fat burning foods

The 6 BEST Fat Burning Foods (Eat Everyday for a Lean Body)

by Kelley Herring on December 6, 2012

If you have pounds that just won’t budge, your kitchen is probably in need of a serious makeover.  But this doesn’t mean stocking your pantry with low calorie, fake foods, chemical-laden diet shakes or “weight-loss” bars.

In fact, it is REAL foods – healthy fats, proteins and nutrient-packed veggies – that are the fat-burning foods your body requires to torch through the layer that’s hiding your lean, sexy physique.

Today, I’m going to tell you about the fat-burning foods you should be eating every day to sculpt a healthy, beautiful body. You will discover how certain foods can “flip the switch” on your body’s fat-burning genes, stoke your metabolic furnace and even target dangerous and unsightly belly fat!

You’ll also learn about the so-called healthy “weight loss” foods that are loaded with fat- fertilizers – common ingredients that actually encourage weight gain.

Finally, I’ll share ten of my favorite fat-burning meals that you can make in under 30 minutes. These are simple and delicious meals that will kick-start your metabolism so you can start shedding pounds today!

Let’s get started!

Fat-Burning Food #1: Clean Protein

The number one nutrient you need to lose weight is protein. Why? Because protein stimulates fat burning directly. You see, a high protein, low glycemic diet is the best way to activate a compound called glucagon—the “weight loss hormone”.

grass fed beef for weight loss

Grass fed (and finished!) beef is an excellent source of clean protein with a fat-burning bonus – CLA!

Glucagon is essential for breaking down body fat. And the only way to encourage its production is to eat fewer carbohydrates and more protein.

But it’s important to be picky with your protein! Most commercially available protein sources – like conventional meats, farmed fish, soy protein bars and many others – are loaded with hormones and hormone-mimicking chemicals that actually encourage your body to store fat.

So, opt for “clean” sources of protein like:

  • Wild, sustainable fish
  • Pastured poultry and eggs
  • Grass-fed meats
  • Game meats

The thermic effect of protein is the highest of all the macronutrients, burning about 30% of the calories it contains, just for digestion and processing.  And protein is highly satiating too, which means it will keep you feeling full for hours.

For weight loss, be sure to have a serving of clean protein at every meal or snack.

fiber for fat loss

Forget “whole grains” for fiber! Get a healthy source of inflammation-fighting fiber in delicious organic raspberries. One cup provides a whopping 8 grams and just 65 calories.

Fat-Burning Food #2: Fiber

You’ve heard it before – fill up on fiber to lose weight.  But this doesn’t mean choking down thick, processed fiber drinks or stocking up on fiber-enriched foods that are often loaded with sugar and chemicals.

Mother Nature provides us with a wide variety of high-fiber, nutrient-rich veggies and fruits that offer much more than just “roughage”.

For example, the cabbage family contains potent cancer-fighters called glucosinolates and green-hued foods contain lutein – a nutrient that protects against macular degeneration.

Opt for Mother Nature’s packaging and include two to three servings of high fiber, low carb, fat-burning veggies to every meal like these:

  • Arugula
  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Bok Choy
  • Broccoli
  • Broccoli Rabe
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Fennel
  • Hearts of Palm
  • Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Peppers
  • Radish
  • Tomatoes
  • Yellow Squash
  • Zucchini

Like protein, fiber requires energy (calories!) to process. That’s why many high fiber foods are considered “negative calorie” foods – they take more calories to process than they actually contain. Another benefit – fiber slows digestion, keeping you full (and out of the kitchen!) longer.

But what about beans, fruits and winter squash?

These foods are all high in fiber and nutrients too, but they are also higher in carbohydrates or contain natural sugars. Eating too much of these foods can bring our fat-burning to a grinding halt. For successful fat loss, aim for just one to two servings of these higher carb foods per day and keep your daily sugar intake below 20 grams.

Now that we’ve covered protein, fiber and carbs, it’s time to tackle the most misunderstood macronutrient – fat.

Fat-Burning Food #3: Healthy Fat

healthy fat burning food

Get lean with FAT! Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fat that reduces insulin levels and melts belly fat. 

