Milk, yogurt, and cheese
Secret fat-burner: Calcium
There are a lot of dairy myths circulating online, but as it turns out, milk really does do a body good—as do yogurt and cheese! A review of more than 90 studies in the journal Nutrition Reviews revealed a strong link between high calcium intake and improved body composition. In another study from the International Journal of Obesity, researchers reviewed 14 randomized controlled clinical trials and found that people who ate the most dairy had a 1.6-pound greater reduction in fat mass than those who didn't eat much dairy. This is likely because calcium in milk decreases the levels of a vitamin that encourages fat cells to grow, making it easier to lose weight.
Oats and barley
Secret fat-burner: Fiber
Let's settle this once and for all: As long as you eat the right kinds, carbs are actually good for you! Enjoy a delicious barley side dish instead of white rice with dinner and you could be well on your way to shedding dangerous belly fat, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Eating whole grains keeps you full and stops you from overeating. Barley in particular is known to raise blood sugar slowly, so you skip the sugar spike and crash that leaves you hungry soon after a meal.
Secret fat-burner: Catechins
Aiding weight loss is just one of the health benefits of green tea. "Catechins increase metabolism and the rate at which the liver burns fat," says Journal of Nutrition study author Kevin C. Maki, PhD, whose team found that drinking green tea may directly target abdominal fat. To reap those rewards, drink four to six cups of caffeinated green tea a day and log at least 180 minutes of exercise each week. Make your tea more heart healthy by adding lemon juice. (This power food pairing let catechins be more readily absorbed into our systems.)
Secret fat-burner: Protein
Protein helps with weight loss in a number of ways. (Use these tricks to eat more healthy protein without even trying.) First, your body uses more energy—think calories—to break down protein foods than it does to break down other foods. Protein also helps you hang onto muscle mass as you're losing weight, and since muscle burns more calories than fat, you want to keep as much of it as you can. Finally, protein dampens hunger better than carbohydrates do, says Donald K. Layman, PhD, the Journal of Nutrition study's lead researcher, adding that decreasing carbohydrates also helped the protein group lose weight.
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Walnuts and almonds
Secret fat-burner: Good fats
Plenty of studies point to nuts—aka the best disease fighter in your pantry—as a waist-friendly addition to your diet as long as you don't go overboard. Chalk it up to their fiber, their protein, and their good fat, which may increase the body's sensitivity to insulin, aiding weight loss. Walnuts are one of the best non-fish sources of omega-3 fatty acids, and almonds provide an extra benefit in the form of bone-building calcium. (Check out more non-dairy sources of calcium that give you the nutrients you need.)
Secret fat-burner: Omega-3's
Eating fat might sound like a crazy idea when you're trying to lose fat, but getting more omega-3 fatty acids from fish like salmon could be just what the diet doctor ordered, according to a study in the British Journal of Nutrition. "Although the exact mechanisms are unknown, omega-3 fatty acids reduce fat mass," says Irene Munro, study author and researcher from the University of Newcastle in Newcastle, Australia. In addition to adding years to your life, other studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids make you feel less hungry and more satisfied up to two hours after eating a fatty fish meal. Aim to eat salmon or another oily fish, like mackerel, herring, or canned tuna, at least twice a week. If that doesn't sound appealing, substitute the fish for other omega-3-rich foods.
Apples and pears
Secret fat-burner: Flavonoids
What do these foods have in common? They contain flavonoids, natural chemicals in plant foods that may have fat-fighting effects. That's why they're two of the best fruits for weight loss. Women who consumed the most flavonoids had significantly lower increases in body mass index over a 14-year period than women who ate the least, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. "Animal studies have shown that these flavonoids can increase energy [calorie] expenditure, increase glucose uptake into muscle, and increase fat burning," says Laura Hughes, MSc, the study's lead investigator and a nutritional epidemiologist at Maastricht University in the Netherlands.
Secret fat-burner: Lignans
These shiny, nutty-tasting superseeds pack a secret weight loss weapon: lignans. As estrogen-like compounds, they also make flaxseed is one superfood all healthy women need in their diets. Consumption of lignans in postmenopausal women was associated with lower body fat and body mass index, according to a study in the British Journal of Nutrition. Try grinding and adding a tablespoon of flaxseed each day to cereals, yogurt, or salad dressing.
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Secret fat-burner: Acids
You already know that vinegar has super helpful uses around the house, but it could do your body some good, too. Researchers say vinegar turns on genes that produce enzymes that help the body break down fat. Interested in trying it? Slurp 15 milliliters (about a tablespoon) of vinegar daily, perhaps diluting it with milk or soda to make it less acidic and more palatable. You can also try cooking with vinegar using tips from professional chefs.
For more ways to make your next diet the most successful it can be, read up on the 13 fat-releasing foods that help you lose weight fast.