Losing weight is hard. You eat well, you exercise, and it can still take forever to see results. If you’ve been focusing on counting calories, you are probably frustrated. Simply eating less calories isn’t always the answer; it’s about where you’re getting those calories. Some foods are better than others when it comes to burning fat and preventing fat from storing up in your body. These foods trigger responses in the body that prevent fat storage, encourage the body to burn fat, flush out toxins, and make you feel fuller for longer to prevent overeating.
Saturated fat versus unsaturated fat
Many people avoid fat when they’re trying to lose weight, but that’s only a good thing if they’re avoiding saturated fat. If you really want to lose weight, you still have to eat monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. This is found in food like fish, seeds, olive oil, avocados, and leafy veggies. Studies have shown that when people eat unsaturated fat, they have less body fat than people who avoid both saturated and unsaturated fat. Why is this?
Fat is fuel
The body needs fuel to function, and for many people, that fuel comes almost exclusively from carbs. However, when you eat more healthy fat, the body begins to burn it. In studies about diets and running, it’s been shown that runners with high-carb diets burn less fat than those on high-fat diets. This process actually trains your body to burn more fat, so you’re not just burning it from the foods you ate – you’re burning the fat already in your body.
Good fats also help you feel full longer, so you’re less likely to snack on unhealthy treats, and they help you build muscle.
Best fat-burning foods
There are tons of food that help you burn fat faster. Many of them are healthy fats, while others have detoxing powers that get rid of gunk that slow down the burning of fat. Here are the superstars:
These fruits are full of vitamin B6, which neutralizes cortisol, a stress hormone that is responsible for building fat in the body. The monounsaturated fat might also be blocking belly fat.
Choline is a nutrient that switches off genes that stores belly fat, and eggs are packed with it.
The reason for berries’ effectiveness are the polyphenol antioxidants that both block fat formation and help the body burn it. It also improves blood circulation, which is great for muscle-building.
Rich in casein protein, cottage cheese helps make a person feel full and it improves sleep, which is essential for weight loss.
Black beans have a ton of insoluble fiber, which healthy gut bacteria eat up. This sparks the birth of butyrate, a chemical that helps the body burn fat instead of carbs when you work out.
Studies have over and over again shown that almonds are a powerful fat-burning food. 1.5-ounces of almonds per day can reduce belly and leg fat, specifically.
Like avocados, Greek yogurt neutralizes cortisol and prevents the build-up of belly fat.
Vitamin A, iron, and folate help keep the body full, while thylakoids trigger the body’s ability to burn fat.
One of the best sources for antioxidants, black rice reduces inflammation and less fat storage.
As a complete protein, quinoa both helps the body build muscle and burn fat. Lysine, an amino acid, burns fat, while betaine jumpstarts the metabolism.
Because of its high fiber content and slow-burning carbs, oatmeal keeps you full and helps flush out toxins. Studies have shown people who eat whole grains have less belly fat than those who get the same amount of calories from processed white carbs.
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in wild salmon. These acids both block the storage of fat and help the body burn fat as fuel.
Carotenoids are antioxidants that block the ability of consumed calories to turn into fat.
What about drinks?
So, those foods burn fat, but are there are any drinks that do that?
White tea is a double-whammy. It both breaks down fat and prevents the formation of fat cells. It also has antioxidants that can speed up turning fat into energy.
Studies have shown that 2-3 cups of coffee (without a ton of sugary add-ins) can temporarily jolt your metabolism, so working out afterwards can result in burning more calories.
There’s nothing healthier than just plain ol’ water. Drinking water before meals can help you eat less at mealtime, and when people feel snacky, a lot of the time they’re actually thirsty. Get in your 8 big glasses a day, and lose fat.
Don’t forget to spice up your life
We’ve covered food and beverages that can help the body burn fat, but there are spices and herbs that can do that as well. Add a little (or a lot) of these tasty fat-busters to your meals and experience the healthy results:
Black pepper – This common spice gets its flavor from piperine. The compound
has been shown to disrupt the creation of fat cells in a process called
“adipogenesis.” It also lowers bad cholesterol.
Cinnamon – Packed with antioxidants, cinnamon can help stabilize blood sugar
and reduce how much fat the body stores. It’s especially effective when you add it
to starchy food, like oats.
Cayenne – A specific compound in cayenne pepper makes people eat less and
jumpstarts the thermogenesis process, which is how the body burns fat as fuel.
Eating cayenne daily can help you lose more belly fat.
Turmeric – When you eat 1 teaspoon of turmeric before a meal, the spice will
break down fat. It also helps balance out blood sugar levels, which prevents fat
Sage – Sage helps control the stress hormone cortisol, which in high levels has
been known to promote weight gain, especially around the stomach.
How often should I be eating?
The next question on your mind is how often and how much should you be eating these fat-burning foods. Depending on your current weight, the amount of calories you need to eat to lose weight varies. The average woman should eat 1200-1500 calories a day to lose one pound a week, while the average man should eat about 2000. This is hardly a hard-and-fast rule, but it gives you a general idea.
