Fat burning foods are those foods – or ingredients – that, when eaten, make losing weight easier. Not a lot easier, but they will give you a definite advantage.
There are no magic foods or potions, no enchanted drinks or pills or shakes that make weight loss effortless. If your goal is to lose fat, you will have to dedicate yourself to a lifestyle of consistent exercise and a healthy diet.
For most people, including the foods listed below can help you lose weight without feeling hungry all the time. That’s one of the keys to lasting weight loss – to feel physically satisfied when eating healthy foods that taste good.
Many of these fat burning foods or ingredients are low in calories and high in nutritional content. Most are high in fiber. Fiber is our friend when burning fat because it keeps us feeling satisfied.
So browse this list and see which foods you can add to your nutritional lunch box. It never hurts to play all the cards you can when it comes to fat loss, as long as you’re doing it right.
What are the Best Fat Burning Foods & Ingredients?
So what are considered to be the best fat-burning foods & ingredients? Is there actually such a thing? Let’s take a look at what the science says and find out more about them.
1. Almonds, Nuts, and Nut Butters
Scientists, dietitians, and nutritionists have looked at how successful dieters have lost weight and maintained it. One of the most common foods they’ve found that helps people to achieve and sustain fat loss is nuts and nut butters.
How can this be since we know nuts are high in calories?
It’s true that you’ll need to be mindful of your nut and nut butter intake if you’re looking to lose fat. However, a handful of nuts eaten in place of a processed 100-calorie snack bag will give you essential fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals.
In the long run, choosing nuts over a lower calorie but nutritionally inferior food will help you lose fat. Nuts help calm your cravings while also stabilizing your blood sugar.
Maintaining your blood sugar is an integral part of weight loss that not everyone realizes. Consider adding a handful of nuts to your mid-afternoon snack for a couple of days and see how much better you feel.
2. Fatty Fish
Adding more fish into your regular diet will give you a double bang for your buck.
First, you’ll get a huge serving of protein. Plus you’ll get a boost of healthy omega-3 fats.
Omega-3 fats are good fat, and they’re great for your heart. We also know that they reduce inflammation in our bodies. Inflammation has been linked to type 2 diabetes and heart disease (1)
Omega-3s not only give you a healthier ticker, but they also help you feel satisfied for longer. A study on overweight individuals showed that those taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements complained less of feeling hungry (2).
Plus, the protein and healthy fat combination does wonders to keep your blood sugars stable.
Here’s a tidbit of crucial fat loss information. When you eat foods high in sugar or refined carbohydrates (think cookies, cereal, white bread), your body reacts by releasing insulin into your bloodstream. Unfortunately, insulin likes to store fat. So when it comes to fat loss, insulin is not your friend.
Fatty fish doesn’t toy around with your blood sugars. Stable blood sugars = more fat loss.
Your best choices for fatty fish include salmon, tuna, and mackerel.
May you like to chow down on a leafy green salad. Perhaps you prefer to crunch on a snack of cucumbers and celery. Or maybe a side of steamed asparagus and broccoli is your thing.
Any way you swallow it, adding more green veggies can help you burn fat.
Green vegetables are the iconic diet food. For years we’ve celebrated the green salad as the number one weight loss food. And while a salad on its own won’t burn off all your fat overnight, you should look to add greens to almost every meal.
Pairing a cup or two of greens with some lean protein and an unprocessed carbohydrate is the kind of satiating meal that makes fat loss easier.
Greens are low calorie, nutrient dense vegetables that will fill up your belly, leaving you feeling full. Plus, they’ll generously supply you with a healthy dose of fiber, minerals, and vitamins.
Now, some people believe that some green veggies are “negative” calorie foods. What that means is that digesting these foods uses up all the calories the food possess and then some.
The truth is that it’s difficult to determine precisely how many calories each gram of food contains. And it’s near impossible to know how many calories your body expends on digesting it. Calorie counting is not an exact science.
What we do know is that adding in several servings of green vegetables each day will go a long way in helping you lose unwanted fat. Greens fill up your belly with low-calorie goodness.
No matter how you prepare them, eggs are one of nature’s top protein sources. Best of all, they’re perfectly packaged – grab a couple of boiled eggs for a snack on the go. Plus, it’s hard to eat them over.
Along with other forms of animal protein, eggs supply your body with essential amino acids. When you break down a protein molecule, you end up with a variety pack of amino acids.
Amino acids are little protein building blocks that help your body repair itself. Our bodies can make some of these amino acids on its own, but there are nine essential amino acids that it can’t make. We can only get those amino acids from food.
