Many supplements promise quick fixes but only result in short-term weight loss and potentially harmful side effects.
While there’s no magic bullet for fat burning, incorporating foods with specific properties into your diet may help you inch closer to your goals.
Metabolism refers to the chemical processes in your body that convert food into energy. A higher metabolic rate means you burn more calories at rest, promoting weight loss and a leaner physique.
Nutritional factors to look for in fat-burning foods
We spoke with Daniel A. Monti, MD, MBA, the founding Chair of the Department of Integrative Medicine and Nutritional Sciences at Thomas Jefferson University, and CEO and Medical Director of the Marcus Institute of Integrative Health, about what foods to eat to boost metabolism and burn body fat.
Dr. Monti explained, “There are several foods that are known to be metabolic boosters and aid in weight management.”
While no one food can magically melt fat, he explained these foods have one or more nutritional factors that can help reduce caloric intake or boost caloric expenditure.
Understanding the science behind these foods can help you choose the most beneficial options for your unique body needs and goals.
Dr. Monti described the specific qualities that make “fat-burning” foods effective, including:
- “Protein promotes fat loss because it requires more calories for digestion and absorption.
- Healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids improve insulin sensitivity and increase fat oxidation during exercise.
- Fiber can increase feelings of satiety or fullness, thus reducing hunger and helping control appetite.
- Antioxidants like polyphenols, caffeine, catechins and capsaicin can reduce inflammation and improve fat oxidation, helping the body burn more calories at rest.
- Low glycemic index helps stabilize blood sugar levels and potentially reduces the storage of excess calories as fat.”
Not all fat-burning foods fall into each of these categories, but they can still contribute to a healthy metabolism in various ways.
With this in mind, here are ten nutrient-rich foods with properties that can contribute to weight loss and overall wellness.
Almonds and walnuts are among the nuts recommended by Dr. Monti.
Rich in protein and fiber, nuts can help to ward off hunger and reduce overall calorie intake.
They also contain healthy fats that may improve insulin sensitivity and aid in fat and weight loss.
Contrary to common misconceptions, while nuts tend to be high calorie, incorporating nuts into a balanced diet does not necessarily lead to weight gain.
Still, due to their higher calorie density, limit serving sizes to about 1 oz (28 grams).
2. Fatty fish
Dr. Monti also recommends incorporating fatty fish in your diet, including salmon, mackerel, and trout.
The protein in fish also requires more energy to digest, thus burning more calories.
Tamayo cautions, “While eating a diet high in fatty fish will not necessarily boost your metabolism alone, pairing it with lifestyle changes and other healthy foods, such as whole grains, leafy greens, and more, can lead to weight loss and appetite suppression.”
A serving size of fatty fish is about 3.5 oz cooked (100 grams).
Avocados are high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and other beneficial nutrients. Rich in fiber, avocados also help in feeling satiated, thus reducing calorie intake.
Tamayo explains, “Eating an avocado a day has been associated with lower BMI and lower risk for cardiovascular disease.”
She also recommends pairing avocados with high-protein foods like eggs or salmon to promote further feelings of satiety.
Avocados may also positively affect gut health, contributing to a healthier metabolism.
“The fiber in avocados has also been proven to promote healthier gut microbiota by helping produce short-chain fatty acids in the intestine,” Tamayo says.
If you’re watching your calorie intake, stick to a serving size of about one-half of an avocado (around 100 grams).
With their low-calorie content and nutrient-rich profile, berries can benefit weight loss and support metabolism.
They are fiber-packed and have a low glycemic index, stabilizing blood sugar levels and reducing calorie storage as fat.
“Of all the fruits, berries tend to be the highest in antioxidants,” Tamayo says.
Consuming berries can help reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, blood pressure, fasting glucose, body mass index (BMI), and inflammation — factors significantly beneficial for individuals tackling overweight and obesity issues.
Tamayo adds, “They also tend to help boost your metabolism through a variety of mechanisms thanks to the same pigments and nutrients in them. The anthocyanin in berries can increase adiponectin secretion, which also leads to lower glucose levels, appetite suppression, and even weight loss. Adding berries to your breakfast or snacks can make your meal more wholesome and help you lose weight.”
These health benefits and low calorie count make berries an excellent addition to a fat-burning diet.
A serving size is usually about 1 cup (125–150 grams).
Rich in fiber and healthy fats, flaxseeds are an additional source of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.
They also contain lignans, plant compounds that have been shown to improve metabolic health by reducing inflammation and improving insulin sensitivity.
A small-scale 2012 research study suggests that fiber from flaxseeds can help curb hunger, thereby enhancing feelings of satisfaction and fullness in individuals.
More recently, a comprehensive review of 45 randomized placebo-controlled trials conducted in 2017 suggests that flaxseed may help facilitate weight loss in individuals struggling with overweight or obesity.
Other recent (2018) research also reveals that consuming whole flaxseeds may aid in maintaining balanced blood sugar and insulin levels, thereby enhancing glycemic control.
These effects may contribute to better weight management and metabolism.
“Adding flaxseed to your meals, salads, smoothies, or snacks can add more fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants while also helping your gut stay healthy and making you feel full longer,” Tamayo recommends.
A serving size is 2 tablespoons (20 grams) of ground flaxseeds.
6. Chili peppers
Capsaicin, an active compound in chili peppers responsible for their spicy flavor, has been shown to benefit metabolism. Doctors and registered dietitians overwhelmingly agree on this fat-burning food.
