The Top Fat-Burning Foods
Boost your metabolism: certain foods have a very high thermogenic effect, so you literally burn calories as you chew.
It’s true: Certain foods have a very high thermogenic effect, so you literally scorch calories as you chew. Other eats contain nutrients and compounds that stoke your metabolic fire. Feed your metabolism with these.
Your body burns twice as many calories breaking down whole foods (especially those rich in fiber such as oatmeal and brown rice) than processed foods.
Watch out: Sometimes bread labeled "wheat" has been stripped of all of its fiber and nutrients. Look for "whole grain" or "100 percent whole wheat."
Lean Meats and Fish
Protein has a high thermogenic effect: You burn about 30% of the calories the food contains during digestion (so a 300-calorie chicken breast requires about 90 calories to break it down). Your body burns more calories digesting protein than carbs or fat. Want the leanest meat out there? Opt for turkey, but to cut down even more on saturated fat, choose fish. Go for tuna and salmon; they are full of omega-3s, which help prevent stress chemicals that promote fat abs.
Watch out: Cured meats and sausage have a lot of saturated fat.
Low-fat Dairy Products
Rich in calcium and vitamin D, these help preserve and build muscle mass—essential for maintaining a robust metabolism.
There's a reason the woman in the yogurt commercial fits into her bikini: Calcium helps break down fat and may even prevent it from forming!
Watch out: Always pick low-fat or fat-free dairy over the full-fat versions.
"Tea, especially green tea, is rich in antioxidants that have been proven to speed metabolism," explains Mark Ukra, author of The Ultimate Tea Diet.
In fact, according to Swiss researchers, tea-drinking subjects burn a whopping 266 more calories per day than those who abstain.
Drinking four cups of green tea a day helped people shed more than six pounds in eight weeks, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports. Credit EGCG, a compound in the brew that temporarily speeds metabolism after sipping it. To up your intake, keep a jug of iced tea in the fridge.
Watch Out: For consummate calorie-torching, skip bottled teas — processing has depleted them of slimming nutrients and often contain added sugars. Instead, steep a tea bag in one cup of hot water for two minutes, then cool with ice cubes.
One cup packs 35% of your daily iron needs—good news, since up to 20% of us are iron- deficient. When you lack a nutrient, your metab slows because the body’s not getting what it needs to work efficiently, says Tammy Lakatos Shames, RD, co-author of The Secret to Skinny.
Capsaicin, the compound that gives chili peppers their kick, heats up your body, which makes you melt additional calories. You can get it by eating raw, cooked, dried, or powdered peppers, says Lakatos Shames. “Add as much cayenne or hot sauce as possible to soups, eggs, and meats.”
Your morning snack attack is caused by a dip in blood sugar levels. Fiber-rich oatmeal stays in your stomach for hours, staving off a doughnut run.
Watch out: Steer clear of the sugary flavored varieties. Choose the plain stuff, and sweeten it with berries.
Almonds and Other Nuts
Go nuts! They slim your tummy by keeping it full. A Purdue University study showed that people who ate nuts felt full longer than those who ate rice cakes. Stick to 24 almonds a day to satisfy your hunger pangs without overloading on calories.
Watch out: Skip salted nuts; too much sodium raises blood pressure.
It's not just for gym rats! Protein powder contains amino acids that burn fat and build muscle. Add two teaspoons to a smoothie for a fat-busting drink. Find it at health food stores.
Watch out: Make that smoothie with fruit, yogurt, and low-fat milk — adding protein powder to a chocolate shake doesn't make it health food (we wish).
Everyone needs a little fat — it controls hunger. Go for monounsaturated fats like olive or canola oil. They will help keep your cholesterol under control and satisfy cravings.
Watch out: Steer clear of hydrogenated vegetable oils; they're loaded with unhealthy trans fat.
Berries stuff a lot of filling fiber into a tiny package: Just one cup of raspberries has six grams.
Watch out: Jelly is the junk food of the fruit world. It has almost no fiber and contains added sugar.
Eggs contain vitamin B12, which your body needs to metabolize fat. In fact, researchers at Louisiana State University found that people who ate eggs for breakfast every day lost more weight than those who ate bagels.
Watch out: Talk to your doc first if your cholesterol is high.
Beans and Legumes
Beans are low-cal and packed with protein and fiber, which help you tone up and lose weight. Make a bean-heavy dish, such as burritos, instead of meat once a week. You'll cut a lot of saturated fat and replace it with fiber.
Watch out: Refried beans are high in saturated fat. Choose plain black, pinto, or other varieties instead.
If their vitamins and minerals don't persuade you, maybe their waist-whittling powers will do the trick. Veggies like spinach and broccoli are loaded with fiber and very few calories. Have a salad before a meal and you'll be satisfied with smaller portions later.
Watch out: Iceberg lettuce has almost no fiber. Fill your bowl with romaine, arugula, or spinach instead.
Who would have guessed that a kid-friendly food could be waist-friendly, too? PB is packed with niacin, which keeps the digestive system on track and prevents belly bloat. Just keep an eye on portion size: Peanut butter does have a lot of fat, so limit yourself to no more than two tablespoons a day.
Watch out: Pick all-natural PB, which doesn't contain added sugar.
In addition to containing lots of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, avocados are a terrific source of filling fiber (11 to 17 grams per avocado!), making them a great food for staving off hunger, says Bowden.
Scarf down: Half a cup daily
This low-cal, calcium-rich treat activates the body's fat-burning hormones, say University of Wisconsin researchers. "Plus, because of its high protein content — it contains more than any other dairy product — you'll stay full longer," notes Dr. La Puma.
His slimming Rx: "Grate one ounce on soups or salads daily."
When it comes to resistant starch, a unique fiber that resists digestion, these legumes lead the pack.
Good news for you, because slower digestion means your body has to work harder — that is, burn more calories — in order to process your meal, explains Janine Higgins, Ph.D., lead author of a University of Colorado study on weight loss.
Battle the bulge with a half-cup daily.