Eggs provide all nine of these essential amino acids.
Not only are eggs high in complete protein, but they’re also low in calories. They provide minerals and vitamins, making them a great choice to add to your fat burning eating plan.
Plus, we know that protein has a reputation for helping you feel full and satisfied, longer than either carbohydrates or fats.
Can it possibly be true that coffee, the favorite drink of most adults, can help you burn fat? We do know that caffeine does give your metabolism a little boost.
So in short, yes, coffee can be considered a fat burning beverage, thanks to its caffeine content.
We also know that drinking caffeine gives us an energy boost. This is where we’d like to remind you that exercising is an essential part of losing weight and burning fat.
Having problems getting motivated to go to the gym? Maybe a cup of coffee will help you find the energy to get you there! (Or take a pre-workout supplement maybe?)
There is one slight problem when it comes to using caffeine as a weight loss tool. Over time, people become resistant to the effects of caffeine.
Here are two suggestions to avoid this issue:
- drink coffee only first thing in the morning to wake up your body, and/or
- drink coffee right before your workout to give you extra energy.
6. Green Tea
There’s scientific evidence that drinking green tea regularly can have a positive effect on fat loss.
While green tea does contain caffeine as discussed above, it also contains something called polyphenols. These polyphenols are composed of catechins, and these catechines do a lot of good stuff for your body!
Catechines in green tea are (3):
- anti-oxidative, meaning they find and eliminate cancer-causing free radicals;
- anti-hypertensive, they improve the health of your blood vessels;
- anti-inflammatory, they reduce the buildup of plaque in your veins;
- anti-proliferative, which suggests they inhibit the growth of tumor cells;
- anti-thrombogenic, they reduce the chance of blood clots;
- and they lower lipids, also known as cholesterol.
So whether you use green tea as a fat burning drink or simply a health tonic, you’ll be doing your body a huge favor.
Just to be clear, using green tea is a fat burning food does not include taking green tea extract supplements. If you’re looking for the fat burning benefits of green tea, your best bet is to drink the brewed stuff and stay away from the “magic green tea” pills (4).
7. MCT oil
MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides. Triglycerides are also called fatty acids.
MCT oil contains three of the four fatty acids that are found in coconut oil. Not only does MCT oil help you burn fat, but it can also help you feel more mentally alert.
MCT oil has been shown to:
- reduce appetite and increase satiation,
- boost metabolism,
- reduce belly fat, and
- lower triglycerides (cholesterol).
One of the unique things about MCT oil is that it doesn’t get stored as fat. Other kinds of fats and food travel through the digestive system and often end up getting stored as energy, also known as fat.
However, MCT oil acts differently. MCT moves quickly from the gut to the liver where it’s rapidly burned for immediate energy.
Coconut oil is an excellent natural source of MCT oil. However, it only contains at most 62% of MCT. Look for pure forms of MCT oil which are liquid at room temperature.
One warning. Since MCT oil can cause some minor digestive upsets, it’s best to start with the lowest recommended dose and gradually up your intake.
8. Whey Protein
Protein powder can be a great addition to a fat burning meal plan.
Whey protein is a super-easy-to-digest form of protein that goes straight to work in your body. Like with all other proteins, it handles the maintenance, repair, and building up of your muscle tissues. And the more muscle you have, the more calories you can burn even as you sleep.
You can also think of it this way: the more muscle mass you have, the higher your metabolism will be. So if you want to lose fat, it’s a good idea to strength train several times a week.
Follow up your weight lifting sessions with a serving of whey protein, which is often served as a protein shake. That way, even if you’re in a caloric deficit, whey protein in your fat burning diet will help keep you from losing valuable muscle.
We talked about amino acids earlier and how some amino acids are “essential” because our bodies can’t make them. Just like eggs, whey protein contains all of the essential acids, making it a complete protein. And, as stated earlier, whey protein is in a form that is easier to digest than a chicken breast or ribeye steak.
In addition to being a complete protein, studies suggest that milk proteins – which includes whey – help you feel satiated, which is why it’s included on this list of fat burning foods.
9. Chilli Peppers
Cayenne and other hot chili peppers or other spicy foods can bump up your metabolic rate.
Now, don’t think that you can spice up your carrot cake with cinnamon and nutmeg and think it’ll turn into a magical fat burning dessert.
What you can do instead is spice up your chicken or add some fire to your veggies or scrambled eggs with some red hot peppers. Not only will these hot peppers nudge your body into burning fat, but it will also leave you feeling full and satisfied longer than bland alternatives.
