As we turn the page on yet another calendar year, millions upon millions of individuals make resolutions to exercise more, overhaul their diet, and lose fat.
If you happen to be one of the individuals who has entered our transformation challenge, then you understand just how important diet is in achieving your results.
However, there is a lot of misinformation out there regarding quick-fix weight loss diets and magic “fat burning” foods.
In this article, we’ll help you separate fact from fiction as well as what foods to add to your to help boost metabolism and support weight loss.
What are “fat burning” foods?
“Fat burning” foods are those that may support weight loss by stimulating metabolism, reducing appetite, or decreasing overall food intake.
Make no mistake, there is no magical food that will make you suddenly lose fat.
In order to lose weight, you must be in an energy deficit, whereby you expend more calories than you consume each day.
This energy deficit can be accomplished through a combination of physical activity (exercise) and diet.
Since exercise burns relatively few calories in the grand scheme of your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE), that means in order to create a deficit large enough to facilitate fat loss, the diet will have to be doing the majority of the work.
Your selection of certain foods will help you to feel less hungry and more satiated while still consuming fewer calories than you are used to. There are also a handful of foods which have been shown to help boost metabolic rate and promote weight loss.
By incorporating more of these foods into your diet, you can transform yourself into a fat burning machine.
Now, let’s get to the list of the best fat burning foods!
Top 10 Best Fat Burning Foods
Most people don’t consume enough fatty fish each week. This is due to a combination of not enjoying the taste or texture of fish as well as a lack of comfort with properly preparing it.
But, truth be told, fish (especially varieties like salmon, mackerel, and sardines) are packed full of protein as well as heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Protein is the most satiating macronutrient, and it also has a higher thermic effect of feeding (TEF) than either carbohydrates or fats.
In other words, not only do you feel more full when consuming a high-protein diet, your body also burns more calories digesting the food you eat.
But the benefits of fatty fish extend beyond their high protein content.
Remember, that fatty fish like salmon also contain omega-3 fatty acids.
Research shows that individuals consuming fish oil supplements can lose more weight and experience lower cortisol levels than individuals who do not use fish oil supplements.
1UP Omega-3 supplies 2 grams of high-quality fish oil in every serving.
Eggs are a breakfast staple and considered by many to be nature’s “ideal” human protein due to its exceptionally high bioavailability.
Many individuals have avoided consuming whole eggs in the past due to concerns about the cholesterol content of the yolk.
However, recent studies show that eating whole eggs may actually help support heart health rather than harm it. And, it may also improve insulin sensitivity as well.
Eggs also support fat loss too!
Research indicates that egg-based breakfasts decrease hunger and increase feelings of fullness to a greater extent than low-protein, carbohydrate-based breakfasts.
Moreover, an 8-week study found that men who ate three eggs for breakfast consumed 400 fewer calories per day compared to those who ate a bagel for breakfast. This resulted in a 16% greater reduction in body fat!
Whey protein is frequently used by individuals looking to build muscle and gain strength.
And, while it certainly is effective for helping achieve those goals, it also has some fairly impressive fat loss benefits too.
First, whey protein helps preserve lean muscle while dieting for fat loss. Retaining muscle during a diet is essential to maintaining a high metabolic rate and achieving an appealing body composition.
Second, whey protein also helps suppress appetite to a greater extent than other protein sources due to the fact that it increases levels of "satiety hormones," such as PYY and GLP-1, more than other protein sources.[7,8]
Unlike a lot of other supplements or foods that only show benefit in overweight or obese individuals, whey protein supplementation has been documented to enhance weight loss in lean individuals as well as those who are overweight.
Chile peppers are renowned (or infamous) for the tongue-tingling bite they add to culinary dishes.
As you’ve likely experienced, when you consume a lot of spicy dishes, your body starts to sweat.
This is due to the fact that chile peppers (or more specifically capsaicin) stimulate thermogenesis and boost metabolism via activation of the TRPV1 receptor in the body.
A 2012 review found that capsaicin helps reduce appetite and may increase energy expenditure by ~50 calories per day.
Furthermore, chile peppers may also help support fat loss by promoting fullness as well as helping prevent overeating.
Finally, chile peppers may also help reduce inflammation and protect cells from oxidative stress, due to their antioxidant content.
It used to be believed that in order to lose weight, you needed to remove dairy from your diet.
However, the narrative on dairy has changed in recent years due to increasing amounts of evidence indicating that not only does dairy not hamper weight loss, it may actually enhance it.
A 2018 meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials concluded that:
“Increased dairy intake as part of energy restricted diets resulted in greater loss in bodyweight and fat mass while attenuating lean mass loss in 18–50-year-old adults.”
In other words, not only does dairy help you lose more fat and overall weight, it also helps you retain more lean mass when dieting.
