Who knew there was a connection between a spicy pepper scorching your mouth and burning your belly fat? Scientists did! According to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, daily consumption of one of the compounds found in pepper (capsaicin) speeds up abdominal fat loss by boosting the body’s ability to convert food into energy. It also acts as a natural appetite suppressant: men who ate spicy appetizers consumed 200 fewer calories at later meals than those that did not, a study by Canadian researchers found. All you have to do to reap the benefits is use a pinch of cayenne pepper to season grilled fish, meats, and eggs.
Whether you’re adding it to your smoothie or having it as the perfect post-workout recovery fuel, Greek yogurt will help you build muscle. This creamy snack is brimming with muscle-building protein—about 20 grams in a 7-ounce cup. It has the one-two punch of vitamin D and calcium, which turn off cortisol, a stress hormone that causes the body to hang on to belly fat. Don’t believe us? Take it from the researchers at the University of Tennessee who found that people who ate 18 ounces of Greek yogurt a day lost 22 percent more weight and 81 percent more belly fat than those who didn’t.
Fruits make it to the top of this list. The emphasis on fruits continues through this guide. When berries are concerned, the deeper color means more antioxidants to break starch into simple sugars, ensuring lower blood sugar levels. This helps in body fat loss because insulin essentially puts sugar in adipose or fat cells. Raspberries contain ketones that are rich in fat burning capability. Blueberries lower cholesterol, improve insulin and blood sugar levels for the better, and are a top source of fiber, lower in calories to ensure fat burning foods work wonders. Berries also fend off infections and maintain excellent vision, maintaining bone density.
Plus, a 2015 study from the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that for those who have a hard time following a strict diet, simplifying the weight loss approach by just increasing fiber intake can still lead to weight loss. Women should aim for at least 25 grams of fiber per day (based on a 2,000-calorie) diet, according to the most recent U.S. Dietary Guidelines. Not sure where to start? Check out our step-by-step guide to increasing your fiber intake.
All animal proteins are also a good source of tryptophan, which is a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin. “If you struggle with mood or stress, it’s important to boost the production of serotonin to stabilize your mood, curb emotional eating, and keep stress-induced snacking at bay," especially when you’re trying to lose weight, says Cording. But when it comes to portions, opt for a 100 gram serving, which is about the size of a deck of cards, for reference.
This Asian veggie dish is made by fermenting a blend of cabbage, radishes, and scallions with a seasoned paste of red pepper, salted shrimp, or kelp (koji) powder. Fermented foods are great for healing your gut thanks to the high levels of probiotics, but the unique strains found in kimchi may also help you stay slim: Researchers at Kyung Hee University in Korea induced obesity in lab rats by feeding them a high-fat diet. The group that got a Lactobacillus brevis supplement— the culture strain found in kimchi—was able to suppress the diet-induced increase in weight gain by 28 percent! If kimchi isn’t your thing, also consider adding one of these probiotic foods for a healthier gut to your diet.
Those trans fats on your menu are hiding out in plain sight and sabotaging your lean belly plans every time you eat them. If a food product says it contains partially hydrogenated oils, you’re eating trans fat, which can increase your risk of heart disease, high cholesterol, and obesity with every bite. In fact, research conducted at Wake Forest University reveals that monkeys whose diets contained eight percent trans fat upped their body fat by 7.2 percent over a six-year study, while those who ate monounsaturated fat gained just a fraction of that amount. Instead of letting harmful trans fat take up space on your menu, fill up with these healthy fats.
Your parents weren’t kidding about how important veggies are for a healthy body. What they probably didn’t tell you, however, was that snacking on veggies is also one of the easiest ways to shed unwanted belly fat, too. According to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, opting for non-starchy veggies, like cauliflower, broccoli, and cucumber, as snacks helped overweight kids shed 17 percent of their visceral fat while improving their insulin sensitivity over a five-year period. Think snacking on veggies will leave you hungry? The 20 Most Filling Fruits and Veggies will have your belly satisfied in no time.
Though green tea is not caffeine rich, it does contain around 25 to 50 mg of caffeine in a cup. The green tea contains EGCG or epigallocatechin gallate. This boosts the metabolism. It also leads to powerful antioxidant properties supporting the norepinephrine in the brain sending signals to the body to break down fat cells and use fat which is on your body for energy. Consuming green tea along with exercise is the perfect way to burn your belly fat.
If you thought losing weight would mean giving up all your indulgences, look no further than dark chocolate. Louisiana State University researchers found that gut microbes in our stomach ferment chocolate and boost our body’s production of gut-healthy polyphenolic compounds, including butyrate, a fatty acid that encourages the body to burn fat as fuel and turns off genes linked to inflammation. (Add fruit to the chocolate to boost fermentation and the release of the compounds.) Make sure you go with chocolate that has a cacao content of 70 percent or above—these have the highest concentrations of antioxidant polyphenols.
This brilliantly orange root is a powerful fat fighter. According to a 2009 study by the USDA, mice whose diets were supplemented with turmeric experienced reduced weight gain and body fat levels even when their food intake was not changed. Experts believe the power of this spice comes from the active ingredient curcumin: Studies, including one published in the journal Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, have found that curcumin is one of the most effective anti-inflammatory options out there. Because it’s more difficult for your body to lose weight when you’re fighting off inflammation, adding anti-inflammatory turmeric will help you achieve your weight loss goals. Talk about the ultimate in fat burning foods!