Published March 30, 2009
If you are one of the many people fighting the battle of the bulge, you will be pleased to learn that there are actually foods that may help you burn fat. You will still need to exercise and avoid over indulging. However, you may be able to speed up the fat-burning process by consuming these wonder foods.
1. Low-Fat Dairy: Milk, Yogurt, Cottage CheeseHow: They all contain calcium and studies show that not getting enough calcium may trigger the release of calcitrol, a hormone that causes us to store fat, whereas meeting your daily calcium needs helps us burn fat more efficiently. Dairy products can boost weight loss efforts, according to a study in the April issue of Obesity Research. People on a reduced-calorie diet who included three to four servings of dairy foods lost significantly more weight than those who ate a low-dairy diet containing the same number of calories. Low-fat yogurt is a rich source of weight-loss-friendly calcium, providing about 450 mg (about half the recommended daily allowance for women ages 19-50) per 8-ounce serving, as well as 12 grams of protein.
2. BerriesHow: they are high in fiber. Fiber is the magic bullet of weight loss. It keeps you full and satisfied all day on virtually no calories. A 1 cup serving of raspberries contains 8g of fiber and only 60 calories! Strawberries, blackberries and blueberries are all other high-fiber berries. Fiber makes us feel full sooner and stays in our stomach longer than other substances we eat, slowing down our rate of digestion and keeping us feeling full longer. Fiber also moves fat through our digestive system faster so that less of it is absorbed.
3. High-fiber cerealsHow: A study from the Journal of the American Dietetic Associationfound that women who ate cereal were 30 percent less likely to be overweight than those who ate other breakfast foods. High-fiber cereals have fewer calories than other breakfast options (eggs, bacon, donuts and muffins), and the fiber helps to keep you feeling full all morning so you are less likely to need a snack before lunch. Also, fiber helps to keep insulin levels in check which prevents fat storage.
4. Citrus Fruits: Oranges, Grapefruit, Lemon, LimesHow: Foods that contain vitamin C help metabolize fat faster and make losing weight less difficult. You only need 60 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C a day to meet your body's basic needs, but according to the study, raising your daily intake to 500 mg could boost your fat burning potential during exercise by 39 percent. Researchers at Scripps Clinic found that participants who ate half a grapefruit with each meal in a 12-week period lost an average of 3.6 pounds. The study indicates that the unique chemical properties in this vitamin C-packed citrus fruit reduce insulin levels, which promotes weight loss. NOTE: If you are taking medication, check with your doctor about any potentially adverse interactions with grapefruit.
5. Green TeaHow: Green tea contains caffeine, which is a natural stimulant that can help your body burn more calories while at rest, meaning that you can burn fat without doing a thing. Caffeine speeds up the heart rate and also frees fatty acids stored in the body, making them more readily available for energy use. Also, green tea contains a compound called ECGC that may help to boost your metabolism by speeding up the nervous system. Green tea can also replace less healthy alternatives such as colas and excess coffee drinks which add calories to your diet.
6. WaterHow: Water helps to rid the body of toxins and chemicals that may be slowing down your overall metabolism. By drinking at least 8 glasses of water a day, you can make sure that your digestion is running smoothly and that anything that shouldn't be in your body is eliminated. Many times, our hunger is really just thirst in disguise since the symptoms of dehydration mimic those of hunger (weak, cranky, tired, etc.) A new study seems to indicate that drinking water actually speeds up weight loss. Researchers in Germany found that subjects of the study increased their metabolic rates (the rate at which calories are burned) by 30 percent after drinking approximately 17 ounces of water. Water is also a natural appetite suppressant that banishes bloat as it flushes out sodium and toxins. Make sure that you are starting your day with a big glass of water and drink throughout the day not just all at one time.
7. Soy beans: Either frozen in bags or dry-roastedHow: Soybeans contain lecitin, which helps your body keep your cells from accumulating fat. If you don't have the time to steam them frozen, you can snack on dried or roasted ones.
