Whether you’re starting a new fitness routine or just trying to lose some inches of belly fat, nutrition can either support or sabotage your slimming quest. During such a time, some foods are not necessarily “a magic fix” but are key ingredients to achieving your fitness goals. These foods that can lead to more calories burned can directly or indirectly impact your body’s fat content.
In the world of foods that burn calories and fat rankings, all foods are not equal. Some stand out in such a way that when they’re consumed as part of your diet, they’ll directly or indirectly increase your fat-burning capacity. Here is a list of the best foods that burn fat and calories fast to help get you into that sought-after calorie-burning zone.
Can Foods Burn Fat?
No food has the ability to directly burn fat, at least not in the true sense of the word.
However, certain foods can increase calorie burn by boosting your metabolism or increasing the energy expenditure that is associated with digestion. This is known as the thermic effect of food (TEF), which refers to the number of calories burned during the process of digestion, absorption, and distribution of nutrients throughout the body (23).
Different foods have varying TEFs depending on their macronutrient composition. For example, protein has a higher TEF than carbohydrates and fats. This means that consuming high-protein food can increase your metabolic rate and burn more calories, even when you’re at rest (5).
Beyond TEF, some foods contain compounds that promote fat oxidation, which is the body’s ability to use fat as an energy source. These foods are rich in phytochemicals and antioxidants that stimulate enzymes that are responsible for breaking down stored fats (22).
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Examples of such foods include green tea, coffee, hot peppers, and spices such as cinnamon and ginger. These foods are also known as thermogenic foods as they increase body heat and boost metabolism (8).
In addition, certain foods contain specific types of fiber that can bind to dietary fats and prevent their absorption, thereby reducing the number of calories absorbed by the body. This isn’t burning fat in the literal sense, but it can help with weight loss by reducing calorie intake.
Foods such as oatmeal, apples, and legumes are rich in soluble fiber, which can lower cholesterol levels and help with weight loss (7).
It should be noted that even the so-called “fat-burning” foods have calories, and consuming them in excessive amounts can hinder weight loss efforts.
In our guide to Low-Calorie, High-Volume Foods, we discuss how you can manage your calorie intake without feeling hungry or deprived.
What Are the Foods That Burn Calories?
The calorie-burning magic in some foods is a result of metabolism. This process involves various chemical reactions that occur in your body to keep you alive. Food is turned into energy and burned off to keep your heart beating, your hair growing, and so forth.
Foods that help burn calories work by increasing the metabolism rate in your body. The more your metabolism is working, the more calories it will burn.(10).
What Are Foods That Burn as Many Calories as They Contain Called?
They are referred to as negative-calorie foodstuffs. They supposedly take more calories to eat, digest, and absorb in the body than they contain.
For example, you could eat something with 40 calories, use 11 to chew it, and 30 to digest it. In total, you would have used 41 calories, thereby creating a negative.
However, that doesn’t mean these foods don’t contain calories. The calories you burn from digestion don’t directly come from the food you eat, so even these foods can add up over time.
What Foods Burn the Most Calories?
As mentioned earlier, all diets don’t burn the same amount of calories. However, some stand out as they do away with a lot of fats in your body. Some even use more energy to digest than they actually provide. Here are some of the best foods that burn calories fast:
Oats are one of the fantastic foodstuffs that help burn calories. They contain few fats and lots of fiber. Oatmeal is also digested slowly. This means that it doesn’t cause a rapid increase in glucose levels when you eat it for breakfast.
The combination of blood glucose stability and sustainable energy release leads to the loss of fat over time. This may explain why oats have secured a top place in diets that are considered effective for weight loss (9).
If you thought burning some extra fat means giving up on some delicacies, then you may be wrong.
Research conducted by Louisiana State University found that gut microbes in the stomach ferment chocolate. The fermentation results in polyphenolic gut-healthy compounds and a fatty acid that encourages the body to burn more calories.
To boost the fermentation process, you can add fruit to the dark bar. Make sure you go with chocolate that has over 70% cacao content.
Coconut (MCT) Oil
Coconut and MCT oil is loaded with many health benefits. Adding some coconut oil to your diet could increase your good HDL cholesterol level, decrease your triglycerides, and help you lose weight.