Dairy is also rich in essential minerals like calcium and potassium as well as probiotics, which support gut health.
In addition to whey protein, one of our favorite ways to consume dairy is Greek Yogurt topped with berries and sliced almonds.
Speaking of berries….
One of the worst myths to propagate throughout fitness circles over the years is that in order to lose weight and burn fat you have to avoid fruit.
The “logic” behind this was that fruit contains sugar, and sugar would spike insulin levels and cause the body to stop burning fat.
However, this is an oversimplification of how your body works.
Yes, berries (and all fruits) do contain some amount of sugar (in the form of glucose and fructose); however, that sugar is encapsulated in a matrix of fiber and water, which help slow digestion as well as the release of sugar into the bloodstream.
Furthermore, the high fiber and water content of fruit also help increase satiety and reduce appetite.
A 2016 review found that individuals who had the highest intake of antioxidant-rich fruits better maintained their weight than individuals with lower consumption rates.
Plus, berries are very low in calories and packed with essential vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, and flavonoids which support health and wellness.
Nuts are rich in protein, fiber, and healthy fats -- all three of which help increase satiety and reduce the desire to eat.
Still, many individuals are wary of consuming nuts as part of a fat loss diet due to the fact that they are energy and fat-dense.
However, research indicates that individuals with higher nut consumption tend to avoid weight gain and/or do a better job maintaining a stable weight.[14,15]
Basically, swapping in a handful of nuts per day in place of a less nutritious and filling snack will help you stick to your diet better and maintain a slimmer waistline.
A few of our favorite nuts are walnuts, almonds, and pistachios.
Avocados have been all the rage for a number of years now.
Whether spread on a delicious piece of avocado toast or mashed into a tangy guacamole, avocados deserve a spot in your daily diet.
Aside from being insanely scrumptious, avocados are packed with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, essential vitamins & minerals, and fiber.
A number of studies have found that higher intakes of avocados are associated with lower total body weight, body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference.[16,17]
This also means that consuming more avocados may also lower your risk for developing metabolic syndrome.
Coffee is rich, dark, delicious, and the way many people choose to start their day.
The reason for this is that coffee contains caffeine, a stimulant that increases energy, mood, and alertness.
In addition to helping you jumpstart your day, coffee may also help jumpstart fat burning too.
Studies show caffeine ingestion can increase metabolic rate between 3–13%.[18,19]
In fact, research shows that doses as low as 100mg of caffeine (the amount in a strong cup of coffee) can boost thermogenesis and increase energy expenditure up to 100 calories per day.
Furthermore, caffeine ingestion has also been noted to stimulate lipolysis (the release of stored fatty acids) and enhance fat oxidation (fat burning).
Caffeine also helps boost exercise endurance, which helps your burn more calories during your workout, thereby enhancing your energy deficit.
Finally, caffeine may also help reduce appetite, particularly in those individuals who are not habitual users of caffeine or caffeine-containing products.
The final fat burning food on this list is another incredibly popular drink -- green tea.
The tasty, low-stimmed beverage is most well-known for its heart-health benefits, but research shows it may also encourage fat loss.
Green tea, as well as its primary catechin (polyphenol) EGCG, has been shown to encourage fat burning and belly fat loss.[21,22]
In fact, a small study shows that using green tea extract may increase fat burning during exercise by up to 17%.
- Ellulu MS, Khaza'ai H, Patimah I, Rahmat A, Abed Y. Effect of long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on inflammation and metabolic markers in hypertensive and/or diabetic obese adults: a randomized controlled trial. Food Nutr Res. 2016;60:29268. Published 2016 Jan 29. doi:10.3402/fnr.v60.29268
- Halton, T. L., & Hu, F. B. (2004). The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety and weight loss: a critical review. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 23(5), 373–385.
- Noreen, E.E., Sass, M.J., Crowe, M.L. et al. Effects of supplemental fish oil on resting metabolic rate, body composition, and salivary cortisol in healthy adults. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 7, 31 (2010) doi:10.1186/1550-2783-7-31
- Blesso, C. N., Andersen, C. J., Barona, J., Volek, J. S., & Fernandez, M. L. (2013). Whole egg consumption improves lipoprotein profiles and insulin sensitivity to a greater extent than yolk-free egg substitute in individuals with metabolic syndrome. Metabolism: Clinical and Experimental, 62(3), 400–410. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.metabol.2012.08.014
- Ratliff, J., Leite, J. O., de Ogburn, R., Puglisi, M. J., VanHeest, J., & Fernandez, M. L. (2010). Consuming eggs for breakfast influences plasma glucose and ghrelin, while reducing energy intake during the next 24 hours in adult men. Nutrition Research (New York, N.Y.), 30(2), 96–103. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nutres.2010.01.002
- Vander Wal JS, Gupta A, Khosla P, Dhurandhar NV. Egg breakfast enhances weight loss. Int J Obes (Lond). 2008;32(10):1545–1551. doi:10.1038/ijo.2008.130
- Jakubowicz, D., & Froy, O. (2013). Biochemical and metabolic mechanisms by which dietary whey protein may combat obesity and Type 2 diabetes. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 24(1), 1–5. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jnutbio.2012.07.008
- Veldhorst, M. A. B., Nieuwenhuizen, A. G., Hochstenbach-Waelen, A., van Vught, A. J. A. H., Westerterp, K. R., Engelen, M. P. K. J., Westerterp-Plantenga, M. S. (2009). Dose-dependent satiating effect of whey relative to casein or soy. Physiology & Behavior, 96(4–5), 675–682.