8. Fish: Salmon, Tuna, SardinesHow: These fish all contain large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids which, besides being incredibly healthy, seem to affect metabolism. Omega-3s alter levels of leptin, a hormone in the body which directly influences metabolism and determines whether you burn calories or store them as fat. Fish contain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) found only in fish oils. Fish oil increases the levels of fat-burning enzymes in your body and decreases the levels of fat-storage enzymes. It's also been shown to boost your metabolism by as much as 400 calories per day. Fish like mackerel, salmon and trout are great sources of omega-3, but you can also take capsules (take at least 300mg).
9. Lean Proteins: Lean Beef, Chicken and TurkeyHow: All lean meats help to speed up the metabolism and burn more fat simply because they require so much energy for complete digestion. Studies have shown that people who follow a high-protein diet burn twice as many calories after a meal as people who follow a high-carbohydrate diet. In addition, eating protein helps to preserve muscle mass during weight loss, keeping metabolism running at full speed. Rev up your fat-burning engine with this bodybuilder favorite. Countless studies have shown that protein can help boost metabolism, lose fat and build lean muscle tissue so you burn more calories. A 3-ounce serving of boneless, skinless lean turkey breast weighs in at 120 calories and provides 26 grams of appetite-curbing protein, 1 gram of fat and 0 grams of saturated fat.
10. Spicy Peppers: Jalapenos, Habaneros, Chili peppers How: Studies show that the chemical compound capsacin, found in peppers, speeds up your heart rate and metabolism. Eating a very spicy meal can actually speed up the metabolism by about 25 percent for up to 3 hours. Keep Tabasco sauce on the table to spice up everything from scrambled eggs to soup to pasta.
11. PistachiosHow: Studies show that pistachios fight weight gain by slowing down rises in blood sugar levels and curbing hunger. Nut consumption in general is associated with a lower body mass index and has not been associated with weight gain. Pistachios have a significant amount of protein and are among the highest fiber nuts which slow down digestion, and keep you feeling fuller longer than low-protein, low-fiber snacks. You also get a lot of nuts for a one ounce serving which helps psychologically. For a 1-ounce portion of pistachios, you get 49 pistachios versus only 23 almonds and 18 cashews (in an equal one ounce portion).
12. Apples and PearsHow: Overweight women who ate the equivalent of three small apples or pears a day lost more weight on a low-calorie diet than women who didn't add fruit to their diet, according to researchers from the State University of Rio de Janeiro. Fruit eaters also ate fewer calories overall. So next time you need to satisfy a sugar craving, reach for this low-calorie, high-fiber snack. You'll feel full longer and eat less.
13. SoupEat less and burn fat faster by having a bowl of soup as an appetizer or a snack. According to a Penn State University study, soup is a super appetite suppressant because it's made up of a hunger-satisfying combination of liquids and solids. In the study, women chose one of three 270-calorie snacks before lunch. Women who had chicken and rice soup as a snack consumed an average of 100 fewer calories than those in the study who opted for a chicken and rice casserole or the casserole and a glass of water. Just make sure to avoid soups made with cream or loaded with pasta or potatoes. Aim for broth based soups filled with vegetables for a low-calorie and filling meal or appetizer. Miso soup, vegetable soup and bean soups are all great options.
14. Broccoli How: Study after study links calcium and weight loss. Broccoli is not only high in calcium, but also loaded with vitamin C, which boosts calcium absorption. This member of the nutritious cabbage family also has plenty of vitamin A, folate and fiber. And, at just 20-calories per cup, this weight-loss superfood not only fights fat but also contains powerful phytochemicals that boost your immunity and protect against disease. Try it chopped in your salad, or sauteed and used in an omelet or as a side dish.
15. GarlicHow: Garlic is a blood thinner but also seems to have the ability to break down fat. Most people can take it or leave it, but by adding garlic to your diet, even in amounts you cannot detect, will help you in your fat-burning goals and get a number of other benefits. Garlic is also a diuretic.
Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD is a nutritionist and founder of Skinnyandthecity.com. She is also the creator of The F-Factor DietaC/, an innovative nutritional program she has used for more than ten years to provide hundreds of her clients with all the tools they need to achieve easy weight loss and maintenance, improved health and well-being. For more information log onto