Our guide to fat burning foods is written by nutrition and health expert, Shannan Kay, B.Ed., R.H.N.
Did you know 90% of educators are too exhausted from school to work on their health? Or that over 50% of teachers put on weight after they start teaching?
As someone who holds both a Bachelor of Education and a Diploma of Natural Nutrition, I know and understand the predicament all too well.
Unfortunately, there are no magic diet foods that turn back years of packed lunch convenience junk or no-time-for-the-gym weight gain.
However, there are certain foods that (especially when combined with a good fitness regime) will help you burn fat like there’s no tomorrow!
Read on for my pick of the best 12 fat burning foods, and the reasons why they work well for people in the industry.
This pepper adds warmth to your dishes and melts fat away! Daily consumption of capsaicin, one of the compounds found in cayenne peppers, boosts the body’s ability to convert food into energy. Spicy cayenne pepper is also a natural appetite suppressant. Wondering how you can get more cayenne pepper in your diet without having to result to the old schoolmaster cleanse? Use it to season grilled fish or meat, and to season eggs! Both of which pack well and will store easily in any staff room kitchen.
Avocados are trendy for a reason! These little powerhouses of essential fats are super effective at keeping you fuller for longer. Vitamin B6 is abundant in avocados, and it is counteractive to cortisol. Not sure what cortisol is? Look down. Do you have a spare tyre? Chances are the stress hormone cortisol is at least partly responsible. Also, the monounsaturated fats found in avocados may even be responsible for preventing body fat accumulating on your stomach. Avocados can be made into guacamole to eat with crudites, on toast, in salads or sushi rolls. Drizzle with lemon juice to prevent browning in a packed lunch.
Carbohydrates are not public enemy number one, despite what the keto queens of the internet may tout online. Protein, carbs and fat are all macronutrients. That’s macro, not micro. They are three things that everyone needs (albeit in differing amounts) to function at their best. Getting your carbohydrates from whole grains like oats instead of processed junk will help to reduce stomach fat. The high fibre content in whole grains keeps you satiated for longer, instead of spiking your blood sugar with high glycemic index simple carbohydrates. Make overnight oats a part of your routine or blend them into your morning smoothie.
Adequate protein intake means the ability to build muscle. But that doesn’t mean you should be eating just anything for your protein requirements. Lean, healthy sources of protein should be your primary aim. Wild salmon is my absolute top choice for protein, as it is a rich source of omega three fatty acids. Omega 3s are essential to any good weight loss strategy, as they fuel the fat burn, and block fat storage. Plus, when you eat adequate amounts of protein and fat, you feel fuller for longer, which stops the nasty cravings for a pick-me-up snack during blood sugar lulls.
I love sweet potatoes. As far as I’m concerned these are a meal unto themselves. Ask any of my colleagues, and they will attest that there has been more than one occasion where I’ve pulled a whole, raw sweet potato from my handbag to cook and eat on my lunch break. Often overlooked for fear of being a carb overload, sweet potatoes are fibrous enough that they are digested slowly. No blood sugar spikes anywhere in sight! The carotenoids within are antioxidant and stabilise blood sugar levels while also lowering insulin resistance making them an excellent choice for those with hormonal imbalances. You’ll also have loads of energy due to the onslaught of vitamins provided within – A, C and B6 just to name a few! Roast them in bulk and serve cold over the top of salads or have them hot like a baked potato.
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Yeah, yeah. I know. The magazines all say to drink green tea and here I am suggesting white. There’s nothing wrong with green tea per se, but white is the real MVP in my opinion. White tea has been proven in studies to both breakdown fat and block the formation of fat cells. White tea is also a rich source of antioxidants which help speed up the liver’s ability to turn fat into energy. I choose to sip tea throughout my day as an alternative to coffee. White tea is also beautifully brewed iced for summer months.
Just because you’re dieting doesn’t mean you have to give up all indulgences. The microbes in our gut like dark chocolate just as much as we do! Gut microbes ferment the chocolate which promotes the production of polyphenolic compounds. These compounds encourage the body to burn fat as fuel and turn off inflammatory genes. Adding fruit to the chocolate will boost fermentation even further – chocolate dipped strawberries, anyone? Be sure to pay attention to the cacao content before you buy just any chocolate. Aim for 70% or more for the highest concentrations of antioxidant polyphenols.
Remember the polyphenol antioxidants in dark chocolate? Well, blueberries are packed full of them too! Blueberries are a potent source of resveratrol, an antioxidant which has been demonstrated to convert excess white fat into calorie-burning beige fat – a wonderful way to decrease the risk of obesity. Blueberries are sweet enough to curb your sugar cravings without throwing you off the deep end. Throw some blueberries in your next smoothie, tossed through your next salad or pick at them by themselves.
Eggs are another major source of lean protein, but they are one of the most concentrated sources of choline. Choline is a major fat burning nutrient that helps to flip the switch on genes that are responsible for belly fat. They also keep you full far longer than any breakfast cereal could. Use eggs hardboiled as a protein in salads, poached with wilted spinach for a delicious breakfast, or as an omelette.
These pulses are a slow digesting source of insoluble fibre that feeds the healthy bacteria in the gut. Those bacteria then produce butyrate that encourages the body to burn fat as fuel and reduces inflammation. They are also a source of soluble fibre. Toss black beans in your salad, soups or chilli.
Quinoa is one of my favourite ancient grains. It is a complete protein all by itself! It is high in the amino acid, lysine, which is important for fat burning and the maintenance of healthy bones. Quinoa has the highest level of betaine as well – that’s the chemical that shuts down the genes that encourage fat to stick. I love quinoa chilled in salads, or as a warm wholegrain.
Yes, that old chestnut. I won’t go so far as to say it fixes everything, but I consider it miraculous nonetheless. Coconut oil’s medium chain triglycerides are burned as energy rather than being stored as fat. I recommend using coconut oil supplementally, as well as for cooking purposes.
Shannan Kay, B.Ed., R.H.N. is a nutrition and health expert, grounded in Canada and Australia. Shannan graduated from the University of Southern Queensland, where she received a bachelor’s degree in education with a concentration in primary grades. She completed a diploma in natural nutrition at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition. Find her on social media at:
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