Now before you say that you don’t like spicy foods and you definitely will not be adding chili peppers to your grocery list, here’s a little-known fact. There is a compound called capsaicin in the peppers that does the fat-burning work.
It’s true that milder tasting peppers don’t have as much capsaicin as spicy peppers. However, if you can incorporate peppers into your regular diet, you will reap the benefits of this nifty, fat-burning ingredient.
Capsaicin has been shown to:
- boost metabolism,
- burn more calories and
- reduce hunger
Cardamom is a warm spelling spice that sits somewhere between the smell of cinnamon and ginger. It can be described as spicy, refreshing, and warm. Black cardamom pods have a smokier flavor than that of the green pods.
As people have been looking at more natural ways of weight loss in recent years, spices have captured some well-deserved attention.
Traditionally, cardamom has been used to treat digestive problems. You can make delicious, healthy tea using cardamom pods. It’s been used in baking and cooking, both for sweet and savory dishes. Cardamom gives you a burst of flavor without any unnecessary calories.
Cardamom has been shown to increase fat metabolism, perhaps due to its gentle warming effect. It has also been shown to be effective in preventing the build-up of belly fat.
Along with fat loss, drinking or using cardamom regularly has other health benefits which include:
- increased brain function,
- reduced inflammation,
- reduced bloating and water retention,
- reduced sugar cravings,
- improved glucose tolerance, which is perfect for fat loss,
- a natural breath freshener,
- regulates cholesterol,
- helps normalize blood pressure,
- and treatment for the common cold and asthma.
Another tasty spice to add to your fat burning menu is cinnamon. This delicious and versatile spice can help stabilize your blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity.
As mentioned earlier, it’s best to keep insulin levels low when you’re trying to lose weight. The more insulin you have floating around your bloodstream, the higher the chance of your body storing fat. Insulin likes to grab extra calories and store them as energy, aka fat.
A great way to use cinnamon is as a natural low-calorie sweeter. You can add some sweetness to your foods without adding any sugar and thereby not triggering your body to release insulin.
Consider sprinkling cinnamon – or cardamom – on some apple slices for a healthy dessert alternative. Or add it to your tea or coffee as a natural sweetener.
Spices are a great ingredient to add to your meals. They are low in calories, and they improve meal satisfaction which is a critical part of losing weight. The last thing you want to do when cutting calories is to be choking down foods that don’t have any flavor.
Spices to the rescue!
Speaking of flavor and spices, let’s talk about turmeric. Turmeric is a dark yellow spice, taken from a root that looks a lot like a ginger root.
Turmeric can add flavor to your protein and your vegetables. You can also make a satisfying and delicious drink with turmeric.
Turmeric is another excellent addition to your fat burning kitchen thanks to its ability to create metabolic heat and its high fiber content. It also contains many essential vitamins and minerals.
Along with having fat burning qualities, turmeric has many other health benefits.
Regular consumption of turmeric can help:
- fight inflammation,
- improve cardiovascular (heart) health,
- reduce arthritis pain and swelling,
- help to prevent and treat brain/cognitive disorders such as dementia,
- enhance mental health including depression,
- improve digestion and liver function.
Turmeric is also a powerful antioxidant which means it can prevent the kind of cell damage that leads to cancer.
The next time you’re at the grocery store, add some turmeric, cinnamon, and cardamom to your cart along with some of the other foods on this list.
Losing fat has never been this easy – or delicious.
Other things to consider
Many people are shocked when they learn that they don’t eat enough protein or fat when it comes to fat loss. Don’t be afraid to eat a serving of each at every meal and snack. The combination of protein and fat will keep you feeling full and satisfied.
While the foods and ingredients listed above can help you burn fat, you must keep in mind that there are no magic pills. Or foods. Or ingredients.
Fat loss is not merely eating the “right” foods. If you’ve noticed, the foods and ingredients on this list are all naturally occurring foods. Aside from whey protein powder, everything else will be bought as a whole food, as made by nature.
Fat loss tip: avoid eating processed, prepackaged foods as often as possible.
Along with eating minimally processed foods, you can boost your body’s fat burning abilities by exercising regularly, especially with strength training.
Remember, more muscle = a faster metabolism.
Other things that will help you to lose fat faster:
- shut-eye – make sleep a priority every single night;
- hydration – drink plenty of water throughout the day;
- build your team – with like-minded, supportive friends and family.
Above all, build a fat loss meal plan of foods that you enjoy. Tinker around with recipes, add in nature’s tasty spices and find ways to make low-calorie meals from nutritious foods that are both delicious and satisfying.
You might be surprised at how easy and enjoyable a smart fat burning plan can be.