You probably had no idea until right now that your body houses two kinds of fat–yellow and brown. Yellow fat, which serves as an insulator and a warehouse for unused or excess calories, is the type most people want to shed. Brown fat actually burns those excess calories, acting as the furnace and burning yellow fat as fuel. If you have a good storehouse of brown fat, you can seemingly eat whatever you want and not gain a pound, while the “more yellow, less brown fat” folks find losing weight difficult even as they restrict calories. To add insult to injury, being overweight can actually shut down the mitochondria (the cell’s powerhouses) in brown fat, essentially turning it into yellow fat.
Fortunately, many natural remedies can help kick-start fat burning (thermogenesis). First and foremost: exercise. Without enough exercise, it’s difficult to lose and keep weight off. In addition, you can take supplements to boost your body’s fat-burning capabilities.
Essential fatty acids. Many overweight people suffer from chronic deficiencies of essential fatty acids (EFAs), the primary fuels that stoke the body’s thermogenic furnace. When they are in short supply, brown fat becomes inactive, which can make weight loss more difficult. Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an omega-6 fatty acid, is of particular concern. Normally, the body can manufacture GLA from dietary sources of another omega-6 fatty acid, linoleic acid–found in safflower, sunflower, corn, soybean, and flaxseed oils. However, a diet high in saturated fats–much different than EFAs–combined with stress, alcohol, aging, or illness, can block this conversion, and you wind up with a GLA deficiency. Take 500 mg of GLA daily; evening primrose, black currant, hemp, and borage oils are all good sources.
Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs tend to accelerate metabolism while lowering blood levels of cholesterol, which can help you lose weight. Consider adding 1 to 2 tablespoons of grapeseed or organic virgin coconut oil on vegetables or in salad dressings each day. But if you have diabetes or a liver disorder, avoid MCTs entirely.
Cayenne pepper (Capsicum frutescens), ginger, and cinnamon. Used in Chinese medicine and ayurveda, these warming spices help break down fat. Cayenne helps digestion and increases feelings of fullness and satiety.
Ginseng. Studies show this ancient remedy works as a useful antiobesity agent. It decreases the release of free radicals generated by exercise and also reduces levels of appetite-stimulating compounds such as leptin. Extracts of both ginseng root and ginseng berry help stabilize blood sugar.
Green tea (Camellia sinensis). Green tea can increase the metabolic rate and stimulate fat burning. It’s rich in a variety of compounds, including theophylline, theobromine, caffeine, and polyphenols, all of which increase the body’s use of energy, inhibit the absorption of fat, and break down fat cells as they form. Consider drinking one or two cups of green tea per day.
Hydroxycitric acid (HCA). Derived from the dried rind of the tamarind fruit (Garcinia cambogia), HCA helps clear fats from the liver, suppresses appetite, and slows the conversion of carbohydrates into fat. For best results, take 250 mg of HCA three times daily, along with 100 mcg of chromium polynicotinate or picolinate, 30 to 60 minutes before each meal.
Yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis). Traditionally consumed as a tea in South America, yerba mate acts as a stimulant to boost thermogenesis. Its stimulating effect comes primarily from a compound called mateine, a close relative of caffeine, plus small quantities of theophylline and theobromine.