Coconut oils are mostly MCTs which have been previously credited with calorie-burning properties and appetite-suppressing.
In one research study, overweight men who added approximately 20 ml of coconut to their daily meals lost 1 inch from their waist without making any diet changes or increasing their physical activity.
Therefore, consuming 20ml (2 tablespoons) of coconut oil every day will certainly help you maximize your fat-burning capacities.
Full-Fat Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is certainly nutritious for people who are trying to improve their health. It’s an excellent source of calcium, protein, and potassium.
Full-fat Greek yogurt also has some conjugated linoleic acid, which promotes fat-burning and weight loss in obese people.
Be sure to choose a full-fat Greek yogurt as non-fat products contain little conjugated linoleic acid (16).
Berries are packed with antioxidants that help burn fats and prevent them from forming. They also improve blood flow to your muscles during workouts.
According to a study by the Texas Woman’s University, mice that ate around three servings of berries had 73% lower fat cells.
An International Journal of Obesity study concluded that blueberries can convert excess harmful white fat into beige fat. This reduces the chances of becoming obese by 40%
So, next time you make a smoothie, add some of these blue guys to boost your calorie-burning capacity (12).
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Chilies do more than just add heat to your meals. They contain powerful antioxidants that reduce inflammation and protect cells from damage.
In addition, there is an antioxidant called capsaicin that is found in chili peppers and it has been shown to promote a healthy weight. It does this by preventing overeating and promoting fullness.
In one study, capsaicin was found to increase metabolic rate when you eat less. Researchers found the compound reduces appetite and increases fat-burning capacity per day. This means that you’ll eat less and burn more (4).
Kickstart your mornings and metabolism with cinnamon. This spice is known to contain powerful antioxidants that can alter your body’s composition and insulin sensitivity.
By affecting insulin sensitivity, cinnamon keeps your blood sugar constant and prevents hunger crushes and spikes.
Japanese researchers found that eating cinnamon can reduce your belly fat.
To reap its benefits, add it to a cup of coffee or sprinkle it on your oats.
Despite many years of adverse reports about cholesterol, eggs are now making a comeback. Yolks used to be avoided at all costs as they were said to have a high cholesterol content.
But, that is not the case now. Recent studies have found that eggs can protect your heart from cardiovascular diseases.
In addition, eggs are good for weight loss. If they’re consumed as part of your breakfast, they can promote the feeling of fullness for several hours in obese people.
In a controlled study involving 21 men, those who ate three eggs for breakfast consumed fewer calories per day than those who didn’t.
When it comes to burning calories, eggs are the champion of all foods. They contain high-quality proteins that increase your metabolic rate for several hours.
Therefore, eating three eggs every day or several times a week can help you feel full, satisfied, and do away with excess fats (2).
Green tea is an excellent beverage that can help you cut some belly fat.
It’s also a good source of epigallocatechin gallate, an antioxidant that catalyzes calorie burning and loss of belly fat.
However, some studies have found that green tea doesn’t affect metabolism rate or help with weight loss. Due to this difference, it will have different effects from one person to another.
Healthline states that drinking up to four cups of the beverage could provide several benefits, including a possible increase in the amount of fat you burn.
We all know the famous saying: an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Well, apples are full of fiber and sweetness and contain few calories. As you chew them, you’ll burn a few calories too.
Apples are also brilliant when it comes to keeping your hunger at bay while supplying you with much-needed energy.
However, the fruit is more than just an appetite suppressant; multiple studies have suggested that it can help break down stored fats in your body (1).
Surprisingly, olive oil is one of the foods that may burn more calories than it contains. Although it contains calorie-dense fat, it has healthy fat that researchers have found to decrease inflammatory fat stored in the body.
Olive oil has also been found to increase HDL cholesterol, lower triglycerides, and stimulate the production of GLP-4, one of the hormones that keeps you feeling full.
Some studies have shown that this oil can boost your metabolic rate and promote the burning of calories.
To incorporate olive oil in your meals, simply drizzle a little over your salad or cooked food.
Although oolong tea receives less attention than green tea on the internet, they both have the same benefits.
Several studies have shown that its catechins and caffeine contents burn an average of 102 calories per day.
