By: Anna Fleet
Maybe you already knew that particular foods contain high thermogenic effect, which essentially means they help to boost your metabolism. However, the majority of the population has no idea exactly what foods burn calories as you chew, or contain particular nutrients and compounds that fuel your body’s internal metabolic furnace and help you literally melt the calories you consume far more quickly.
Here are ten foods that nutritionists credit with helping you burn fat…
- Hot Peppers
Chili peppers sure do pack quite a bunch! They have a compound called “capsaicin” that gives them their zip and heats up the body, firing up your metabolism and helping you burn off excess calories. Capsaicin is present in fresh, pickled and dry peppers, along with flaked pepper spices like cayenne and red chilies. Weight loss experts recommend adding them to your soups, sauces, and rice dishes to boost your diet’s automatic fat-burning potential.
If you don’t like spicy food, you can still benefit from chili peppers. A recent University of California study found that peppers with a compound called dihydrocapsiate also helped st udy participants burn fat. Dihydrocapsiate is a non-burning (i.e. non-spicy) form of capsaicin which incr eases your body’s ability to oxidize fat. Researchers recommend making it a regular part of your low-calorie diet if you’re not a fan of spicy dishes – this will help you benefit from the natural fat-burning properties of chili peppers without setting your mouth on fire.
- Green Tea
Green tea contains a substance known as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which has been scientifically proven to provide your metabolism with a temporary boost. EGCG is an antioxidant which helps your body make better use of a naturally occurring hormone and neurotransmitter called nor-epinephrine. The main metabolism effect of nor-epinephrine 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 nor-epinephrine, enhancing its fat-burning effects. One recent study showed that men who took dietary supplements containing EGCG burned 17 percent more fat by exercising than men who didn’t. If you’re regularly exercising and eating a low-calorie diet, incorporate hot or cold green tea into your diet to kick your fat-burning regimen into overdrive
Oats are very high in fiber, and when your body needs to break down fiber-rich whole foods, it burns up to twice as many calories during the digestion process. 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.
Experts recommend eating 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, reach for unsweetened whole-grain oats, and add some honey or fresh fruit to boost its flavor appeal. Pair it with protein-rich nuts and you’ll have one of the healthiest breakfasts on the planet. You can also sprinkle oat bran on your soups, salads and stir fry dishes to give your body an internal workout!
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 can be a great start to your day, especially if you follow it up a couple of hours later with a healthy “second breakfast,” containing fiber-rich, high-protein foods. Grapefruit helps your body dissolve fat and cholesterol, which fighting hardening of the arteries (a process known as “arteriosclerosis”).
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. Add it to your breakfast regimen and watch your waistline shrink!
- Lean Turkey or Chicken
Turkey and chicken are both very lean sources of protein, and both have what is known in dietary circles as a “high thermogenic effect.” In essence, this means that it fires 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 than fattier meats like beef and pork. It’s a win-win situation for your body, which gets all the nutrients and benefits of meat from far fewer calories, all while burning more energy during digestion.
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 flavor the meat with spices or low-calorie, low-sugar sauces.
By now, you’re probably noticing a trend – the higher a food’s protein content, the better it is for weight loss. 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 less 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. A single serving of lentils also provides for 35 percent of your daily iron needs. Lentils are also low in sodium and very high in potassium. Few foods offer the nutritional punch of low-calorie lentils. Add them to your soup recipes, or put them in regular rotation as a side dish.
Certain types of fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which promote fat loss by kicking your metabolism into high gear. The dietary action of omega-3 fatty acids is similar to that of protein – it forces your body to naturally burn more calories while helping you keep your appetite in check throughout the day. Fish is a great choice at lunchtime; the earlier in the day you eat it, the longer you will benefit from its appetite-regulating properties.
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 about 90 to 120 calories, which isn’t much considering its nutritive benefits. Salmon, mackerel and albacore tuna are all very high in omega-3 fatty acids, which may also help protect your brain and boost your cognitive capabilities. Just watch out for high mercury content; choose organic or sustainable sourced products rather than their mass-produced counterparts.
Berries are very rich in antioxidants, and getting more antioxidants from natural sources is a great way to help boost your metabolism. The antioxidants contained in berries promote better blood flow, which helps your body build stronger muscles. The more muscle your body has, the more calories it will burn – even when you’re at rest. Invest some time in improving your fat-to-muscle ratio and you’ll benefit from passive calorie burning and weight loss.
Another benefit of berries is that they are very low in calories. Strawberries are very low in calories, with only about 45 per cup. Raspberries, blackberries and blueberries all range between 60 and 80 calories per cup, and all four types of berries help keep your blood pressure down. This reduces your risk of heart disease and heart attacks – another reason to add berries to your oatmeal or whole-grain breakfast cereal. They’re also one of the best snacks you can eat.
You already know that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but apples can also help keep the calories away as well. A few crispy bites 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.
Given that apples are also rich in antioxidants, they can help improve your body’s blood flow and help you build healthier, stronger muscles. As a general rule of thumb, choose apples with darker skins more often. The darker an apple’s skin, the richer it is in antioxidants, and the stronger its fat-burning effects will be. However, if you strongly prefer Granny Smith or golden delicious apples, rest easy – these varieties also pack a strong antioxidant punch.
Sure, caffeine has its drawbacks – excessive consumption can cause an elevated heart rate while potentially triggering anxiety and insomnia. However, moderate coffee drinkers can take solace in the fact that their morning cup of java provides a big metabolic boost, meaning that this stimulant naturally speeds up your metabolism and helps you burn more calories than normal. It also helps get you up and moving more quickly in the morning, providing your energy levels with a helpful push in the right direction.
In addition to moderating consumption, you should also be careful about what you add to your coffee. Piling on the sugar and heavy cream will turn this metabolism-boosting beverage into a fat trap. Instead, use low-fat milk and sweeteners instead of sugar, or avoid sweetening it altogether. Coffee is healthiest when it’s consumed black, so if you can make that transition, your body will thank you for it.