Fenugreek is a potent herb with a long history of use in traditional medicine. In Indian and Chinese medicine, it is often used to treat digestive issues, respiratory problems and inflammation. In recent years, fenugreek has gained popularity for its purported effects on body weight. Conflicting evidence exists as to whether fenugreek can help with weight loss or weight gain. In this article, we take a close look at the science to find out the truth.
What Is Fenugreek?
Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is an annual plant in the family Fabaceae, with leaves that resemble clover and with small white flowers. The plant is thought to have originated in the Mediterranean region and is now common in India, North Africa, and the Middle East (2).
Fenugreek seeds are the part of the plant most often used in cooking and traditional medicine. They have a slightly bitter taste and are often used to flavor curries, pickles, and other dishes.
The seeds can also be sprouted and eaten fresh or dried and made into a powder that can be used as a spice or supplement.
Fenugreek is a source of several bioactive compounds, including fiber, minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals. These substances may offer health benefits, such as improved digestion, blood sugar control and inflammation reduction (2).
How Does Fenugreek Affect Appetite?
You may see claims online that fenugreek works as an appetite stimulant which can help with weight gain. However, limited human studies suggest the opposite – that fenugreek may work as an appetite suppressant. Fenugreek is thought to increase the levels of hormones cholecystokinin and glucagon-like peptide-1, both of which are involved in appetite regulation. One study found that adding fenugreek to a carbohydrate-containing meal increased satiety (fullness) in overweight or obese individuals (21). Other studies have also found increased satiety and reduced food intake with fenugreek supplementation.
Fenugreek may also increase levels of the hormone insulin or increase the number of insulin receptors on cells, which can help glucose get into cells and reduce the blood sugar response after eating. That same study also found a reduced blood sugar response to the carbohydrate meal in the participants who had the added fenugreek (21). This may be helpful for people with diabetes or insulin resistance.
So, while fenugreek may promote satiety, more research is needed to determine if these effects are significant enough to cause actual weight loss over time.
Will Fenugreek Help You Lose Weight?
In addition to its possible role as an appetite suppressant, fenugreek is also believed to aid weight loss through several mechanisms.
Fenugreek seeds are high in fiber, which can help you feel full and eat less. They contain a type of soluble fiber called galactomannan, which may act as a prebiotic to support a healthy gut microbiome (13).
Fiber may also help slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, which is beneficial for blood sugar control. In one study, people with type 1 diabetes who took fenugreek seed powder had better blood sugar levels after 10 days. They also experienced reductions in total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels (9).
Fenugreek is also thought to increase the breakdown of fat cells and reduce the absorption of fat from the gut. One study found that rats given fenugreek seed extract on a high fat diet had less weight gain and body fat accumulation and improved markers of glucose and lipid metabolism (12).
Additionally, fenugreek is a source of an amino acid called 4-hydroxyisoleucine, which may stimulate insulin release and help regulate blood sugar levels. This could theoretically lead to reduced food cravings and weight loss.
Finally, fenugreek extract may increase the levels of hormones testosterone and adiponectin. Testosterone is associated with increased muscle mass, while adiponectin is thought to promote fat loss (4) (19).
While all of these effects are promising, more research is needed to determine whether fenugreek can actually help people lose weight.
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How To Use Fenugreek For Safe Weight Gain
Sometimes people need to gain weight for medical reasons. Being underweight puts people at risk for health problems such as malnutrition, osteoporosis, infertility and an increased susceptibility to infection (5).
If your doctor has recommended that you gain weight, you’ll need to make changes that increase your calorie intake.
Most of the evidence points to fenugreek more likely helping with weight loss than weight gain. However, if you enjoy the taste of fenugreek, using it in dishes like soups, stews, and curries can make them more enjoyable for you, which can help you eat more.
Lifestyle Factors To Consider
Using fenugreek for weight gain may or may not be effective, but there are other lifestyle factors that can also contribute to weight gain.
Here are some things to keep in mind if you’re trying to gain weight:
Eat More Calories Than Your Body Needs
You can use an online calorie calculator to estimate your daily calorie needs and then add 500–1,000 extra calories per day.
Choose Nutrient-Rich Foods
In addition to adding fenugreek to your diet, make sure to fill up on other nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats. Avoid ultra processed foods, sugary drinks and excessive amounts of saturated and unhealthy fats.
To make it easier to consume more calories, eat smaller meals or snacks every few hours instead of three large meals per day.
Strength training can help you build muscle mass, which can increase your calorie needs (15). Try to do strength-training exercises two to three times per week if your doctor thinks it’s safe for you.
Gaining weight takes time, so don’t expect to see results overnight. Give yourself several months to see gradual improvements.
How To Use Fenugreek For Weight Loss?
If you’re interested in using fenugreek for weight loss, there are several ways to add it to your diet.
Fenugreek seeds can be sprouted and eaten fresh or dried and made into a powder that can be used as a spice or supplement. They can be soaked in water and made into tea. You can also take fenugreek supplements in capsule or tablet form.
When using fenugreek seeds it may help to soak them in water for several hours before consuming them. This will help reduce their bitterness and make them easier to digest.
If you’re taking fenugreek supplements, be sure to follow the instructions on the package and always talk to your doctor first. As with any supplement, it’s important to talk to your doctor before taking fenugreek for weight loss or any other purpose.
Fenugreek is generally safe, but it can cause side effects like bloating, diarrhea and gas in some people (3). It may also lower blood sugar levels, so if you have diabetes, be sure to monitor your blood sugar closely.
Fenugreek may also interact with certain medications, so be sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist if it’s safe for you.
