While fat-burning supplements promise to boost metabolism, certain thermogenic foods—meaning, they create different amounts of energy used for digestion—can have the exact same effect. Find out which foods help burn fat when you consume them.
An amino acid found in red meat, L-Carnitine helps the body to burn more fat and tap into fat reserves, which ultimately boosts stamina and endurance and lets the fat-burning process occur at a more rapid level. “It has been shown in human clinical studies as safe and effective,” says celebrity nutritionist Paula Simpson.
This powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant helps each cell in the body burn fuel for energy. “Most people have lost this ability through age, which is why this is a good supplemental ingredient tied both to anti-aging and weight loss,” explains Los Angeles nutritionist Amy Piacentino.
African Mango Extract
Gaining popularity in the industry right now, African mango (which is an actual fruit but can also be found in pill form) works on multiple mechanisms to promote weight loss and maintenance. Studies have shown it helps to normalize blood sugar levels and fat production while promoting fat loss.
This decaffeinated green coffee extract, most commonly found in powder or pill form, which works mainly by reducing the level of sugar present in the body after eating, was recently proven in a small human clinical trial to be effective for fat loss.
Not to be confused with green tea extract in supplement form, a cup of green tea contains caffeine, which is a natural stimulant that boosts metabolism to burn more calories while at rest. “It helps you burn fat without doing a thing. Caffeine speeds up the heart rate and also frees fatty acids stored in the body, making them more readily available for energy use,” says New York nutritionist Tanya Zuckerbrot.
Fiber, the zero-calorie, non-digestible part of a carbohydrate, is, according to Zuckerbrot, the key to weight loss. “Fiber adds bulk to food without adding calories so the more fiber a food has, the more full you feel,” she explains. “It acts like a sponge in the digestive tract, absorbing substances containing sugars, fats, carbohydrates, and the calories associated with them. It prevents calories from staying in your body and being stored for energy as fat.”
Since they require so much energy to digest them completely, one of the best examples of a thermogenic food is lean protein, found in foods such as lean beef, turkey and chicken breast. “Another good source comes from egg whites,” Simpson says.
The chemical compound capsaicin, which is found in peppers, speeds up your heart rate and your metabolism. Eating a very spicy meal can actually increase metabolism by about 25 percent for up to three hours.
According to Zuckerbrot, salmon, tuna and sardines all contain large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. “Omega-3s alter levels of leptin, a hormone in the body that directly influences metabolism and determines whether you burn calories or store them as fat,” she says.
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