Many of the supplements marketed "natural hunger suppressant" are, at best, not yet clinically proven. For some, conflicting clinical results show that they sometimes increase your appetite. But you might be able to tame hunger with a few simple home practices.
Water: A Natural Appetite Suppressant
Water might be the easiest, most natural appetite suppressant on the planet. Whether drinking water actually prompts your body to burn more calories is a subject of controversy but, as a systematic review published in the September 2010 issue of Nutrition Reviews explains, adequate water intake is generally associated with lower body weight and better health.
That goes doubly if you typically drink sugar-sweetened beverages; replace them with water and you'll decrease your overall calorie intake while eliminating the peaks and valleys in your blood sugar levels that can sometimes increase your appetite. And, more directly related to the question at hand, there's no denying that drinking a big glass of water before each meal can help you feel sated more quickly.
Anecdotally, some people say that starting the day with a glass of water before breakfast also helps their energy levels throughout the day. And as an article from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health explains, water isn't only useful as an appetite suppressant.
You also need water to keep your organs (including your brain) functioning correctly, lubricate your joints, regulate your body temperature, support your immune system and improve your sleep and mood. If you up your water intake, you might even notice a difference in your skin.
Still not a fan of water? Try flavoring your water with lemons, berries, and orange or cucumber slices, or drinking herbal teas, either hot or cold. All of these give you the benefit of feeling more full, while limiting any added sugars or calories.
Eat More Fiber
Fiber — whether taken as a supplement or as a part of your diet — is one of the more effective and generally harmless products you can use as a DIY appetite suppressant.
Tufts University recommends aiming for 35 to 55 grams of fiber daily to help control your appetite, spreading that intake evenly across meals and snacks. For the sake of comparison, that's more than the Department of Health and Human Services recommendations for adequate intake of fiber, which is 16 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories in your daily diet. That translates to between 22.4 grams and 33.6 grams daily per adult, depending on your age and gender.
Just to make things a little more interesting, Harvard Health Publishing notes that most Americans get less than half the suggested intake of dietary fiber. In other words, if you're reading this, you probably need more fiber in your diet — with better satiety and appetite control being one very possible side effect of that increase. There is such a thing as too much fiber in your diet, but you'd typically have to go to extreme measures to reach that point.
Harvard Health Publishing recommends getting your fiber from whole foods if you can rather than supplements. Eating lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains is a sure way to increase your fiber intake, but it also recommends adding fiber-rich nuts, seeds and fruit to plain yogurt, or putting berries, nuts and seeds in salads for a boost of flavor and fiber.
You can also turn to stand-alone fiber-rich snacks like green beans, snap peas, cauliflower, broccoli and carrots, or blend high-fiber fruits and vegetables into an appetite-busting smoothie.
But wait, there's a little bit more. All of the health authorities already mentioned recommend increasing your fiber intake gradually, and increasing your water intake at the same time — both make it easier for your digestive tract to adapt. And if you have any digestive issues (including constipation), Harvard Health Publishing recommends checking with your doctor before you make any dramatic increases in fiber consumption.
Should You Spice It Up?
There's a fairly robust body of evidence to show that capsaicinoids — the naturally occurring chemicals in chili peppers — can be helpful in reducing your calorie intake.
A systematic review and meta-analysis published in the February 2014 issue of Appetite highlights this, although the researchers also note that there was a high degree of variation in the results. Also of note, they found that the minimum dose of capsaicinoids for a reduction in energy intake was 2 milligrams, or a little more than a teaspoon. That's a very potent dose of chili pepper — and if you decide to take cayenne in capsules, it can produce some side effects.
Finally, the researchers also speculate that that reduction in energy (calorie) intake — an understandable effect of a suppressed appetite — might be due to capsaicinoids altering the subjects' food preferences from higher fat content to higher carbohydrate content, which has fewer calories per gram.
End result? Sprinkling a bit of cayenne or other chili peppers over savory meals probably won't hurt your chances of suppressing your appetite, and it might help — but there's nothing conclusive enough to describe this as a cure-all for appetite suppression.
Other Candidates to Consider
A handful of other natural products that you could conceivably include in an appetite-busting high-fiber smoothie have been studied for their potential use as appetite suppressants. Many of them appear in a broad review published in the March 2010 issue of Pharmaceuticals.
There, researchers note that Korean pine nut oil, a branded emulsion of palm and oat oils, Hoodia gordonii, the edible cactus Caralluma fimbriata, and Garcinia cambogia have been shown, at least provisionally, to help decrease appetite. In a separate small study of 70 subjects published in the June 2016 issue of Phytotherapy Research, researchers found evidence that a liquid extract of caraway might also be effective.
However, there is conflicting evidence for some of these products, with some studies declaring them not to be effective appetite suppressants or at least only applying to a portion of the population — and any appetite-suppressing effects are usually poorly understood at best.
Saffron is a fine example: A few small studies have found saffron to be a useful appetite suppressant, including a study of 60 subjects published in the May 2010 issue of Nutrition Research. However, a systematic review published in the July 2015 issue of Journal of Integrative Medicine found that saffron often resulted in an increase of appetite.
Another analysis, published in the December 2013 issue of Antioxidants, notes that decreased appetite was sometimes listed as a clinical complication of saffron dosage, and noted that some researchers theorized that any appetite-reducing effects from saffron were actually due to its mood-boosting effects.
Bottom line: You could spend a lot of money purchasing pricey ingredients to put into a homemade appetite suppressant that might or might not work, or might even sharpen your appetite.
Or you could stick to tried and proven methods of appetite suppression like drinking water before you eat and increasing your fiber intake. They might not be as exciting as something with a fancy name on it or imported from a far-off land, but they're reliable and don't cost much.
Read more: Does Exercise Suppress Appetite?
- Nutrition Reviews: "The Impact of Water Intake on Energy Intake and Weight Status: A Systematic Review"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "The Importance of Hydration"
- Journal of Integrative Medicine: "A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials Examining the Effectiveness of Saffron (Crocus sativus L.) on Psychological and Behavioral Outcomes"
- Nutrition Research: "Satiereal, a Crocus sativus L. Extract, Reduces Snacking and Increases Satiety in a Randomized Placebo-Controlled Study of Mildly Overweight, Healthy Women"
- Antioxidants: "Saffron: A Natural Potent Antioxidant as a Promising Anti-Obesity Drug"
- Pharmaceuticals: "Phytochemicals in the Control of Human Appetite and Body Weight"
- Phytotherapy Research: "Slimming and Appetite-Suppressing Effects of Caraway Aqueous Extract as a Natural Therapy in Physically Active Women"
- Appetite: "Could Capsaicinoids Help to Support Weight Management? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Energy Intake Data"
- Tufts Health and Nutrition Letter: "Mastering Appetite Control"
- Department of Health and Human Services: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020: Appendix 7. Nutritional Goals for Age-Sex Groups Based on Dietary Reference Intakes and Dietary Guidelines Recommendations"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Should I Be Eating More Fiber?"