Oolong tea has also been found to increase metabolic rates and promote weight loss. Drinking a cup of oolong tea or in combination with green tea may promote weight loss and provide you with an abundance of other health benefits (14).
Apple Cider Vinegar
Its main constituent, acetic acid, has been linked with increasing fat burning and reducing belly fat.
In one study, 114 obese men were given two tablespoons of vinegar as part of their diet for 12 weeks. They were found to have lost 1.7 kilograms and had a 0.9% reduction in body fats.
Whey protein promotes the growth of muscles when combined with exercise. It may also help you maintain your muscles during your weight loss journey.
Not only does it help preserve your muscles, it also suppresses your appetite more effectively than other proteins. When it is consumed, it stimulates the production of GLP-1 and PYY, which are known to be “fullness hormones.”
Coffee is associated with caffeine, which enhances your mood and improves both mental and physical performance.
The beverage can also help you burn some excess fat. It does this by increasing your metabolic rate by 3 to 13% depending on the amount you consume.
To enjoy this benefit of coffee while avoiding side effects such as insomnia and anxiety, you should aim to drink 1 to 4 cups per day.
Some types of oily fish such as herring and salmon contain omega-three fatty acids. The compounds have been linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases and inflammation.
In addition, the compound can help you shed some body fat. In six-week controlled research that involved 44 adults, those who took fish oil supplements were found to have lost approximately 0.5 kilograms of fat. They also had lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that stores fat in your body.
Furthermore, fish is generally an excellent source of high-quality proteins. Digesting them makes you feel full and slightly increases your metabolic rate.
Take approximately 100 grams of fatty fish supplements twice a week to rip their benefits (13).
A scoop of fresh guacamole can help you burn calories and squash your hunger for snacks.
Avocados are also rich in vitamin B6, which is associated with counteracting the stress hormone that is responsible for belly fat.
Guacamole is full of monounsaturated fats that have been linked to the regulation of fat genes. This property ensures that no distribution of fats takes place around your belly (11).
Have you had enough of rice? Well, you could add some bulgur to your meals.
Bulgur is a staple dish in the Mediterranean. It is prepared mostly by combining it with chopped garlic, parsley, diced tomatoes, lemon juice, and olive oil. Instead of going with this traditional method of cooking the grain, you could simply add it to your salad or chicken dish.
Thanks to the high content of fiber in this cereal, you can burn a lot of calories by consuming it.
A study by Annals of Internal Medicine claims that if you increase the amount of fiber you take to approximately 30 grams a day, you could reap a lot of benefits. These benefits include shedding weight, lowering your blood pressure, and improving your insulin responses (15).
Quinoa is an ancient grain that is a complete protein. Therefore, it contains an entire chain of various amino acids that can help you lose fat and build muscle.
In 2015, a study discovered that patients who consumed a higher amount of vegetable protein were less susceptible to contracting metabolic syndrome. This is a condition that is characterized by high blood sugar, high cholesterol, and obesity.
Furthermore, quinoa has a high level of betaine, which is associated with improved mental health and lower fat production (14).
After being considered bad for many years, pork is now considered a healthy alternative as long as you eat the best cut – pork tenderloin.
A three-ounce serving of tenderloin contains less fat than skinless chicken breasts. It also has 24 grams of high-quality proteins and 83 milligrams of choline per serving.
In one study, 144 obese men were asked to consume fresh lean pork. After three months, they noted a significant decrease in waist size. No mass muscle reduction was recorded. It was concluded that pork’s protein amino acid profile may have contributed to the fat-burning increase (21).
What Foods to Eat to Reduce Weight
When you’re trying to shed a few kilos, you must stick to healthy eating. This means you should keep an eye on your diet. When it comes to what foods you should eat, the list is endless. However, as a rule of thumb, you should consume foodstuffs with the following characteristics (26).
- Less refined carbs
- Little to no added sugars
- Low starch content
- Rich in proteins
- Fats – don’t be afraid of taking fats – your body needs healthy fats no matter what diet you follow
How to Reduce Body Fat
One way of cutting down your calorie intake is to consume the foods listed in this article. Our low-calorie, high-volume foods article may point you in the right direction.
