When it comes to burning fat, it probably comes as no surprise that what we eat can have a serious impact.
Three of our choices for the top five fat-burning superfoods are excellent sources of omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs). Why? Clear evidence has shown that omega-3 fatty acids can increase thermogenesis, thereby dissipating calories in the form of increased body heat (instead of storing them as body fat).
Ongoing research suggests that EFAs may be able to directly influence important metabolic genes in our cells; these genes control how we synthesize glycogen, and how we store and burn fat. This may be due to a steroid-like substance in our bodies called PPAR, which—when bound to fats like EFAs—can "switch on" the key genes involved in burning fat.
1. Sardines and other cold water fish
Our bodies need the right kind of fats to help us burn body fat. Cold water fish are an excellent source of the omega-3 essential fatty acids. While we're obviously huge fans of wild salmon for its many health benefits, sardines are a great source for promoting the burning of body fat.
Get an extra calcium boost by choosing the type of sardines with bones. Recent studies confirm that people whose diets lack sufficient calcium eat more. No, really. A University of Tennessee study found that dieters who consumed 1,200 to 1,300 mg of calcium daily lost almost twice as much weight as dieters who ingested less calcium.)
And a final note—sardines are also an outstanding source of protein, helping us burn body fat while decreasing our appetite.
2. Grass-fed beef
Grass-fed beef is up to three times leaner than grain-fed beef, and can have up to 15 fewer calories per ounce. Grass-fed meat also provides more balanced omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which help guard against a variety of ailments. A great source of protein, grass-fed beef will help maintain lean muscle mass while enabling us to burn body fat for fuel.
When we add omega-3 essential fatty acids to our diets (whether from cold water fish like sardines and salmon, fish oil or grass-fed beef) we begin to "sensitize" our cells to insulin. The correct balance of dietary EFAs enables the receptors to respond to even small amounts of insulin, helping us build muscle and minimize fat storage.
3. Chia Seeds
The seeds from the chia plant are a concentrated source of high quality macronutrients required by the body—omega-3 fatty acids, dietary fiber, high-quality complete protein without gluten, and low-glycemic carbohydrates.
Chia seeds are an excellent source of both the essential fatty acids, linoleic acid (LA) and the omega-3 fatty acid, alpha linolenic acid (ALA). In fact, chia seeds provide the highest amounts of vegetarian omega-3 fatty acids, as well as an ideal omega-6: omega-3 ratio of 1:3.
4. Red Hot Chili Peppers (and green, yellow and orange too)
Chili peppers deserve a place of spicy distinction when it comes to keeping weight in check. These colorful superfoods contain phytonutrient compounds called capsaicinoids. One of these—capsaicin—is the most abundant and beneficial capsaicinoid in chilies.
There are four ways that capsaicin aids weight control:
- Suppresses appetite
- Raises our metabolic rate temporarily, which stimulates the body to release adrenaline, thus increasing the body's propensity to burn stored body fat and sugars (glycogen)
- Stimulates thermogenesis
- Inhibits spikes in blood sugar for about 30 minutes after it's ingested, thereby reducing the risk of an insulin response
A great way to up your hot pepper intake is to have a side of salsa with eggs, cottage cheese, grilled fish, poultry and other fundamentally bland foods. A healthy dash of Tabasco sauce will also do the trick and liven up soups, salads, sauces, stews and a wide variety of savory dishes.
5. Green Tea
Green tea has many benefits and is well known for both its anti-cancer and antioxidant properties. It also plays a key role in helping with weight loss and burning body fat.
Its many positive weight management attributes include the following:
- The ability to increase metabolism resulting in the burning of body fat
- The ability to suppress the absorption of fat
- The ability to improve glucose tolerance in diabetic mice (an effect that could help prevent type 2 diabetes)
- High levels of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)—an important polyphenol antioxidant—which is believed to be responsible for much of green tea's promise in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, obesity, Alzheimer's, cancer, periodontal disease and dental cavities
So next time you're looking to increase your fat-burning potential, remember that what foods you're adding to your diet are just as important as what foods you're eliminating.