The fat-burning equation is simple: Protein builds muscle. More muscle = more fat burning. And fish is one of the healthiest sources of lean protein—especially wild salmon, says dietitian Lauren Minchen, MPH, RD, CDN. It’s also a rich source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, which fuel fat burning, block fat storage and aid weight loss, she explains. But that’s not all: “Getting enough protein and healthy fat also helps to reduce cravings and has been shown to help keep weight off for longer,” adds Alissa Rumsey, MS, RD, CDN, CSCS.
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.
Say cheese! Adding some extra calcium and vitamin D to your diet could be the best way to get the flat stomach you’ve been dreaming about. Over just 12 months, researchers at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville found that obese female study subjects who upped their calcium intake shed 11 pounds of body fat without other major dietary modifications. To keep your calcium choices healthy, try mixing it up between dairy sources, calcium-rich leafy greens, fatty fish, nuts, and seeds.
The probiotics in yogurt can support a healthy gut and your overall wellness. “When your immune system is working well, your gut and brain talk to each other. If you struggle a lot with stress eating, maintaining good digestive health helps nourish a healthy gut so you feel calmer and avoid stress eating,” says Cording. Similar to milk, your best bet is to skip the low-fat varieties—go for full-fat Greek yogurt or Skyr instead.
Don’t let extra hours lounging in bed stand between you and a flatter stomach. While getting enough sleep can help boost your metabolic rate, sleeping in may undo any benefit you’d enjoy from catching a few extra winks. One Obesity study reveals that late sleepers who snoozed past 10:45 in the morning ate nearly 250 more calories over the course of the day, despite eating half as many fruits and vegetables as their early bird counterparts. Even worse, they chowed down on more salty, sugary, and trans-fat-laden fast food than those who woke up earlier. If you happen to head out of the house early, you’re in for an additional metabolic boost; researchers at Northwestern University have found that people exposed to just a short period of early morning sunlight had lower BMIs than their late-waking counterparts.
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