Chowing down on nutrient-dense, fat-burning foods and drinks can help you drop pounds and also improve your health in many ways. For example, a healthy, balanced diet may be able to help reverse diabetes and reduce your risk of obesity and other health problems, including certain types of cancer.
Plus, when you ask the average person about his or her personal goals, all too often there’s a common theme: wanting to lose weight (especially belly fat). While the reasons are often superficial (after all, who doesn’t want to look good in a swimsuit or summer attire?), the reality is that the benefits of losing weight go far beyond what’s reflected in the mirror.
Healthy eating can also boost your energy level, productivity and mental clarity, in part by balancing blood sugar levels and providing key nutrients.
So which foods help fat burn? Let’s find about below.
What Are Fat-Burning Foods?
When it comes to supporting a healthy metabolism and keeping off excess body fat (including losing belly fat), here’s what you need to know. The most effective fat-burning foods and drinks have several things in common:
- They’re usually high in filling fiber, protein and/or healthy fats. These attributes help reduce hunger and cravings and increase fullness after and between meals. In fact, a 2021 study found that a high-protein, low-glycemic diet is one of the best ways to keep hunger in check long term.
- They boost thermogenesis, the production of heat that occurs during digestion. Thermogenesis uses up energy, which means it contributes to a higher metabolic rate. It’s highest when eating foods high in protein.
- They are unprocessed/whole foods. They have little or no added sugar, sodium, etc. This means they tend to be relatively low in calories or, in some cases, contain virtually no calories to all. (Learn “how many calories should I eat a day?”)
- They supply essential vitamins and minerals. Healthy eating, such as foods high in B vitamins, iron and electrolytes, is important for supporting your metabolism, energy, endurance and mental health.
- They may provide prebiotics (fiber) plus probiotics, which have been found to regulate appetite.
- Some contain caffeine, which has been shown to have appetite-suppressing effects and the ability to increase energy for physical activity.
Foods that Burn Fat
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
This pantry staple may help prevent weight gain by reducing sugar cravings and helping balance blood sugar levels. It does this thanks to its active ingredient called acetic acid.
Ingesting apple cider vinegar before a meal may make you feel fuller with less food. Additionally, it works as a natural way to detox your body and balance your stomach’s pH.
Because the substance is highly acidic, try adding a tablespoon or two to a glass of water before drinking.
2. Bone Broth
Bone broth is considered a superfood due to its supply of collagen and other joint-supporting compounds and minerals — plus it may have the potential to control your appetite. Thanks to the abundance of amino acids bone broth contains, bone broth can help prevent muscle breakdown, increase your metabolism and help detoxify your body.
While our ancestors ate bone broth regularly, since they wasted no part of an animal’s body, unfortunately it’s no longer as common in our daily diets. An easy way to add more bone broth to your diet is to use powdered bone broth supplements, which can be combined with liquid to instantly make a healthy drink or snack.
3. Cayenne Pepper and Other Spices
This spicy seasoning is good for more than just increasing the heat in your foods. A 2015 review found that capsaicin (the active ingredient in cayenne) may have important potential for promoting vascular and metabolic health.
Cayenne pepper increases your body’s ability to create heat and use energy, just what you want when trying to shed those extra pounds. It can also dull hunger and may promote energy balance, meaning it prevents overconsumption of calories.
One of the easiest ways to sneak more cayenne pepper into your diet is by making this Secret Detox Drink or sprinkling it on chicken or beef for an extra kick of flavor and heat.
Add other spicy foods and ingredients to your diet too for similar benefits, such as ginger, horseradish, chili pepper, jalapeños and mustards/mustard seed.
4. Chia Seeds
These seeds, originally grown in Mexico, are a nutritional powerhouse filled with healthy fats, antioxidants and fiber.
Not only does consuming chia seeds increase energy and give you more endurance power (you’ll get that workout in after a long day!), but because they absorb so much of their own weight in water, the seeds can slow your body’s digestion.
This helps reduce hunger pangs so you can focus on making smart dietary choices. You’ll get the same benefits from eating other seeds too, such as flax and hemp.
Add a tablespoon of chia, flax or hemp seeds to oatmeal, Greek yogurt, baked goods, smoothies or homemade grainless granola.
5. Chicken and Turkey
If you’re trying to prevent weight gain due to overeating, emphasizing foods high in protein is highly recommended. Chicken and turkey are readily available, protein-dense choices to fill up on.
Just three ounces of chicken — about the size of a deck of cards — provides about 37 percent of your body’s daily value for protein. This nutrient helps keep our bodies energized, our muscles looking sculpted and our bellies feeling satiated, in part by reducing the “hunger hormone” called ghrelin.
Opt for quality, locally grown, organic, free-range chicken whenever possible.
6. Coconut Oil
Not all fats are created equal. In fact, coconut oil is one of the healthiest, most natural fats we can consume thanks to its medium chain fats that are easily digested and used for energy.
Coconut oil is filling and can help support thyroid function and gut health, both of which play a big role in determining your metabolic rate. Swapping out refined vegetable oils for coconut oil is a simple way to add more healthy fats to your meals.