In terms of actual numbers, studies have attempted to determine the calorie breakdown for an average day on a 12oo-calorie diet. The best time to eat breakfast is after 7am. 250-300 calories is a good amount. Lunchtime is between 12-1 pm and consists of 300-350 calories. Between 6-6:30 pm is the best time for a 400-500 calorie dinner. You’ll see that there are 50-100 calories left, which should be distributed throughout the day in the form of healthy snacks. Remember – when you burn calories through exercise, you need to make up the calories. Less than 1200 calories a day is not a safe or sustainable diet option.
How to combine fat-burning foods into meals
You have a list of individual foods that burn fat, but what about meals? There are foods you can combine to boost their effectiveness and add more variety and deliciousness to your life. Here is a handy graphic to check out when you’re curious about what to mix-and-match.
How to use exercise
Just like there are foods that burn fat effectively, there are certain exercises that encourage the body to use fat as fuel and to burn more calories faster. The way to harness fat-burning power is to do interval training, more intense training, and workouts that strengthen your muscles.
Interval training: Interval training is when you engage in bursts of high-energy
exercise with short rest periods, as opposed to exercising with less energy for
longer periods. Interval training has been found to burn more calories and
increase a specific fat-burning hormone.
Example: On a stationary bike, warm up with a little resistance for 5-10
minutes. Next, pedal hard for 20 seconds, and then slowly for 10 seconds.
Repeat this pattern for 4 minutes. To cool down, bike for 5-10 minutes at
relatively easy speed.
High-intensity: High-intensity workouts are when you use as much energy as you
possibly can during a short period of time. Instead of taking it slow for a longer
period of time, high-intensity consists of “cardio blasts” that list anywhere
between 30-seconds to 5-minutes, depending on how fit the person is. These
types of exercises force your body to use fat as fuel, and even after you’re done
working out, your body keeps burning calories for hours afterwards. Interval
training and high-intensity workouts go hand-in-hand.
Example: Begin the squat exercise by standing with your feet together. Jump
into a position where your feet are slightly apart, and squat. Jump back up,
putting your feet back together. Doing this quickly will raise your heart-rate.
Muscle-building: A body with strong muscles burns fat more effectively than one
with weak muscles. Cardio alone isn’t enough to burn fat as well as you can – you
need to do strength-building exercises, as well.
Example: Work out your biceps by lifting weights in sets of 12-15 repetitions,
twice a week. Do the same for other muscle groups, like quads, abs, and so on.
Bodyweight exercises, which use the weight of your body instead of actual
weights, are also good for building muscle.
Baked Salmon w/ Harissa and Citrus
Time: 20 minutes
This spicy salmon gets its flavor from harissa, a North African chili paste made from a variety of peppers including serrano and roasted red peppers. Lemon and orange slices help cut through the heat with bright citrus flavors. The recipe combines the fat-burning power of appetite-satisfying hot spices and fatty salmon. For even more fat-busting, serve with a side of cooked spinach or quinoa.
One 2 pound salmon fillet
3 chopped green onions
¾ cup harissa
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
- Preheat your oven to 350-degrees and prepare a baking sheet with foil.
- Spray lightly with a cooking spray.
- Pat your salmon dry and put on the sheet.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Spoon over the harissa and spread evenly on the fish.
- Half the lemon and orange before squeezing juice on the salmon.
- Slice the fruit and lay on the fish.
- Sprinkle green onions on top.
- Bake for 20 minutes.
- Cool before serving.
Total calories: 307
Crockpot Chicken Quinoa Casserole
Time: 3-4 hours (+ 10 minute prep time)
This crockpot recipe is a riff on chicken primavera, a classic Italian pasta. It’s packed with healthy ingredients like peas and asparagus, and a full serving is less than 400 calories. The main fat-burning ingredient is the quinoa, which replaces the traditional pasta.
4 cups + 3 cups chicken broth
4-6 garlic cloves
1 pound skinless chicken breasts
2 ½ cups frozen peas
1 ½ cups quinoa
1 bunch of asparagus
1 tablespoon olive oil
Squeeze of lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
- Prepare your ingredients by rinsing the quinoa and cutting up the chicken.
- Put quinoa, chicken, 4 cups of broth, garlic, salt, pepper, and a handful of herbs (parsley, thyme, etc.) in the crockpot.
- Cook for 3-4 hours on low.
- When the quinoa and chicken are cooked through, check the pot. It will be very thick.
- Add more chicken broth until it reaches the texture of a risotto.
- Add pesto, peas, and lemon juice and stir well.
- In the meantime, cook asparagus in olive oil for 5-10 minutes until the asparagus has become a bit browned and tender.
- Cut the asparagus into bite-sized pieces and add to the crockpot.
- Serve with a topping of Parmesan cheese and more seasonings if desired.
Total calories: 314