You may remember the low fat craze of the 1990’s and the resulting “Snackwell Effect”. People gobbled up boxes of fat free cookies and diligently counted fat grams… only to find they were getting fatter from fat-free foods.

Low fat foods don’t equate to lower body fat. And most of the fat in your food does not translate to fat on your body. But the operative word here is most.

In fact, some fats do just that. They slow metabolism, reduce the liver’s ability to burn fat as fuel and even flip on genes that tell your body to “store fat”. But healthy fats can do just the opposite. They stoke your fat-burning furnace, flip on the genes that melt fat stores, and even target dangerous and unsightly belly fat.

Here are the three slimming fats you should be enjoying. Opt for one serving at every meal or snack:

  • Monounsaturated fats (MUFA):  You probably know that a Mediterranean-style diet can help you lose weight. One of the key tummy-trimming ingredients is monounsaturated fat which is found in olives, avocados and nuts. Studies show that MUFAs help reduce blood sugar and insulin levels and even melt belly fat –without exercise. MUFAs also help reduce inflammation as well as the risk of heart disease and certain cancers. To get more fat-fighting MUFAs in your diet enjoy macadamia nuts, macadamia nut oil, avocados, avocado oil, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, pistachios and olive oil.
  • Conjugated linolenic acid (CLA):  CLA is a healthy fat found in the milk and meat of grass-grazing animals like grass-fed beef and bison, wild game meats, grass-fed lamb, and pasture-raised dairy.  Studies show CLA is effective in reducing body fat mass, increasing insulin sensitivity, and decreasing blood sugar levels. CLA works by causing fat cells to self-destruct (a process called “programmed cell death” or apoptosis). In addition to burning fat, CLA also helps reduce inflammation, reduces a hormone that regulates fat levels (leptin), and has positive effects on cancer and heart disease.  Be sure to eat 100% grass-fed meats to get CLA in your diet. Animals fed grain produce little to no CLA and have high levels of inflammatory fats to boot.
  • Omega 3: The amount of omega 3 fats  in your diet has a big impact on your weight, as well as your long term health. That’s because omega-3s actually reprogram your genes to shed fat! Recent research in the journal Lipids found that omega-3s from fish burn fat and also reduce the number of fat cells you have – particularly in the belly region.  Choose clean sources of omega-3 like sustainable wild fish and a fish oil supplement like Carlson or Nordic Naturals. (Beware of farm raised fish that contain PCBs that INCREASE belly fat!)

Now that you know how to boost your metabolism with clean protein, healthy fat and fiber, let’s take a look at a few more fat-burners to include in your menus.

Fat-Burning Food #4: Water

You’ve heard it before: Drink lots of water to flush fat off of those stubborn spots on your thighs, belly and butt. But this old weight loss tip is not a wives tale. In fact, drinking enough water is vital for effective fat-burning and detoxification.

fat burning food water

Flush toxins, banish bloat and sip your way to a leaner body. Make pure, clean water your drink of choice.

A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that drinking 16 ounces of water can boost metabolism by 24% for up to an hour.

And there’s more to the story than that…

Staying hydrated is essential for healthy liver and kidney function. And this is really important when it comes to your metabolism.  The kidneys process water and eliminate toxins, but if you’re dehydrated the kidneys can’t do their job and the liver has to compensate. And because one of the main functions of the liver is to convert fat into energy, when it’s busy with other tasks more fat gets stored on the body. (Learn more tips to keep your liver healthy in Healing Gourmet’s Detox Diet center)

It may sound counterintuitive, but another reason to get enough water is to prevent water retention. When the body doesn’t get enough water, it goes into survival mode, storing water in the anticipation of a drought. And water retention can make you look bloated, not to mention add pounds to your weight.

Water is a natural appetite suppressant that banishes bloat, flushes out sodium and toxins, ratchets up your metabolism and keeps your fat-burning furnace cranking on all cylinders.

Make pure, filtered or spring water your drink of choice. Add a squeeze of lemon if you like and aim for eight 8-ounce glasses throughout the day. However, please be sure to limit the amount of liquids you consume during meals, as this can dilute the digestive enzymes necessary for proper digestion.

