By Marta Debski
Fire up your efforts to lose weight with these 13 foods that burn fat. Instead of packing on the pounds, they work with your body to get you looking and feeling great. The best part? They actually taste good! From water to beans to blueberries, see which foods fill you up but won't weigh you down.
Grab a snack that works with your diet, not against it. According to a University of Tennessee study, because increased calcium levels trigger the body to quit storing fat and start burning it, those who include three daily servings of nonfat or low-fat dairy, such as yogurt, into their already reduced-calorie diet are more apt to lose weight than those who don't. Just choose wisely. Many yogurts have added sugar so look for "light" or plain versions.
Not a fan of yogurt? Try a few glasses of cold skim milk instead. Findings from a study conducted by the University of Tennessee show that mice that were placed on a diet with half of their daily calorie intake supplied by low-fat milk had a 39 percent decrease in body fat, while those mice that had no dairy foods in their diet had a 24 percent increase in fat. So drink up - milk really does a body good.
When making a healthy breakfast, you don't have to forgo your favorite scramble. Instead of using the whole egg, use only the egg whites, which are full of protein and very low in fat and calories, according to the Mayo Clinic. If you're looking for a little something more than what plain whites have to offer, mix in one whole egg for extra flavor without breaking the calorie bank.
Along with being a great source of vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants, blueberries also fight belly fat. In one University of Michigan study, a group of rats bred to be obesity-prone were fed blueberry powder as part of a low-fat diet and, after 90 days, had less abdominal fat, lower body weight and lower percentage of body fat than at the beginning of the study. Next time those hunger pangs kick in, grab a handful of blueberries and feel the extra pounds start to melt away.
An apple a day helps keep the pounds at bay. According to The Flex Diet by James Beckerman, MD, a cardiologist with Providence Heart & Vascular Institute in Portland, Oregon, and MedHelp's weight loss and healthy lifestyle expert, when you eat fruit instead of a different snack with the same amount of calories, you tend to lose weight. "Apples are a low energy density food, or, said another way, are a large volume food with few calories, high water content and lots of fiber, all of which help fill you up," said Dr. Beckerman.
With their sweet and tangy taste, fiber-filled fruit and beautiful color, grapefruits work wonders on your palate and fat-fighting efforts. A study conducted by the department of nutrition and metabolic research at Scripps Clinic found that those who ate half of a fresh grapefruit before each meal had reduced insulin levels. This allows the body to process food for energy rather than store it as fat, associating the fruit with rapid weight loss. However beware that grapefruit can negatively interact with certain medications, including certain heart medications and antidepressants. Talk to your doctor before eating grapefruit if you are taking any prescription medications.
Although beans are relatively high in calories for their small size, in his book The Flex Diet, Dr. Beckerman cites one study that found people who regularly eat beans weigh an average of seven pounds less than those who don't. Why? "Beans have tons of fiber," said Dr. Beckerman. "Fiber is great because it absorbs water and makes you feel fuller. By eating beans you'll be less likely to consume as many calories at the same meal." But be careful: "Prepared beans, baked beans, and refried beans can have oil, bacon and lots of salt added," he said. "Stick with vegetarian options like pinto and black beans." And make sure they're low in sodium!
Substituting tofu for other protein sources is associated with reduced body fat, according to The Flex Diet. "When substituted for meat it's a great diet food because eating tofu helps you avoid the higher amounts of calories and saturated fats in meat products," said Dr. Beckerman. Also, "the high protein content will help keep you full...and less likely to reach for an unhealthy snack." Another plus: Tofu is very versatile. It can be enjoyed in breakfast, lunch and dinner recipes. Next time you're at the grocery store, stock up and enjoy this low-calorie power food!
When dieting gets tough, switch up your meals by adding salmon or other types of fish to your menu twice a week, suggests the American Heart Association. A good source of calcium, protein and omega-3s, salmon can be an important part of a healthy, balanced diet. But, when making fish, be sure to avoid calorie-loaded butter and cream sauces. Stick to low-cal sauces and prepare your fish broiled, grilled, baked or steamed to keep it light.
When preparing seafood as one of your diet-friendly meals, don't discriminate against shellfish. Shellfish are low in fat and can provide anywhere between 100 to 200 calories per 3.5-ounce serving. Clams, oysters, scallops, mussels, lobster and crab all boast high amounts of protein and omega-3s and low to moderate amounts of cholesterol. Remember to use low-calorie accompaniments to enhance flavor, such as seafood sauce, and refrain from using butter for dipping.
A study conducted by the Rippe Lifestyle Institute found that those who walked 15 to 30 minutes everyday and ate one packet of oatmeal for breakfast as part of their reduced-calorie diet lost weight while those who simply walked for the same amount of time did not. According to the study, not only did those who ate the oatmeal each day experience increased fullness, which contributed to their weight loss, but they also lowered their risk factors for heart disease and diabetes.
Quinoa is high in protein and fiber, which fills you up so you end up eating less, according to Dr. Beckerman. How should you fit quinoa into your diet? Try substituting quinoa everywhere you would normally use rice. "One cup of cooked quinoa has 40 fewer calories than a cup of white rice," said Dr. Beckerman, not to mention more fiber and protein.
According to an article in Medical News Today, a recent study conducted by Brenda Davy, PhD, associate professor in the department of human nutrition, foods and exercise in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, found that "dieters who drank two 8-ounce cups of water before meals, three times per day, lost about five pounds more than dieters who did not increase their water intake." Next time you sit down for a meal, pour yourself a glass of water and drink to a slimmer waistline!
Marta Debski is a runner, health enthusiast and proud Wolverine.