7. Cruciferous Vegetables
Not only are cruciferous vegetables — like kale, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts — bursting with good-for-you ingredients, but they’re also some of the best foods for promoting a healthy body composition. They’re nutritionally dense, high in volume and fiber, and low in calories.
Packed with essential vitamins and minerals, you can chow down on these veggies guilt-free, considering they have very few calories.
In studies, consumption of cruciferous veggies has been linked to protection against obesity and leptin resistance.
Findings suggest that consuming naturally occurring isothiocyanate compounds from these veggies has the potential to improve leptin responsiveness, which leads to feelings of fullness and reduced appetite.
Ghee, a clarified butter originally made popular in India, is a surprising food that may burn belly fat. It contains medium-chain fatty acids, the same types found in coconut oil, which are easily used by the body for energy. Fats in your diet also contribute to satiety and help you feel fuller for longer.
An added bonus: Ghee has a high smoke point, so it retains its phytonutrients during cooking. It’s also appropriate for lactose- and casein-sensitive individuals who don’t tolerate butter well.
Which fruit burns the most fat? Oranges aren’t the only citrus fruits on the block. Grapefruit is just as delicious, and luckily for us, research suggests it’s full of enzymes that help your body break down sugar.
Try adding half a grapefruit to boost the nutrition of your breakfast or squeezing the fresh juice into a glass of water.
Bonus: Even just sniffing grapefruit essential oil can help increase your mood and dull cravings. Trying dabbing it on your wrists to curb your sweet tooth.
10. Grass-Fed Beef
Red meat has often been stigmatized as unhealthy, but it’s a widespread misconception. Instead, “you are what you eat” is an adage that rings especially true with grass-fed beef.
Skipping the lower-quality versions and splurging on quality beef means you’ll nourish your body with one of the highest sources of protein.
You might not suspect that beef is one of the best fat-burning foods for men, but eating beef can actually help control your appetite and satisfy hunger. It’s high in the type of fat called conjugated linoleic acid, which seems to promote weight loss among adults who are overweight.
You’ll also ingest higher levels of vitamins and minerals like zinc, B12 and iron, plus antioxidants, when you make the switch to grass-fed beef.
11. Green Leafy Vegetables
Leafy greens like kale, spinach, collard greens and Swiss chard are chock-full of nutrients, such as vitamins K, A and C and iron, which are needed for many metabolic functions. For both vegans and omnivores alike, leafy greens should be a staple in any healthy diet since they’re low in calories, high in fiber and supply essential nutrients.
There’s evidence that obtaining more fiber, electrolytes and antioxidants from greens can help keep your appetite in check, prevent obesity, support muscle function and facilitate recovery from workouts.
They’re also packed with vitamin K, which keeps bones strong and helps ward off osteoporosis, keeping your body moving normally well into old age.
12. Matcha Green Tea
Green tea isn’t just beneficial due to its antioxidant content; it’s also been shown to help promote a normal body weight due to its caffeine.
Sipping on either loose leaf green tea or a cup of matcha green tea regularly may help prevent fat gain and lower cholesterol levels. Plus, it helps rev up your energy and focus (thanks to caffeine), and its antioxidants can help your body recover more easily after high-intensity workouts.
13. Kefir and Yogurt
Kefir is a fermented drink similar to yogurt that’s loaded with medicinal benefits, including gut-friendly probiotics.
Studies show that fermented dairy products like unsweetened kefir and yogurt can serve as natural belly fat-burning foods since they are filling and provide important nutrients, like protein, healthy fatty acids, potassium, calcium and magnesium.
Research also suggests that yogurt is a food that facilitates the regulation of energy balance. Studies in humans have shown that consumption of yogurt increases the circulating concentrations of several hormones that make you feel full.
Kefir is packed with probiotics, the (good!) bacteria that aids your body in fighting infections. Probiotics are also good news for those trying to lose weight — eating them is associated with weight loss because they support gut health, which is where many hormones that determine your appetite and body weight are produced.
Try swapping unsweetened kefir for your usual yogurt a few times a week. Add it to oats, granola, smoothies or shakes with some fruit and cinnamon to improve the taste.
14. Rooibos Tea
While rooibos tea is technically an herbal drink, it’s making waves in the weight loss community. Because it contains antioxidant flavonoids and phytochemicals that can help fight inflammation and support a healthy metabolism, it’s a great addition to your routine.
Additionally, it’s free of sugar and basically calorie-free, so it can save you tons of calories if you swap it for other sugary drinks (such as bottled iced teas). Try it in place of your normal green tea for a healthy, energizing change.
15. Whey Protein and Other Protein Powders
Is there such thing as foods that burn fat while you sleep? While it’s a bit more complicated than this, filling up on protein throughout the day can help support a strong metabolism and potentially keep you at a healthy weight.
Studies support the use of whey protein either as a supplement, ideally combined with resistance exercise, or as part of a weight maintenance diet to improve your body composition.