Fat-Burning Food #5: Fermented, Probiotic Foods

In addition to eating a protein-rich, low glycemic diet, there’s something else that can help you shed unwanted pounds. Your flora!

fermented sauerkraut fat burning food

Lacto-fermented foods made WITHOUT vinegar sauerkraut is rich in beneficial probiotics and vitamin C

Your gastrointestinal system is home to trillions of microbes that carry out dozens of essential functions. Collectively called “microflora”, these bugs train the immune system, synthesize vitamins (including B vitamins vitamin K), and help regulate your hormones.

And recent research shows that they can affect your weight too!

While the “good bugs” in your tract (like Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus) promote digestion and elimination, other gut bacteria and fungi (including Firmicutes, Clostridium and Candida) slow the motion that propels food forward, causing stagnation, bloating and weight gain, according to a recent article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

What’s more, the Firmicutes have been found to store calories from digested food as fat for later use.

The good news is that your “friendly bacteria” can crowd out the nasty fat-storing, disease-promoting flora. All you have to do is feed them the right food. Include lacto-fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, kefir in your diet and take a high quality probiotic supplement to help your flora fight fat.

Fat-Burning Food #6: Grapefruit

Surprise! The grapefruit diet is not a myth.

Researchers at Scripps Clinic found that participants who ate half a grapefruit before each meal in a 12-week period lost an average of 3.5 pounds, while changing nothing else. The researchers found that grapefruit reduced insulin levels and improved insulin resistance, promoting weight loss and boost metabolism.

Grapefruit contains powerful phytonutrients that inhibit the formation of fat and improve insulin balance.

Grapefruit contains powerful phytonutrients that inhibit the formation of fat and improve insulin balance.

Another reason grapefruit can help you achieve your weight loss goals? It protects the liver (your body’s “fat-burning furnace”) from damage. A recent research study published in the journal Carcinogenesis evaluated the protective effects of grapefruit juice on a liver exposed to one of the best-known chemical assailants—aflatoxin (AFB1).

In the study, animals were given grapefruit juice five days before being exposed to aflatoxin. The animals receiving the grapefruit juice had 65% less DNA damage to the liver than those not receiving grapefruit juice. What’s more, the animals getting the juice also reduced total DNA damage by 74% compared with the animals not drinking grapefruit.

One last note on grapefruit: Be sure to eat some of the bitter white membrane. Researchers found that a compound in the membranes of citrus fruits can inhibit the formation of fat by up to 83%.

While enjoying fat-burning foods everyday is important, you must also eliminate the foods that are keeping you from achieving the lean, sexy physique you desire.

Just Say NO to Fat Fertilizers!

Aptly coined “fat fertilizers” by organic chemist and author Shane Ellison (The People’s Chemist), these substances encourage your body to store fat by altering your hormones and even your genes.

Here are the foods that act as fat fertilizers that you should clear from your cupboards right now:

  • Sugar in ANY Form: Don’t be fooled by the onslaught of “sugar free” recipes and “healthy” products that contain agave nectar, maple syrup, dates or other sugar alternatives. They aren’t “sugar free”. And while they may not contain cane sugar or high fructose corn syrup, to the body it’s all the same and will increase levels of the fat-storage hormone insulin. Remember, for weight loss and longevity, keep your intake of sugar to one piece of low glycemic fruit per day (like grapefruit, apples, pears or kiwis) or one cup of berries, totaling no more than 20 grams of sugar per day.
  • Corn and Refined Grains: Because of their high glycemic index, corn and refined grains are quickly metabolized to sugar. Avoid them and instead opt for grain free versions of your favorite foods like pancakes, muffins and desserts.
  • Vegetable Oils & Trans Fats: Vegetable oils like corn, safflower and soybean oils are high in omega 6 fats that promote inflammation and encourage the storage of fat. Trans fats (hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils) are even worse. Throw them all out and stick to the healthy fats listed above. Be sure to use fats in their appropriate temperature ranges (see flash points here).
  • Conventionally-Raised Meats & Dairy: Bovine growth hormone (rBGH) and pesticides are endocrine disruptors. These substances act directly on your endocrine or hormone system. In addition to contributing to a wide range of hormonal imbalances, they also encourage the storage of fat by acting as xenoestrogens. Only choose grass-fed meats and dairy, preferably from your local organic farmer.
  • Farmed Fish: Like meat and dairy, farmed fish is another food that’s fouled with endocrine disruptors like PCBs, dioxin and pesticides and proven to increase belly fat. Only choose wild sustainable fish, preferably low on the food chain like mackerel and sardines.
  • Artificial Sweeteners:  Think sugar-free foods are an easy way to cheat the system? Think again. Artificial sweeteners are chemicals. And like some of the other chemicals noted above, they too act as endocrine disruptors. Ban all artificial sweetened products from your diet. Instead opt for zero calorie, zero glycemic all-natural stevia and erythritol for sweetening. Check out our collection of low-glycemic, gluten free healthy dessert recipes here.
  • MSG: MSG is an obesogen. Like the name indicates, it promotes obesity. Unfortunately MSG is hidden in a wide variety of foods with names like hydrolyzed soy protein, yeast extract and calcium caseinate.
  • Soy Proteins and other Unfermented Soy Products: Soy is tucked into just about every variety of so called “health” and “weight loss” food – from protein bars and shakes to low carb pizzas, veggie burgers and burritos. But soy is a highly estrogenic substance, a common allergen, a thyroid suppressant and rich in enzyme inhibitors that hamper protein digestion. Say no to unfermented soy products like TVP, soymilk and soy protein powders.

