We all know too well eating, and inevitably a couple of extra kilos, usually accompany good times. With the holidays over and resolutions to start the New Year on a healthy note, it’s time to get back to taking care of ourselves and mend any damage that’s been done. It’s not all depressing news though, as there are certain foods that make you scorch calories and winnow your waistline even as you’re eating, thanks to their magic thermogenic effect. It might sound too good to be true, but some foods stroke your metabolic fire, trigger hormones that release fat, and get rid of toxins that make it hard for your body to shed unwanted weight. However, for these foods to work their miracles, they must be consumed as part of a sensible diet, so you still have to look away when the dessert tray arrives.
Your body burns twice as many calories breaking down whole foods than processed foods. This particularly applies to foods rich in fibre like oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice and whole grain cereals. Small doses of whole grains also prevent the body from storing fat.
Lean meats are essential for maintaining muscle mass and the more muscle mass you have, the more efficient you are at burning calories. In fact, protein’s high thermogenic effect makes it possible to burn about 30 percent of the calories the food contains during digestion. Even better, protein takes more time to digest than carbohydrates, so you'll feel full longer than if you ate the same number of calories in a carbohydrate or fat-heavy meal. Lean meats can also help the immune system. That’s more than enough reasons to describe chicken as the ultimate wonder food.
Low-fat dairy products
Rich in calcium and vitamin D, these help preserve and build muscle mass, which we now know are essential for keeping a robust metabolism. Calcium, consumed in tandem with an amino acid found in dairy products, has been shown to burn fat and fire up weight loss. So go ahead and consider it a great excuse to add more milk, cheese and yogurt to your meal plans. Greek yogurt (labneh)is a particularly good standout dairy option as it has more protein than the regular kind, enhancing the fat-burning benefits even more. Oh and of course, don’t forget you’re helping to build strong bones as well.
This amazing drink is teeming with catechins, which are nutrients linked to increased metabolism and a smaller waistline. You can credit EGCG, a compound in the brew that temporarily speeds metabolism after sipping it. Research suggests consuming two to four cups of fresh brewed green tea daily can help you burn about an extra 50 calories a day. The “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” reported drinking four cups of green tea a day helped people shed over three kilos in eight weeks. Keeping a jug of iced tea in the fridge may encourage you to drink more throughout the day.
One cup packs 35 percent of your daily iron needs, which is even more good news for those of us who are iron- deficient. When you lack a nutrient, your metabolism tends to slow because the body’s not getting all it needs to work efficiently. If lentils don’t really call your name, you don’t have to suffer in silence. All kinds of beans and legumes generally help build muscle, burn fat and regulate digestion.
Capsaicin, the compound that gives chilli peppers their fiery kick, heats up your body, which in turn fires up the fat-burning. So if you’re in the mood for an Indian takeaway, dial that number without feeling guilty. Otherwise, you can enjoy capsaicin’s benefits by adding as much cayenne, hot sauce or chopped chillies as possible to pizzas, soups, eggs, and meats. In all, feel free to add raw, cooked, dried, or powdered peppers to spike your metabolism.
The healthy monounsaturated fat in avocados plumps up cell membranes, enabling them to interacact with fat-burning hormones. Plus, it switches off the body's fat storage hormones and boosts metabolism by protecting the energy-producing part of cells from free radical damage, all helping to make them triple fat-burners. What’s more, oleic acid, a compound in avocados' monounsaturated fats, may be a trigger to quiet hunger. The creamy fruit is also packed with fibre and protein, so bring on the guacamole (but obviously not the whole bowl).
Next time you want to discard those large Brazil nuts from the mixed nut selection, think again because they’re actually fat-burners. They help boost metabolism by making the thyroid hormone active. They also collect toxins that usually store themselves in your fat cells and contribute to cellulite. Going back to the nut selection, it’s actually a great idea as lots of other nuts with skins build muscle, reduce cravings, contain the right balance of healthy fat, protein, and fibre, and work together to rev your metabolism and keep you feeling sated.
Full of omega-3 fats, fibre and protein, these small seeds help suppress the appetite, fuel metabolism and switch on glucagon, one of the body's fat-burning hormones. You benefit the most when you soak them for 15 minutes so they get about 10 times bigger in size. That’s because the larger the seeds are, the quicker your stomach will release those hormones that let you know you're full, and hopefully satisfied.
An effective way to strip abdominal fat is to eat wild salmon on a regular basis. The omega-3s in this delicious fish help improve insulin sensitivity, which shrivels fat from your waistline. Wild salmon also activates the thyroid hormone for a faster metabolism. As with other proteins, it triggers fullness without adding fat. So up your intake of this essential nutrient with salmon, which is a leaner choice than red meat and full of monounsaturated fats to boot.
Next time you feel like eating at a swanky restaurant, head for an oyster bar, an eating out salvation when you're looking after your weight. As well as being low in calories (there’s only 50 calories in six oysters), they are an extremely rich source of zinc, which helps to decrease the appetite and the cravings you get during premenstrual syndrome.
When it comes to dietary fats, coconut oil is way up high on the list of beneficial ones. This tropical oil is rich in medium-chained-triglycerides (MCTs), which your body likes to use for energy, leaving less opportunity for them to be stored as fats. An “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” study showed greater abdominal fat loss over a 16-week period when MCTs were consumed instead of olive oil. However, that doesn't mean throwing out all your olive oil as it has other beneficial properties. A good tip is to use coconut oil to cook with and olive oil for salad dressings.
This fragrant spice helps move glucose into the cells faster so our fat storage hormone, insulin, sticks around a lot less. In order to gain from its fat-burning benefits, you need to consume at least a quarter of a teaspoon of cinnamon.
Well here’s a good reason to keep having your regular morning cup of Java. Coffee stimulates adrenaline, which sends a message to your fat stores to flush out fat. When you drink coffee 20 minutes before a workout, it also acts as an ergogenic aid enabling you to train more intensely. The key, however, is to drink it caffeinated and black, as milk reduces its fat-burning potential. Another thing to be weary of is if you drink more than one cup per day, coffee can start to interfere with your body's ability to control insulin, that frightening fat storage hormone.
Whipping up scrambled eggs for breakfast isn’t only tasty, it's a fat-melting morning meal. Eggs are loaded with protein, which will keep you feeling full for longer and build up those muscles. Plus, eating them in the morning means you end up taking in fewer calories during the day, according to research. Brain-enriching choline and fat-busting Vitamin D also make eggs a fantastic breakfast choice.