Adding whey protein to your breakfast smoothie or taking a daily supplement will keep you feeling full, support your ability to increase muscle tone and spike your energy while stabilizing blood sugar levels.
16. Salmon and Other Oily Fish
Wild-caught salmon is not only a great source of protein, but it’s also an excellent way to obtain omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects. Omega-3s can potentially help with hormonal balance and cardiovascular health, according to some studies.
One study found evidence that omega-3s from fish have potential to act as nutritional therapeutic agents in prevention of obesity-related inflammation.
You’ll also find vitamin D, B vitamins, selenium, potassium, phosphorus and more in salmon. An added benefit of all of these nutrients is that eating fish regularly may help boost brain function and your mood, as well as improve immunity, bone health and skin health.
Aside from wild-caught salmon, incorporate other oily fish in your diet, such as sardines, mackerel, tuna and halibut.
Like green tea, coffee contains both caffeine and antioxidants, which can help reduce inflammation, promote alertness and mental well-being, improve stamina during workouts, and potentially control hunger.
Consuming coffee is an easy way to lift your mood, assuming you tolerate it well. It can improve decision making and give you energy to push harder while exercising.
Caffeine may also slightly boost your metabolic rate and curb hunger, helping you stick to a healthy diet and resist temptations.
One study found that consuming caffeine about 30 minutes before a meal helped suppress energy (calorie) intake during the meal.
Including eggs in your breakfast may help control your appetite the remainder of the day and enhance weight loss thanks to their protein and fat content. Compared to sugary foods and refined grains, eggs are more satiating and help stabilize blood sugar.
Additionally, eggs contain nutrients such as omega-3s, B vitamins, choline and antioxidants (like lutein and zeaxanthin) that may help protect you from a variety of issues, such as liver disease, heart disease, diabetes and stroke. They also supply you with collagen, the protein that helps build and strengthen skin, joints and connective tissue.
For the greatest nutrient content, avoid conventional eggs, and purchase only certified organic, pastured eggs, preferably from a local farmer if possible.
19. Oatmeal/Oat Bran
Fiber takes up a large amount of space in your stomach and absorbs water, helping you feel satisfied (despite being low in calories). It also keeps you “regular” by preventing constipation and bloating.
It may come as a surprise that oats are a good source of plant-based protein, with more than eight grams in every 2/3 of a cup of dry oats. Certain studies have also found that oat intake has significant effects on controlling hyperglycemia, lowering blood lipids and reducing weight.
Just be sure to buy unsweetened rolled oats, oat bran or steel-cut oats for the most benefits. Add your own toppings to make oats taste great, such as yogurt, fruit, nuts, seeds, cinnamon, vanilla and cocoa.
20. Legumes and Beans
Beans/legumes are some of the most affordable foods high in protein. They also supply lots of fiber, antioxidants like flavonoids, and numerous vitamins and minerals, such as folate and magnesium.
Studies have linked regular consumption of legumes and beans (including black, navy and white beans; chickpeas; lentils; etc.) as part of a mostly plant-based diet with enhanced protection against obesity, inflammation, heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.
Consuming fiber found in beans is associated with reduced risk for cardiovascular disease since it helps balance unhealthy cholesterol levels, while also removing waste and toxins from the body.
Certain studies have shown that consuming resistant starch found in beans can help control your appetite and assist with blood sugar management and digestive function.
How to Add to Your Diet
Now that you know which foods are most beneficial for your waistline, let’s talk about how to include them in your diet more often. Here are some meal ideas based on the time of day:
- Eggs with wilted leafy greens, other sautéed veggies in ghee and hot sauce.
- Salmon slices with cucumbers and tomatoes, plus a hard-boiled egg and 1/2 a grapefruit.
- Oatmeal with chia, flax, fruit, kefir and cinnamon.
- Salad with lots of veggies, sliced almonds, grilled chicken, with a mustard-apple cider vinaigrette.
- Grass-fed beef patty served over salad with mustard, lettuce, onion and tomato.
- Black beans, quinoa or brown rice, with diced avocado and veggies.
- Shake or smoothie with whey protein, almond milk, berries, spinach and vanilla extract.
- Veggies with hummus, along with cup of bone broth.
- Unsweetened yogurt with chia seeds and fruit.
- Fish, chicken or steak with side of veggies cooked in coconut oil, plus brown rice or quinoa.
- Tacos with your favorite protein, onions, peppers, salsa and hot sauce.
- Stew made with bone broth, vegetables and grass-fed beef.
- What food burns fat fast? There are plenty of ingredients that can help support your metabolism and body composition, especially those high in protein, fiber, antioxidants and healthy fats.
- Some of the best choices include leafy greens, cruciferous veggies, poultry, eggs, grass-fed beef, fish, yogurt or kefir, beans, legumes, seeds, spices like cayenne, grapefruit, teas, and coffee.
- Try to eat balanced meals for the best appetite control with a variety of different foods. Choose whole, unprocessed foods, and stay away from added sugar, refined grains, most processed vegetables oils and high-sodium foods.