In your quest to lose* weight and burn fat, your best results will be achieved by eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise. But the fact of the matter is that you can burn fat and lose* weight through diet alone. Exercise helps, but the type of food you eat is an even more important factor in how your body stores fat or use it as energy.
One of the best ways to lose* weight is to adjust your daily caloric intake by a few hundred calories a day, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Consuming just 500 fewer calories a day can help you lose* an estimated 1 to 2 pounds per week. That’s easy to do if you drink water instead of soda, and eat more whole foods instead of refined and processed foods. But it’s not just how much you eat that helps you lose* weight. Your food choices and timing of meals and snacks also aid in fat loss.
How do Foods Burn Fat?
Foods burn fat in a couple of ways. Some foods, like whole grains, require twice as many calories to digest than other foods. Protein-rich foods help you maintain lean muscle mass. Lean muscle tissue burns more calories than the same amount of fat. Some foods with naturally-occurring or added caffeine increase* metabolism and help burn added calories. And hot and spicy peppers and foods can increase* body temperature, forcing your body to work harder to cool down and burn more calories in the process. And the simple act of eating more nutrient-dense foods but fewer calories can help create a calorie deficit for fat loss.
Let’s take a look at the three basic ways food helps your body burn fat.
- High Protein Consumes More Energy: Eating protein-rich foods like lean meats, soy, low-fat dairy products, fish, and eggs, help preserve lean muscle mass. If you’re doing some strength training as part of your weight loss* plan, you’re building lean muscle tissue with each repetition. Eating a protein-rich diet helps maintain lean muscle tissue. And it’s an important strategy to use to promote weight loss*. One pound of muscle burns 7 to 10 calories more per day than fat, according to the American Council on Exercise. Pack on some muscle from strength training and top it off with a high-protein diet and you’ll start burning unwanted calories and fat while you sleep.
- Boost* Your Metabolism: Some foods can naturally boost* your metabolism. Green tea products contain a natural form of caffeine and other nutrients that temporarily increase* your heart rate and speeds up metabolism. But you can also boost* your metabolism without caffeine. Eating five to six smaller meals consistently throughout the day basically reprograms your metabolism and keeps your body actively digesting food and burning calories. The key is to eat healthy foods throughout the day, and not empty-calorie junk food.
- Reducing* Calorie Intake by Digestion: Eating fiber-rich foods make you feel fuller longer. That’s because it takes your body longer to digest fiber typically found in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and legumes. Eating these foods burns more calories because your digestive system has to work harder than it does when you eat most refined or processed foods. And you’re also likely to eat fewer calories if you eat a high-fiber diet. The Institute of Medicine recommends that adult men consume about 38 grams of fiber per day, and women should consume about 25 grams of fiber per day.
The Top Fat Burning Foods
If you’re serious about losing weight and burning fat, make these foods a regular part of your diet. These top fat-burning foods will help you lose* weight and shed those unwanted pounds.
In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that drinking four cups of green tea a day helped people lose* about 6 pounds in two months. A natural form of caffeine and other nutrients in green tea helps speed up metabolism.
Your body burns two times as many calories digesting whole grains than most other foods. Aim to eat more whole grain bread, pasta, cereal, and oatmeal, to help you feel fuller longer and burn extra calories through digestion.
This protein-rich fish contains high levels of healthy fats and helps preserve lean muscle tissue. The Harvard School of Public Health recommends eating one to two 3-ounce servings of fish, such as salmon, a week.
Broccoli is another fiber-rich food with a thermogenic effect that requires more energy to digest. It’s also a healthy, nutrient-dense, vegetable that helps you feel fuller longer and control calories.
If you’re going to eat meat, lean chicken is one of the healthiest protein sources available. A single chicken breast contains about 30 grams of protein and very little fat, if you eat it skinless. This is another great protein source to help preserve lean muscle tissue that burns more calories than fat.
In a recent study published in the International Journal of Obesity, researchers found that eating yogurt may help you lose* weight. People who ate three servings of yogurt per day lost 22 percent more weight and 61 percent more body fat than people who ate a calorie-controlled diet without yogurt. They also found that significant fat loss occurred in the abdominal area for the yogurt eaters. Make this calcium-rich food and good source of protein a regular part of your diet.
Brown rice falls into the whole grain category of foods. Unlike white rice made from refined grain, brown rice contains the nutrients that require more work for your body to digest. Choosing brown rice instead of white rice is an easy dietary change to make that can aid in weight loss*.
If you have a craving for something sweet, skip the candy bar and eat an orange. A typical candy bar contains 250 calories along with saturated fat. But an average-sized orange only has about 65 calories and contains zero grams of fat. Fiber in oranges also helps you feel fuller longer and aids in weight loss*.
Like salmon, other fish to add to you menu include herring, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines. These protein-rich fish high in omega-3 fatty acids help protect lean muscle tissue you’ve worked hard to develop through strength training. But omega-3 fatty acids in fish also protect your heart, lower blood pressure, improve* blood vessel function, and reduce* inflammation, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.
Baked or grilled skinless chicken, turkey, or Cornish hen are the best lean meat options that are high in protein to help build lean muscle mass. When you combine strength training with a high-protein diet, you’ll build and preserve more lean muscle tissue. And muscle burns more calories than fat, even at rest.
Low-fat Dairy Products
Low-fat dairy products like skim milk, cottage cheese, yogurt, and cheese are all good sources of protein. These foods also support and preserve lean muscle tissue which can help you burn more calories and maximize your strength-training workouts. And if you are lactose intolerant, soy-based products are a good alternative.
If you’re serious about losing weight, one of the most important things you need to get a handle on is your diet. If you’re not eating the right foods, you could be sabotaging all your hard work in the gym. Keep a food diary to measure your daily calorie intake and find out what might trigger cravings and overeating. Then make adjustments to control calories and eat healthy. And be sure to include these fat-burning foods as a regular part of your diet.