If you are trying to lose a few pounds, you should think of adding certain foods to your diet – not all the calories are created equal and some of the foods will actually help you to burn more fat but save your lean muscles. Don’t miss out on spices and foods high in healthy fats – they can only help you. And if you don’t know where to start, keep reading!
Chili peppers are rich in a compound called “capsaicin” that gives them their zip and heats up the body, fires up the metabolism and helps to burn off excess calories. Capsaicin is present in fresh, pickled and dry peppers, along with flaked pepper spices like cayenne and red chilies. You can add some chili to soups, salads, sauces or rice and meat dishes.
Lean Turkey and Chicken
Turkey and chicken are both a source of high quality proteins. They both have what is known in dietary circles as a “high thermogenic effect” – they fire up your body’s internal furnace during the digestion process, sending your metabolism into overdrive. Because turkey and chicken are both very low in fat, they are also much lower in calories. However, turkey and chicken both come with an important caveat. If you want to maximize the fat-burning potential of these meats, it’s important to take the skin off. Poultry skin is very high in fat, and it will significantly alter the nutrition content of the meat. Get rid of it, and flavour the meat with spices or low-calorie, low-sugar sauces.
Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which promote fat loss and have a number of other health benefits. The dietary action of omega-3 fatty acids is similar to that of protein – it forces your body to naturally burn more calories from fat while helping you keep your appetite in check throughout the day. Salmon, mackerel and albacore tuna are all very high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can also help protect your brain and boost your cognitive capabilities. Fish also reduces your risk of heart disease, reduces cholesterol, and can help relieve arthritis and joint inflammation symptoms. A can of water-packed tuna has only 90 to 120 calories, which isn’t much considering its nutritive benefits.
Berries have a very high antioxidant content and the more antioxidants from natural sources you get, the more metabolic boost you get. The antioxidants contained in berries promote better blood flow, which helps your body build stronger muscles. When you have a higher percentage of muscle mass, your body will be able to burn more calories, even when you’re at rest. Berries are also very low in calories – strawberries have only about 45 calories per cup while raspberries, blackberries and blueberries all range between 60 and 80 calories per cup. All of them will help keep your blood pressure down, reducing the risk of heart disease and heart attacks.
Getting an apple when you are hungry is a safe way to elevate your blood glucose (blood sugar) levels, providing you with a nutrient-rich, low-calorie source of satisfying energy. A medium-sized apple has just 80 calories, with all kinds of antioxidants and absolutely no sodium, saturated fat or cholesterol. Like berries, apples make a great midday snack or breakfast addition. As a general rule of thumb, choose apples with darker skins – the darker an apple’s skin, the richer it is in antioxidants, and the stronger its fat-burning effects will be. But if you prefer Granny Smith, get that too – you will still get nutritional benefits!
Moderate amounts of coffee provide a big metabolic boost; speeding up your metabolism and helping you burn more calories than normal. Coffee also gets you up in the morning and helps you move more quickly, providing your energy levels with a helpful push in the right direction. Be careful what you add to your coffee though – stay away from heavy cream and sugar that will turn this metabolism-boosting beverage into a fat, high calorie dessert. Instead, use low-fat milk and sweeteners instead of sugar, or avoid sweetening it altogether. Coffee is the healthiest (and the tastiest!) when it’s consumed black, so if you can make that transition, your body will thank you for it.
Oats are fiber-rich, nutritious foods. When your body needs to break down fiber-rich whole foods, it burns up to twice as many calories during the digestion process than when it would while digesting refined sugars. Dietary fiber also helps regulate your appetite, giving you a lasting feeling of satiation and helping ward off hunger throughout the day. This makes you less likely to reach for sugary or fatty snacks, especially in the hours between breakfast and lunch. Get some oatmeal for breakfast, but watch out if you’re buying quick-cooking or instant oatmeal. Many of these products contain added sugar, which will effectively neutralize its healthy effects. Instead, make yourself homemade oatmeal from thick oats and add some honey or fresh fruits and nuts.
Green Tea is rich in an antioxidant, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which has been scientifically proven to provide your metabolism with a temporary boost. EGCG helps your body make better use of a naturally occurring hormone and neurotransmitter called norepinephrine. The main metabolism effect of norepinephrine is that it sends signals to your body, telling it to start breaking down fat cells and using their stored energy. While green tea doesn’t contain a lot of caffeine, it does have some – about 25 to 50 milligrams per cup, on average. Caffeine synergizes with norepinephrine, enhancing its fat-burning effects. If you’re regularly exercising and eating a low-calorie diet, incorporate hot or cold green tea into your diet to further increase your body fat –burning capabilities.
Chances are you’ve heard that one of the best fat-burning breakfasts you can eat is half a grapefruit with a cup of black coffee. This is true, but only if you have a balanced and nutritious breakfast a couple of hours later, including proteins, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. Grapefruit helps your body dissolve fat and cholesterol, fighting against plague deposits and hardening of the arteries. A medium-sized grapefruit has only 74 calories, but packs a whopping 15 grams of belly-filling pectin fiber. This fiber helps you feel full for a longer period of time, regulating hunger levels throughout the day and making you less likely to snack between meals. Grapefruit it also very high in both vitamin C and potassium, and it contains absolutely no fat and no sodium.
The higher protein content of the food, the better it is for weight loss and only a few foods offer the nutritional punch of low-calorie lentils. Your body has to spend more calories breaking down protein, making it automatically better for burning fat, and it also takes your body longer to digest protein. This leaves you feeling fuller for a longer period of time, and studies have shown that people eating high-protein diets consume far fewer calories during an average day than people on lower-protein diets. Lentils are an excellent choice because they are very high in protein, yet very low in fat. In fact, they have one of the lowest fat contents of any protein-rich food. Lentils are also very rich in iron and potassium but low in sodium. Make a lentil soup or serve them with lean chicken breast or as a side dish instead of rice or potatoes.