- Pal, S., & Radavelli-Bagatini, S. (2013). The effects of whey protein on cardiometabolic risk factors. Obesity Reviews : An Official Journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 14(4), 324–343. https://doi.org/10.1111/obr.12005
- Whiting, S., Derbyshire, E., & Tiwari, B. K. (2012). Capsaicinoids and capsinoids. A potential role for weight management? A systematic review of the evidence. Appetite, 59(2), 341–348. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2012.05.015
- Janssens, P. L. H. R., Hursel, R., & Westerterp-Plantenga, M. S. (2014). Capsaicin increases sensation of fullness in energy balance, and decreases desire to eat after dinner in negative energy balance. Appetite, 77, 44–49. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2014.02.018
- Stonehouse W, Wycherley T, Luscombe-Marsh N, Taylor P, Brinkworth G, Riley M. Dairy Intake Enhances Body Weight and Composition Changes during Energy Restriction in 18-50-Year-Old Adults-A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Nutrients. 2016;8(7):394. Published 2016 Jul 1. doi:10.3390/nu8070394
- Bertoia, M. L., Rimm, E. B., Mukamal, K. J., Hu, F. B., Willett, W. C., & Cassidy, A. (2016). Dietary flavonoid intake and weight maintenance: three prospective cohorts of 124 086 US men and women followed for up to 24 years. BMJ, 352. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i17
- Jackson CL, Hu FB. Long-term associations of nut consumption with body weight and obesity. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014;100 Suppl 1(1):408S–11S. doi:10.3945/ajcn.113.071332
- Freisling, H., Noh, H., Slimani, N. et al. Nut intake and 5-year changes in body weight and obesity risk in adults: results from the EPIC-PANACEA study. Eur J Nutr 57, 2399–2408 (2018) doi:10.1007/s00394-017-1513-0
- Fulgoni VL 3rd, Dreher M, Davenport AJ. Avocado consumption is associated with better diet quality and nutrient intake, and lower metabolic syndrome risk in US adults: results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001-2008. Nutr J. 2013;12:1. Published 2013 Jan 2. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-12-1
- Heskey C, Oda K, Sabaté J. Avocado Intake, and Longitudinal Weight and Body Mass Index Changes in an Adult Cohort. Nutrients. 2019;11(3):691. Published 2019 Mar 23. doi:10.3390/nu11030691
- Kim, T., Shin, Y., Lee, J. et al. Effect of caffeine on the metabolic responses of lipolysis and activated sweat gland density in human during physical activity. Food Sci Biotechnol 19, 1077–1081 (2010) doi:10.1007/s10068-010-0151-6
- Acheson, K. J., Gremaud, G., Meirim, I., Montigon, F., Krebs, Y., Fay, L. B., … Tappy, L. (2004). Metabolic effects of caffeine in humans: lipid oxidation or futile cycling? The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 79(1), 40–46.
- Dulloo AG, Geissler CA, et al. Normal caffeine consumption: influence on thermogenesis and daily energy expenditure in lean and postobese human volunteers. Am J Clin Nutr 1989;49, 44-50.
- Dulloo, A. G., Duret, C., Rohrer, D., Girardier, L., Mensi, N., Fathi, M., … Vandermander, J. (1999). Efficacy of a green tea extract rich in catechin polyphenols and caffeine in increasing 24-h energy expenditure and fat oxidation in humans. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 70(6), 1040–1045. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/70.6.1040
- Nagao, T., Hase, T. and Tokimitsu, I. (2007), A Green Tea Extract High in Catechins Reduces Body Fat and Cardiovascular Risks in Humans. Obesity, 15: 1473-1483. doi:10.1038/oby.2007.176
- Venables, M. C., Hulston, C. J., Cox, H. R., & Jeukendrup, A. E. (2008). Green tea extract ingestion, fat oxidation, and glucose tolerance in healthy humans. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 87(3), 778–784. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/87.3.778