The perennial weight loss dilemma is finding foods that burn fat while keeping you full. It’s tempting to seek that elusive quick fix: foods that are satisfying and burn unhealthy weight. But can eating certain foods really help you burn fat? Let’s look at the science behind the claims.
Many popular articles and fitness magazines claim that eating certain foods—like whole grains, hot peppers and green tea—can help boost the metabolism and burn fat. Some health experts suggest that less-processed foods, like whole grains, require the body to expend additional energy (in the form of calories) to digest and process, making them a better alternative than easily digested foods that require less energy. Hot peppers are also rumored to aid weight loss because they increase body temperature and therefore, the thinking goes, burn calories.
It’s one thing to read these claims in fitness magazines, but what are the professionals saying? While this may be disappointing news, Dr. Dirk, a Bariatric Surgeon in Dallas, TX, does not believe that pouring hot sauce on your food or chugging green tea will melt body fat. Instead, he advocates for a scientifically sound, tried-and-true diet for his weight loss patients. Specifically, he says that protein-packed foods, like lean meats and low-fat dairy products, can help speed the metabolism.
“Your body works nine times harder to process high-protein food and get the nutrition you need than it does for high-carb and junk food,” Dr. Dirk says.
So what are some good high-protein choices? Lean chicken, turkey and fish are a great start and a far healthier alternative to fattier ground beef or pork. For a quick snack, low-fat Greek yogurt or cottage cheese can provide a whopping 28 grams of protein per serving, accounting for just under half of your daily needs. Protein can come from other sources, too, including nuts and nut butters, though these tend to have a higher fat content. Reach for these options in moderation.
But will an ultra-spicy dish or a raw habañero pepper help you achieve the results you’re working towards? Unless you’re running down the street with your mouth open to cool off, Dr. Dirk says, it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll see any benefit. Stick to a balanced diet that includes plenty of protein to rev up your metabolism.