It sounds like a lie, but it’s true! Certain foods can actually help burn fat. There are nutrients and compounds found in some foods that help increase your metabolism, use energy to digest, burn fat, and build muscle. And combining these foods with regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle will help you shed the fat and the pounds faster.
You don’t need to have a strict, boring diet. A lot of foods that help burn fat are full of flavor, can be cooked in a variety of ways, and can be eaten as a snack or part of a meal. To lose fat and weight, and to get much-needed energy for exercise, eat these 19 foods that help burn fat…
A lot of people think avocados are bad for you because they’re high in fat. But the truth is, avocados are made up of good fat, and can help your body turn off fat storage hormones. The healthy monounsaturated fats in avocados turn off your hunger, but still give you plenty of protein and fiber to keep you full and give you all the energy needed for a good workout. It’s the perfect combination — you get the necessary fuel to build muscle and the fat is readily burned off during exercise. Also one of the carbs found in avocados encourages and increases calcium absorption, an integral part of getting rid of unwanted fat.
This means that even though avocados are considered a high calorie, high fat food, the reality is that more than two thirds of the calories in avocados come from monounsaturated oleic acid, which the body utilizes as a slow-burning energy source. So consider monounsaturated fats over polyunsaturated fats to improve blood sugar balance and glycemic control which can prevent weight gain and diabetes. So bring on the guacamole!
All nuts contain trace amounts of the sought after omega-3 fatty acids, but others like walnuts, contain a high amount – around 3 grams of alpha-linolenic acid in a one ounce serving. The potential benefits of omega-3 fatty acids continue to grow. When it comes to burning fat, omega-3s help reduce muscle inflammation and increase your metabolism. These combine to help you burn more fat and at a faster rate, as well as help with general weight loss.
Since walnuts have a high amount of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), in fact, they have the highest amount of the plant-based essential fatty acid of all nuts. This means that a one-ounce serving of walnuts provides 2.5 grams of ALA, making walnuts a vital part of any regular, healthy diet for those who want to burn off unwanted fat.
3. Hot Peppers
If you have an addiction to spicy foods you’re already helping your body burn fat! Hot peppers, specifically jalapeños and chili peppers, contain the component capsaicin. Capsaicin heats up your body, and as a result, you burn off more calories. Hot peppers can also reduce your appetite and food intake, making you feel full for longer. It’s also believed that hot peppers can increase your metabolic resting rate – the higher your rate, the more you’ll burn when you’re resting. So if you like things spicy, keep doing it to reap the fat-burning rewards.
While scientists have yet to undoubtedly confirm capsaicin’s weight loss benefits, a 2009 study published in the journal Clinical Nutrition, followed 27 healthy volunteers who consumed a combination of capsaicin and green tea and concluded that capsaicin was able to help decrease ghrelin (a hormone that promotes hunger).
While some consider the benefits of soybeans to be controversial, there are enough proven studies and experts who believe in their powers. Soybeans can help you burn fat and lose weight through lecithin, a component that builds muscle just as well as other proteins, and is believed to break down fats and prevent fat deposits. Soybeans are also filling and take longer to digest, which can help control hunger.
On top of the potential to lose fat, soybeans also have several other health benefits–they increase good cholesterol, decrease bad cholesterol, are high in protein and low in carbs, and can reduce inflammation, and black soybeans are also full of antioxidants. Although the verdict is still out on much of the soy good or bad debate, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health indicate that even if soy has a little direct effect on cholesterol, soy foods often replace less healthful choices in meals (i.e., red meat) so they protect heart and blood vessels due to being low in saturated fat.
Broccoli has a number of health benefits and is included in many types of diets because of it. Not only is it full of fiber and will keep you feeling full for longer, it also contains a phytonutrient, an ingredient that can increase fat loss. The nutrient stimulates your fat cells and gets your body burning fat quicker. The bonus about eating broccoli is that you will get the nutrients in both raw and cooked form – you could use it as a side dish at dinner or take it as a snack to munch on during the day. It’s also low in calories but easily satisfies your hunger.
Multiple studies link a compound in broccoli, known as indole-3-carbinol to its ability to convert estrogen, linked to breast and prostate cancers, into a harmless metabolite. It makes sense, because estrogen is associated with increased hip, belly, and thigh fat, that this conversion process may aid weight-loss.