Simple and Delicious Fat Burning Meals (and Desserts too!)

Do you think fat burning means starvation and sacrifice? Think again. In fact, in order to burn fat, you need to eat!

Cutting calories too much can stifle your metabolism. It can also lead to muscle loss – not fat loss, which further reduces your metabolism. Be sure to eat breakfast everyday (unless you are intentionally intermittent fasting)  and base your meals around the fat-burning foods that are both protein and nutrient rich.

Here are a few of my favorite meals made with delicious fat burning foods:

  • Beef Tenderloin, Dijon Greens & Cauliflower Mashers
  • Herb-Rubbed, Grass Fed Steaks,  Mixed Mushroom Melange, Asparagus and Red Bell Pepper Saute
  • Halibut Provencale, Braised Leeks, Organic Herb Salad with Creamy Dill Vinaigrette
  • Simple Scallops, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Organic Herb Salad with Tarragon Vinaigrette

 

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About The Author

Kelley Herring, founder of Healing Gourmet, is a natural nutrition enthusiast with a background in biochemistry. Her passion is educating on how foods promote health and protect against disease and creating simple and delicious recipes for vibrant health and enjoyment.

Kelley Herring – who has written posts on Healing Gourmet.


References 
Amy M. Egras, William R. Hamilton, Thomas L. Lenz, and Michael S. Monaghan. An Evidence-Based Review of Fat Modifying Supplemental Weight Loss Products. J Obes. 2011; 2011: 297315. Published online 2010 August 10. Boschmann M, Steiniger J, Hille U, Tank J, Adams F, Sharma AM, Klaus S, Luft FC, Jordan J.Water-induced thermogenesis.J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2003 Dec;88(12):6015-9. Samuel BS, Shaito A, Motoike T, Rey FE, Backhed F, Manchester JK, Hammer RE, Williams SC, Crowley J, Yanagisawa M, Gordon JI. Effects of the gut microbiota on host adiposity are modulated by the short-chain fatty-acid binding G protein-coupled receptor, Gpr41. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Oct 28;105(43):16767-72. Epub 2008 Oct 17 Brighenti, Furio et al. "Colonic fermentation of indigestible carbohydrates contributes to the second-meal effect." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 83.4 (2006): 817-822. Higgins, Janine. DiBaise JK, Zhang H, Crowell MD, Krajmalnik-Brown R, Decker GA, Rittmann BE.Gut microbiota and its possible relationship with obesity.Mayo Clin Proc. 2008 Apr;83(4):460-9. Fujioka K, Greenway F, Sheard J, Ying Y.The effects of grapefruit on weight and insulin resistance: relationship to the metabolic syndrome.Med Food. 2006 Spring;9(1):49-54. Masaaki Miyata1, Hiroki Takano, Lian Q. Guo, Kiyoshi Nagata and Yasushi Yamazoe Grapefruit juice intake does not enhance but rather protects against aflatoxin B1-induced liver DNA damage through a reduction in hepatic CYP3A activity.

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