Before we get to the list of foods that help burn fat, or reduce fat, it’s important to get a basic understanding of how “fat” gets deposited in the first place and how the body can be made to lose it. Having this information will enable you to be more prudent in your choice of foods and also in the way you design your eating habits. Once you get this understanding you can peruse through the list of fat burning foods that are given below and recognize the reasons why these foods help in fat reduction.
The process of fat deposition
A body needs food for acquiring the energy to feed/sustain its cells and for performing internal and external functions. The energy present in a food can be measured loosely in terms of “calories”. The more calories that are present in a food, the more fuel/energy that the body can get from it. The body also needs to expend energy in order to digest the foods to get energy from them – so a small percentage of old fuel is burnt off in the process of acquiring new fuel. The harder the food is to digest the more energy is expended by the body to digest it.
Macro-nutrients and their calories - There are three macro-nutrients, or fuel units, that can be present in a food – Carbohydrate, Protein and Fat. Fact, 1g of protein yields 4 calories, 1g of carbohydrate yields 4 calories and 1g of fat yields 9 calories. So basically fats can provide more (double) calories to the body compared to the other two nutrient units. But please refrain from coming to the conclusion that fats are bad for you, they are not. Many healthy fats are essential for the harmonious functioning of the body and foods that provide these fats need to be an integral part of your diet.
The process of fat deposition in the body - When you consume foods, the body gets the fuel in the form of carbohydrates, proteins or fats. It starts generating energy from these fuels through the process of digestion and assimilation. The body uses up a part of the fuel to fulfill its sustenance, and functional, requirements and the excess fuel is stored up eventually in the form of “Fat” in the “fat cells” of your body, some amount of fat is also stored around the kidneys and in the liver.
The reason for the “Flab” - One important point to understand is that a human body, under normal conditions, has "limited" fat cells and there is a limit to how much fat can be stored up in these cells. Once these cells reach their limit, the fats start getting stored up in muscle linings.
Fat cells are usually present in the regions of your chest, waist and hips. As more fats get deposited in these cells, the larger they grow in size and this enlargement is what shows up as flab around the chest, waist and hip regions in men and women. Once the fat cells reach the limit of their expansion, the fats start getting stored in the muscle linings of arms and thighs creating flabbiness in these limbs also.
How can foods help burn fat in the body?
Once you understand the process of fat deposition, you would question as to how a food can ever help in burning fat when it’s a source of calorie, and hence a possible source of fat creation rather than fat reduction. It’s true that all foods can be a possible sources of fat creation, but certain foods can help burn fat or reduce fat in the following ways.
- Some foods contain certain vitamins or minerals that help improve the metabolism, and improve the fat burning capacity, of the body and act as virtual fat burners.
- Some foods contain less calories while requiring more complex digestion and assimilation causing the expenditure of energy and thus acting as virtual calorie burners
- Some foods create a sense of satiation even when consumed in small amounts while also being low of calories
- Certain means of cooking reduces the calorie profile of the food and thus helps in reduce fat creation.
Eating these foods, in the right quantities, over a period of time will ensure that the fat profile starts reducing. When we talk about burning fat it also includes foods that help reduce the possibility of new fat creation, because this would indirectly help you burn fat at a faster pace through your activities (like exercising).
A list of practical foods for burning fat (and reducing fat deposition)
A lot of people try to starve their nutrition in a bid to reduce fat. This approach can have spurious effects on the harmony of the body and is not a wise or healthy way to reduce fat. The right way to reduce fats would be to eat foods that reduce the possibility of further fat deposition, or foods that assist in burning fats, while also taking up calorie-burning exercises (like aerobics, yoga and resistance/weight training) to use up the past-stored fat in your body. So here’s a compiled list of some easily available foods that can help in this process of burning fats or reducing the fat profile of your body.
1.) Citrus Fruits
I would rank these as the best fat burning foods around. Eating a breakfast of citrus fruits, or other Vitamin C rich fruits, is one the best ways to start reducing the fat profile of your body. Citrus fruits provide the body with easy energy to hike up its metabolism while also supplying a rich amount of Vitamin C which is scientifically known to help burn fat as it’s a vital chemical used by the body in the process of fat metabolism.
Some citrus fruits you can try are Oranges, Kiwi fruit, Grape fruit, Tangerines, Kumquats, Clementine and Fresh Lime. While fruits like Strawberries, Apples, Tomatoes, Plums, Grapes, Cherries, Raspberries, are also good sources of vitamin C. Depending on your budget, and fruit availability, try to use a mix of these fruits for your breakfast to combine health with taste. You can also try out a “citrus fruit only” breakfast for a few weeks to see how effectively it helps in burning fat around your waist and hips. I’ve personally seen excellent results with this method of eating a fruit only breakfast.