Salmon continues to make it onto health food lists and with good reason. It’s low in saturated fat but full of antioxidants and omega-3 fats. It kickstarts fat-burning and reduces fat storage, a powerful combination that blasts fat and will help you lose weight. Salmon is also a good source of protein, an essential nutrient that helps build muscles. The more you tone and create lean muscles, the higher your metabolism – and metabolic rate – will be.
A 2011 Canadian study, mentioned in an article in the Huffington Post, monitored a group of salmon eaters and compared them to groups who consumed other types of fish. Turns out the salmon eaters gained significantly less weight and had fewer rates of resistance when it came to regulating glucose levels (a cause of type 2 diabetes) compared to the other fish eating groups. Bottom line: because of all the nutrients in salmon, you get a lot of what your body needs with much fewer calories than other comparable meats.
7. Green Tea
An easy way to stimulate fat burning is by drinking several cups of green tea every day. Green tea raises your metabolism, making you burn fat faster. In the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a study showed that people who consumed 4 cups of green tea a day lost more than 6 pounds in an 8 week period. Green tea is also full of antioxidants, and the health benefits don’t end there. On top of boosting your metabolism and fat-burning hormones, it’s believed that people who exercise and drink green tea regularly can lose up to twice as much as those who don’t drink the tea.
A second study from Penn State’s College of Agricultural Science monitored mice on a high fat diet who were given decaffeinated green tea extract and regular exercise. Those tea sipping, exercising mice had numerous health benefits, including sharp reductions in body weight (an average body mass reduction of 27.1 percent) and an overall reduction in fasting blood glucose level, both preventative diabetic health measures.
8. Whole Grains
Yes, there are carbs that are good for you – whole grains. They’re full of fiber and take longer to digest, keeping your hunger at bay. While whole grains won’t necessarily make you lose weight, it’s been shown that people who eat whole grains regularly have a lower fat mass in the abdominal area. Some common whole grain foods include brown rice, quinoa, wild rice, oatmeal, and barley.
On top of the benefits to your waistline, whole grains are also good for decreasing cholesterol, lowering blood pressure and providing a good source of important compounds and nutrients like vitamin B and iron. A study from the U.S. National Institutes of Health supported these claims, noting that a diet that increased the presence of whole-grain foods (i.e., whole wheat and brown rice and barley), reduced blood pressure and helped control weight.
The reasons behind why grapefruit and grapefruit juice can help you lose weight and burn fat are still somewhat unknown, but research at Scripps Clinic in San Diego revealed that this citric fruit helps your body drastically lose weight. The study showed that keeping a normal diet while eating half a grapefruit before meals could help you lose one to four pounds per week.
It’s thought that grapefruit reduces the hormone that regulates the amount of glucose in your body, and a chemical in the fruit prevents fat storage. So adding regular consumption of grapefruit to your diet, which is also extremely low in calories, will help you burn fat faster and lose weight. According to a 2006 health report published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes patients who consumed grapefruit as part of their diet, reduced overall insulin resistance and decreased blood sugar levels.
Some fruit and their health benefits – especially bananas – are often misunderstood and misrepresented. The resistant starch found in bananas can reduce fat as the starch turns into a fatty acid in your stomach, blocking carbs and fat build-up over time. Bananas also speed up your metabolism and contain a lot of fiber and potassium which helps make you feel full for longer and allows your body to build muscle.
This is exactly why so many personal trainers and fitness professionals recommend weight training. Not only does it build muscle, but it also burns more calories and fat faster. As you gain more muscle, you in turn will burn and lose more fat. These health benefits make bananas a go-to snack, even if you’re counting calories.
11. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is one of those healthy snacks that if eaten in proper moderation, it can be super healthy. This is because it packs a mean protein punch and is full of fiber so it keeps the body full for longer periods of time. “Peanuts contain L-arginine, an amino acid that works to improve blood flow throughout your body by helping blood vessels ‘relax’ — all of which can help to mitigate fluid retention,” writes Good Housekeeping. As previously mentioned, just be mindful of your consumption. Do not exceed more than two tablespoons of it per day.
According to Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN for the Good Housekeeping Institute, the reason berries are so good for us is because they contain lots of fiber and antioxidants, but have less sugar than other fruits. This makes them the perfect healthy snack. Their polyphenol antioxidants will help not only burn fat, but also prevent it from forming in the first place! Be sure to eat this sweet snack before a workout because berries have also been shown to improve blood flow to muscles.
For example, one cup of blueberries amounts to only 84 calories which is fewer than a banana but contains more fiber — 3.6 grams to be exact. In case you needed one more reason to eat more berries, Women’s Health notes that all those visually appealing berries like raspberries, blueberries and blackberries are “loaded with anti-inflammatory antioxidants that help support your immune system.”
13. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is still kind of a new phenomenon to many people, but it’s becoming an important staple in the kitchen because it has so many great health benefits. For starters it can help in the fight of weight loss, and it also encourages an increase in “good” HDL cholesterol and lowers triglycerides. Don’t be scared about the fat content in coconut oil because Healthline says it’s mostly MCTs which actually works as “appetite-suppressant and fat-burning properties.”
The same source cites a study where obese men who used only two tablespoons of coconut oil a day without changing their usual diet or increasing their physical activity, lost an average of one inch off their waistline. Seems too good to be true!
It’s important to eat breakfast every day, but what’s even more important, especially when it comes to weight loss, is to eat a breakfast that is high in protein so that it gives your body the energy it needs to maintain muscle and burn fat. Eggs are the perfect solution to this. Not only are they high in protein, they make it super simple when it comes to portion control ”which is handy when you’re trying to lose weight. You know that one large egg nets you 70 calories,” says Jess Cording, R.D.
Healthline cites an eight-week study focused on a group of 21 men. Some of the men ate eggs on a daily breakfast while others ate a bagel a day. The study compared the two groups and found that the men who ate three eggs a day also consumed 400 calories less per day and had about a 16 percent reduction in body fat.
15. Spinach, or any Dark Leafy Green Vegetables
You’d be hard pressed to find any negatives about eating more leafy green vegetables. They are a healthy part of any diet because they’re chock full of nutrients, like iron! Women’s Health writes that two cups of spinach contains about a tenth of what the body needs on a daily basis. Iron is an important nutrient because it promotes efficient oxygen transport throughout the body. This is something that will come in handy during a workout when you’re trying to build muscle and burn fat.
Kale in particular helps lower blood sugar levels by slowing down the release of glucose. “It’s also packed with energizing iron and magnesium, which helps reduce stress hormones in the body,” says Vicki Edgson, nutritional therapist and coauthor of Eating the Alkaline Way while talking to Redbook.
16. Yogurt and Milk
Dairy has long been touted as the best food source to build healthy bones. According to nutritionist Jess Cording, R.D., you don’t even have to stick to the low fat products in order to lose weight. “You’ll get more calories, but it tends to be more satisfying. You actually absorb some of the nutrients better, including vitamin D and A, if there’s some fat in there.” To back this claim up Good Housekeeping cites a 2014 study that found calcium-rich foods may help reduce abdominal fat.
In addition to all this, Women’s Health notes that probiotics like those found in dairy are really good for the gut and when our gut is happy and healthy, the rest of the body follows suit. “When your immune system is working well, your gut and brain talk to each other. If you struggle a lot with stress eating, maintaining good digestive health helps nourish a healthy gut so you feel calmer and avoid stress eating,” says Cording.
17. Olive Oil
Using olive oil probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about weight loss tactics, but according to Redbook it’s a much healthier alternative to cooking with butter. Olive oil has important omega-3 fatty acids that help keeps organs like our brain and gut healthy and happy. Good Housekeeping also adds that plant-based oils like extra virgin olive oil help keep us full for longer periods of time which aid in the process of slimming down. It works to lower triglycerides, increase HDL cholesterol and stimulate the release of GLP-1, a hormone that is known to keep us feeling full.
This doesn’t mean you should start frying all your food in olive oil! Anything fried contributes to weight gain, so like many other foods enjoy it in moderation.
18. Whey Protein
Most people who are extremely into fitness and lifting weights incorporate some kind of protein powder into their daily diet. Nutritionist Jess Cording, R.D., suggests using one scoop of whey or another supplement like pea, egg, soy, or casein, and adding it to a shake or some oatmeal. “Whey protein has been shown to support muscle repair, building, and retention,” says nutritionist Jess Cording, R.D., while talking to Women’s Health. This kind of protein is great for metabolism because muscle burns more calories than fat.
19. Beans and Legumes
You’ve probably noticed a pattern by now. Foods high in protein help build muscle which in return, burns fat. Beans and legumes are a really good source of protein which is why we’ve included them on this list. Not only does protein encourage muscle gain, but it also helps prevent blood sugar spikes and promotes a slower energy burn.
Cording explained to Women’s Health the benefits of fiber: “Fiber helps you build stool bulk, physically filling up your system when it interacts with water. It also helps things move more efficiently through your digestive tract, supporting digestive health.”