Lifestyle Factors To Consider
In addition to adding fenugreek to your diet, there are other lifestyle changes you can make to lose weight and keep it off.
First, be sure to get plenty of exercise. Exercise not only helps you burn calories and build muscle, but it also helps reduce stress levels. Stress can lead to unhealthy eating habits, so it’s important to find ways to manage it (22).
Second, eating a healthy diet is essential for weight loss. Be sure to include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats in your diet. Avoid ultra processed foods, sugary drinks and excessive amounts of alcohol (22).
Finally, make sure to get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation can lead to increased hunger and cravings, so be sure to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
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Other Health Benefits Of Fenugreek
Weight management isn’t the only health benefit associated with fenugreek. Fenugreek has been used for centuries in traditional medicine for a variety of purposes.
Some of the other potential health benefits of fenugreek include:
Inflammation is a natural process that helps your body heal from injury or infection. However, chronic inflammation can lead to a variety of health problems, including heart disease, arthritis and cancer (6).
Fenugreek has anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce inflammation throughout the body (11).
Fenugreek is a source of fiber, which is important for a healthy digestive system.
Fiber helps add bulk to the stool, which can make bowel movements easier and help reduce constipation. Fiber may also help reduce the risk of other digestive problems like hemorrhoids and diverticulitis (14).
Lowering Blood Sugar Levels
Fenugreek has been shown to lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes (1).
Fenugreek seeds contain a type of fiber that slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, which helps keep blood sugar levels stable.
Fenugreek may also help improve insulin sensitivity, which is important for people with diabetes.
Reducing Cholesterol Levels
High cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease (20). Fenugreek seeds contain fiber and other nutrients that may help reduce cholesterol levels.
In one meta-analysis, fenugreek supplementation was found to reduce total and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels in people with high cholesterol (8).
Fenugreek seeds may also help increase “good” HDL cholesterol levels (8).
Improving Menstrual Symptoms
Fenugreek has been used for centuries to treat menstrual problems like cramps and heavy bleeding.
Fenugreek is a phytoestrogen, which means it’s a plant compound that may have weak estrogen-like effects in the body (16).
Estrogen is a hormone that plays an important role in the menstrual cycle. Fenugreek may help relieve menstrual symptoms, possibly because of its phytoestrogen properties (10).
Fenugreek is sometimes used to increase milk production in breastfeeding mothers.
Fenugreek seeds contain a compound that’s thought to mimic the effects of the hormone prolactin, which is important for milk production.
In one meta-analysis, fenugreek was found to increase milk production in nursing mothers (7).
The Bottom Line
Fenugreek is a plant with a long history of use in traditional medicine. In recent years, it has gained popularity for its purported effects on body weight.
Conflicting claims exist as to whether fenugreek can help with weight loss or weight gain. It is said by some to increase appetite and promote weight gain, but limited scientific evidence suggests that it may actually help you feel full and eat less.
More research is needed to determine the effects of fenugreek on body weight. If you’re trying to lose weight, there are more reliable and effective ways to do so, such as following a healthy diet and exercising regularly.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- A simple dietary addition of fenugreek seed leads to the reduction in blood glucose levels: A parallel group, randomized single-blind trial (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- A small plant with big benefits: Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum Linn.) for disease prevention and health promotion (2017, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- A systematic literature review of fenugreek seed toxicity by using ToxRTool: evidence from preclinical and clinical studies (2019, sciencedirect.com)
- Beneficial effects of fenugreek glycoside supplementation in male subjects during resistance training: A randomized controlled pilot study (2016, sciencedirect.com)
- Caution, “normal” BMI: health risks associated with potentially masked individual underweight—EPMA Position Paper 2021 (2021, link.springer.com)
- Chronic Inflammation (2021, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Effectiveness of fenugreek as a galactagogue: A network meta-analysis (2018, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Effect of fenugreek consumption on serum lipid profile: A systematic review and meta-analysis (2020, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Effect of fenugreek seeds on blood glucose and serum lipids in type I diabetes (1990, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Effects of Fenugreek Seed on the Severity and Systemic Symptoms of Dysmenorrhea (2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Fenugreek: A review on its nutraceutical properties and utilization in various food products (2018, sciencedirect.com)
- Fenugreek Seed Extract Inhibit Fat Accumulation and Ameliorates Dyslipidemia in High Fat Diet-Induced Obese Rats (2014, hindawi.com)
- Galactomannan from Trigonella foenum‐graecum L. seed: Prebiotic application and its fermentation by the probiotic Bacillus coagulans strain MTCC 5856 (2018, onlinelibrary.wiley.com)
- Health benefits of dietary fiber (2009, academic.oup.com)
- Increasing Lean Mass and Strength: A Comparison of High Frequency Strength Training to Lower Frequency Strength Training (2016, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- In vitro estrogenic activities of fenugreek Trigonella foenum graecum seeds (2010, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Metabolic consequences of sleep and circadian disorders (2015,.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The Carbohydrate-Insulin Model of Obesity: Beyond ‘Calories In, Calories Out’ – PMC (2019, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The Important Role of Adiponectin and Orexin-A, Two Key Proteins Improving Healthy Status: Focus on Physical Activity (2020, frontiersin.org)
- Total cholesterol as a risk factor for coronary heart disease and stroke in women compared with men: A systematic review and meta-analysis (2016, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Trigonella Foenum-Graecum Seeds Lowers Postprandial Blood Glucose in Overweight and Obese Individuals (2014, hindawi.com)
- Weight-Loss and Maintenance Strategies (2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)