Fruits in general are excellent foods for fat reduction because they are natural, they are rich in vitamins & minerals, high in water content and low on calories compared to refined foods. Fruits are known to improve body metabolism and reduce bad cholesterol. Papaya, bananas, mangoes, sapote, pomegranates and blueberries make for excellent snack foods as well as breakfast foods.
The benefit of eating cereals like Oats is that they contain a huge proportion of their calorie profile in terms of insoluble fiber. This insoluble fiber not only gives you a feeling of satiation and thus keeps you from feeling hungry for a long time but also does not contribute to any calorie addition to the body. In fact, any foods that contain a good amount of insoluble fiber would help you in the process of reducing the fat profile of the body. Raisin and Barn cereal is another good example of breakfast food that’s rich in insoluble fiber, so is cooked barley.
Except for certain calorie rich vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes or yams, most other vegetables have a low calorie profile while containing essential minerals and vitamin that improve the metabolism of the body. When you eat potatoes, if possible, cook them with their skin on because their skin is a good source of insoluble fiber. Veggies like broccoli, spinach, artichoke, lima beans, peas, cabbage and carrots are excellent sources of minerals while being low on calories. Veggies don’t contain fats either and their carbohydrate count is very low (even compared to fruits). Cucumbers are excellent as a salad food, low on calories and rich in water content.
The best way to cook veggies would be to boil them or stir fry them with healthy oils like olive oil, sunflower oil, Soybean oil or sesame oil.
These foods, also known as edible pulses, are not only filling and nutritious (in terms of minerals) but are also low on calories and rich in plant proteins/amino-acids. In countries like India, it's very traditional to have lentil soups, broth and gravies with breads (wheat rotis) and rice. You can also make several food items using the flour of ground lentils. They are excellent sources of dietary fiber and are known to lower the bad-cholesterol (and thus contribute to heart health).
If you are a non-vegetarian it would be a good option to eat more poultry than red meats. Poultry like chicken are low on fats and carbohydrates while have a good protein profile. Proteins are not only more complex to digest & assimilate (and thus require a higher expenditure of energy) but they also require more energy to be stored as fats. Go in for lean cuts and avoid eating the skin of the poultry as it contains a lot of fat. Red meats, or white meats, from lamb, beef or pork, can be consumed in moderate quantities a few times a week, instead of eating them regularly in your diet, because they have a high fat profile (but these meat are a good source of minerals and proteins that can assist in the over-all health of the body when consumed in moderation).
An average adult can consume one or two eggs a day (whole eggs with yolk) and obtain necessary protein and minerals from it while also keep a low calorie profile. Eggs are not high on calories and are also low on unhealthy fats. The possibility of a variety of food preparations using eggs make them ideal as snack foods as well as regular meal foods. It’s been found, in many studies, that eggs don’t contribute to increasing your bad cholesterol profile but can serve to improve your good cholesterol (necessary for a healthy body) when eaten in moderation.
7.) Almonds and walnuts
These are excellent snack foods and can help you feel satiated with just a fistful of these nuts. These nuts are a great source of healthy fats. It has been seen that people who don’t consume healthy fats are more likely to gain weight than people who do. This is the reason why it’s very imprudent to eliminate healthy fats from your diet in a bid to reduce weight. Remember that healthy fats are needed for a harmonious functioning of the body because most of the body’s cell structure is made from these fats.
Fish is a good source of protein and healthy fats (rich in omega-3, omega-6 fatty acids), and makes for a great lunch or dinner meal. Salmon, mackerel, trout and tuna are not only tasty but are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids while also being low on calories and saturated fat content.
Though water would not count as a food, because it has no calories, it would need to mentioned that water helps improve the over-all metabolism of the body and thus helps burn fat. And of course, water helps flush out toxins and thus improves the capacity of the body to stay healthy. Certain foods are rich in their water content and thus help in the process of fat reduction (also foods rich in water content make you feel satiated quickly), some examples are water melons, cantaloupes, cucumbers, snake gourd, papaya and chard.
The benefit of eating these water rich foods is that they supply minerals (electrolytes) along with water and hence do not cause “water intoxication” which can results from drinking too much water while not balancing out the minerals (especially during work outs).
Whole foods are better than refined or processed foods when it comes to reducing the fat profile of the body. If there is a choice between a processed foods (like pastries, pizza, pasta etc) and whole foods (like milk, eggs, chicken, vegetables and fruits), make it your second nature to make a bee-line for the latter. You can use the list of fat burning foods, given above, to come up with ideas for your breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks on a daily basis to keep it enjoyable and healthy at the same time. Of course, don’t be hard on yourself – it’s totally okay to eat/drink foods that you like (that may not be totally healthy) once in a while in moderation, just don’t overdo it and make sure you workout or exercise to burn off the excess calories.