day

None known.

Yerba maté
(Ilex paraguariensis)

This popular South American energy-boosting beverage helps reduce weight by acting as a diuretic and appetite suppressant. The herb’s thermogenic properties also help the body burn calories.

3,000 mg 1–2x/day in supplement form

Contains moderate amounts of caffeine. Do not use if you are taking an MAO inhibitor (certain antidepressants) or if you are pregnant or nursing.

—K.E.