In addition, you should practice the following to reduce your body fat (18):
- Start strength training – you can lift weights to reduce visceral fat
- Eat a high-protein meal
- Getting enough sleep is essential
- Consume a lot of healthy fats
- Limit your alcohol intake
- Take a lot of fiber
- Reduce refined carbs in your diet
- Do aerobic exercises
- Try high-intensity interval training
Does protein burn fat?
Protein doesn’t directly burn fat, but it does increase your calorie expenditure, which makes it easier to lose fat (5).
Firstly, protein has a higher thermic effect than carbohydrates or fats – this means that your body requires more energy to process protein than other macronutrients (8). Therefore, a higher protein intake will result in greater calorie expenditure.
Secondly, protein is essential for building and maintaining muscle mass. Greater muscle mass requires more energy to maintain, which can lead to burning more calories and potentially reducing body fat (5).
Thirdly, protein increases satiety, which could help prevent overeating and make it easier to lose excess fat (5).
Some research has suggested that a high-protein diet may help curb cravings, compared to high-carbohydrate diets. This may lead to better adherence to a healthy diet and weight loss (5).
While protein may not directly burn fat on its own, it can play a significant role in supporting weight loss.
What food burns fat at night?
There’s no magical food that will help you burn fat while you sleep. However, consuming foods that are high in protein and healthy fats before bedtime may be beneficial for weight loss.
A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a higher protein intake at night can help increase resting metabolic rate the following morning. This means your body will burn more calories while you’re at rest.
Some protein options for a bedtime snack include a handful of nuts, cottage cheese, or Greek yogurt. These foods also contain healthy fats that will keep you feeling full and satisfied until morning.
Intermittent fasting may be a more effective approach to boost night-time fat burning, as the hours spent fasting allow your body to tap into stored fat for energy (18). The hours you’re asleep also count toward the fasting period.
Check out our Intermittent Fasting Macros guide for tips on how to structure your eating during a fast.
Does hunger burn fat?
Hunger is the first responder before the body turns to stored fat for energy. The feeling of hunger signals your brain to eat and if you don’t, your body will use glucose from carbs as the primary source of fuel. However, once the glycogen stores in your liver are depleted, your body will start converting stored fat into ketones for energy through a process called ketosis (3).
This means that feeling hungry does not necessarily mean you will burn fat; it just means your body is in the initial stages of using stored energy.
To effectively burn fat, you need to go beyond hunger and fast to the point where your body starts to use fat reserves for energy. This is why intermittent fasting has become a popular weight-loss method, as it allows the body to enter a state of ketosis during the fasting period.
Our Zero Calorie Drinks guide suggests some hydration options that can help reduce hunger and make it easier to fast.
You don’t need to fast to burn fat though. Instead, you can try to reduce calories through diet and increasing physical activity to create a caloric deficit. This will force your body to tap into stored fat for energy, which will result in weight loss.
No single foodstuff will automatically make you lose fat from a particular area of your body. You need to follow a proper fitness routine in addition to consuming the listed foods that burn calories (16).
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
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- Clinical Evidence and Mechanisms of High-Protein Diet-Induced Weight Loss (2020,nih.gov)
- Coconut oil and palm oil’s role in nutrition, health and national development: A review (2016, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Cholesterol-lowering effects of dietary fiber: a meta-analysis (1999,nih.gov)
- Diet induced thermogenesis (2004,nih.gov)
- Dried Fruit, Oats and Coffee: Answers to Your Sugar Questions(2020, nytimes.com)
- Eat Your Way to a Faster Metabolism (nd, webmd.com)
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- Everything you need to know about blueberries (2018, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Fish oil vs. lard: Why some fat can help or hinder your diet (2016, sciencedaily.com)
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- Interested in Losing Weight? (n,d,nutrition.gov)
- Oolong tea: A critical review of processing methods, chemical composition, health effects, and risk (2017, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Pork tenderloin with apples and balsamic vinegar(2016, mayoclinic.org)
- The Role of Dietary Phytochemicals: Evidence from Epidemiological Studies (2023,nih.gov)
- The Thermic Effect of Food: A Review (2019,nih.gov)
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