While a balanced, low-calorie diet is the best way to lose weight, certain food pairings can supercharge your metabolism and may help you burn fat. Lemon juice and cucumbers is one such combination -- and there are other food combos that can also act as fat burners. "Different foods stimulate the body's fat-burning mechanisms in different ways, so combining the right foods can elevate fat burning," says Elizabeth Somer, a registered dietitian and author of "Nutrition for Women."
Lemon Juice & Cucumbers
Cucumbers are high in sulphur and silicon, two trace minerals that may help the body burn fat, according to Somer. And because cucumbers are high in water, they prevent bloating by acting as diuretics. "It may sound counter-intuitive, but foods with high water content prevent water retention and bloating that can make it appear that you have a big belly," Somer says. Adding a squeeze of lemon juice to a cucumber salad or plate of sliced cucumbers can stoke your body's fat-burning furnace. Lemons are purported to increase metabolism, which generates heat in the body. As your body heats up, calories and fat dissolve. Plus, lemons are highly acidic. Acidic foods may aid fat breakdown, according to Somer.
Milk & Cereal
Milk’s nutrients may trigger the body’s fat-burning metabolism. In a 2010 study published in the, “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition," higher amounts of calcium and vitamin D were associated with increased weight loss in dieting adults. These two nutrients are thought to help burn fat by lowering the production of fat-producing enzymes, according to Somer. To further combat fat, splash milk on your morning cereal. In a 2010 Spanish study, women on a diet that included increased consumption of breakfast cereals were found to raise their total calcium intake and improve weight loss, according to the "Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism." And because whole-grain breakfast cereals are high in fiber, which helps keep blood sugar steady, you’ll feel full and satiated for hours without the need for a mid-morning snack. Skipping breakfast, on the other hand, slows your metabolism and halts fat-burning as the body tries to conserve energy.
Fish & Almonds
It may sound strange to fight fat by eating fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, but these healthy fats may help boost your metabolism and fight disease. The protein in fish also helps stave off hunger and prevent overeating, which can keep fat from ending up on your hips and rear-end. Salmon is one of the best sources of omega-3s. To improve its fat-burning properties, baste the salmon with lemon juice. Besides raising your metabolism, Somer notes that lemon juice helps unlock the flavor of fish. Add more fat-burning by sprinkling sliced almonds on top of the fish and lemon juice before serving. In a study of obese and overweight people, those who ate about 3 oz. of almonds daily, lost more weight over 24 months than the no-nut group. Nuts are a good source of alpha-linolenic acid, which may aid metabolism of body fat, according to Somer.
Chili Peppers & Water
Chili peppers are loaded with capsaicin, a compound that heats up the body and burns calories and fat. Ginger, curry powder and a few other spices also contain this fat-burning compound. Wash the hot peppers down with water. In a study published in the “Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism,” drinking about 17 oz. of water was found to have a thermogenic effect, which raised the metabolic rate in normal-weight adults by 30 percent. Water also helps burn fat by reducing cravings and filling you up with a zero-calorie beverage. Drinking a glass of water before eating can reduce hunger and aid weight loss.
To accelerate fat-burning, Somer suggests eating six small meals a day. This eating schedule will help keep blood sugar steady and boost your metabolism. Cardiovascular activity, such as brisk walking, jogging, cycling and swimming, will keep your metabolism revved up for several hours afterward. Physiologist Cedric Bryant, Ph.D., American Council on Exercise, says, “Adding muscle mass raises your metabolic rate, allowing you to burn up to 70 extra calories per day." By eating the right combinations of foods, along with a healthy dose of exercise, you can turn your body into a fat-burning machine.
- Elizabeth Somer, registered dietician, Salem, Oregan; author, "Nutrition for Women"
- "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition," Dairy calcium intake, serum vitamin D, and successful weight loss; D.R. Shahar, et al.; Nov 2010
- "Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism," An adequate calcium intake could help achieve weight loss in overweight/obese women following hypocaloric diets; E. Rodriguez-Rodriquez, et al.; 2010
- "International Journal of Obesity & Related Metabolic Disorders," Almonds vs. complex carbohydrates in a weight reduction program; M.A. Wien; March 2004
- "Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism," Water-induced Thermogenesis; Michael Boschmann; 2003