Alex Foxman, MD, FACP, medical director of Achieve Health and Weight Loss, told Consumer Health Digest, “Capsaicin can stimulate metabolism and increase fat burning by activating receptors in the nervous system. One study found that adding chili pepper to a meal increased energy expenditure and fat oxidation after the meal.”
Destini Moody, RD, CSSD, a registered dietitian and certified specialist in sports dietetics, also weighed in, citing a study that suggests capsaicin can help with weight loss and hunger while promoting greater fat oxidation when compared to a placebo. “The subjects also reported less feelings of hunger, which means that peppers may be able prevent overeating as well,” she says.
Of capsaicin, Melissa Baker, RD, a registered dietitian nutritionist with Food Queries, added that it “may help increase metabolism by raising body temperature and promoting fat breakdown.”
Chilli peppers are primarily used as a spice but can be consumed in small amounts of 1 tablespoon (15 grams) of raw chili peppers daily.
7. Lean proteins
Lean proteins are high-quality proteins that are low in fat and typically include essential nutrients like iron and B vitamins.
Familiar sources of lean proteins include skinless poultry, fish, lean cuts of meat, eggs, low-fat dairy products, edamame (soybeans) and soybean products (like tofu), nuts, seeds, and legumes.
Underscored by Dr. Monti, the process of digesting and absorbing protein results in a higher caloric expenditure, thereby facilitating fat loss.
Baker explained this connection. “Foods like lean chicken, turkey, fish, and tofu require more energy to digest compared to fats or carbohydrates, leading to an increase in metabolism. This phenomenon is known as the thermic effect of food (TEF). A study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition supports the role of protein in TEF.”
This can make lean protein a valuable addition to any fat-burning diet.
Serving sizes vary depending on the type of protein source, but a few general recommendations for servings of protein include:
- 3-4 ounces of lean meat, poultry, or fish
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup of cooked legumes
8. Green and oolong tea
Green and oolong teas derived from the Camellia sinensis plant are hailed for their metabolism-boosting properties.
While green tea is minimally processed, retaining its color and antioxidant levels, oolong tea is partially fermented, striking a balance between the robust flavors of black tea and the delicate nature of green tea.
Both teas contain caffeine and catechins, which may increase metabolism and promote fat oxidation.
A 2011 meta-analysis revealed that the synergistic effect of catechins and caffeine in tea can significantly boost metabolic rate, leading to an additional burn of roughly 102 calories daily.
Sheri Berger, RDN, CDCES, a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes care and education specialist, adds, “A 2018 study in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition Exercise Metabolism showed matcha green tea can enhance fat oxidation with a brisk walk.”
Regularly consuming cups of either green tea, oolong tea, or both could aid in fat reduction while contributing to overall health.
According to Moody, “Studies suggest that drinking 500 milligrams or less of green tea every day for 3 months can produce results. Further research may be needed, however.”
Coffee contains caffeine and antioxidants, which support metabolism and promote fat oxidation.
However, be mindful of added sugars and high-fat creamers, as these can negate the benefits.
Baker explains, “Caffeine, a natural stimulant found in coffee, can temporarily boost metabolism by increasing the release of adrenaline. A  study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicated that caffeine enhanced fat oxidation and energy expenditure.”
While there isn’t a universally accepted recommendation for coffee or caffeine intake specifically for fat loss, it is generally considered safe for most healthy adults to consume up to four cups of coffee, or 400 milligrams of caffeine, daily.
10. Yerba mate
She explains, “Yerba mate is derived from the Yerba mate plant. Its origin is from Latin and South America.”
According to Rennix, this beverage has become popular in the US in recent years, and it can be consumed cold or hot, but most people enjoy it as a hot tea.
Rennix told Consumer Health Digest, “Studies have shown that this herb has potential metabolism-boosting properties. Theobromine and xanthines are natural stimulants found in the herb, which may activate thermogenesis (increase one’s metabolism) and increase calorie expenditure.”
While the metabolic benefits of Yerba mate are acknowledged, prolonged consumption or large quantities may pose potential health risks. Therefore, healthy adults should limit their Yerba mate consumption to approximately 3 cups per day.
Pregnant women should consult with their healthcare provider before consuming Yerba mate.
Incorporating these foods into a balanced diet may help boost metabolism and facilitate weight loss, but further research is needed to determine the extent of their effectiveness.
Additionally, it’s important to remember that no single food or nutrient is responsible for fat-burning or weight loss.
Dr. Monti emphasized, “Remember that while these foods may have fat-burning, metabolic-boosting properties, their effects should be considered in the context of an overall healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet and regular physical activity for effective and sustainable weight management.”
Consult a registered dietitian or healthcare provider for personalized nutrition advice and to ensure your dietary choices align with your specific health needs and goals.
Disclaimer: The content presented in this article is intended solely for informational purposes and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Readers should seek advice from a healthcare professional prior to initiating any dietary modifications, lifestyle changes, or supplement regimens.
We review published medical research in respected scientific journals to arrive at our conclusions about a product or health topic. This ensures the highest standard of scientific accuracy.
 Good Fats versus Bad Fats: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6140086/
 Nuts Improve Diet Quality Compared to Other Energy-Dense Snacks While Maintaining Body Weight https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3154486/
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 Obesity https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/1930739x
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