We all know those food myths that circulate, promising that certain food and drinks can spike our metabolisms and lead to weight loss and fat burning in an instant. And sure, the idea of a quick calorie and fat burn without doing much work (like, burpees or push-ups!) seems awesome. Yet, should we really believe these foods to be actually effective in torching fat and improving the metabolism to aid in weight loss? See, they might be healthy, but they’re more so foods that do not burn fat like you may think.
Before swapping your black tea for a green tea, here’s what you should know. We asked dietitians for a list of healthy foods that, while good for you and may have some fat burning properties through research or word of mouth, they may not make too much of a difference to really count as instant fat-burners. And while you’re studying up, be sure to try out these 21 Best Healthy Cooking Hacks of All Time!
“There is a little bit of evidence that green tea can increase metabolism, but there’s a catch,” says New York City-based registered dietitian, Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD. One meta-analysis found that drinking green tea in conjunction with reducing calories resulted in weight loss. The participants drank about 3 cups of green tea, which helped burn 100 calories.
“While that sounds great, one has to wonder if the weight loss is from cutting calories,” she says.
“There is some evidence that capsaicin (the compound found in hot peppers) may rev up metabolism, but the amount used in most studies is way more than a normal person could eat in one sitting,” says Rizzo. A randomized controlled trial looked at what happens when you eat a 1/2 a teaspoon, and they found it only burns about 10 calories. Not as much as you might have thought!
Think: beef, chicken and salmon, as examples. Protein does take more energy to digest than carbohydrates—about 20-30% more energy, as a matter of fact. That means for every 100 calories of protein you consume, 20 to 30 are burned off in the digestion process.
“That sounds great, but be realistic about what 20-30 calories actually looks like— it’s not much,” says Rizzo.
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Coconut oil has medium chain triglycerides (MCT) and many believe MCT’s are not stored well by the body and cause fat loss. “But research shows that eating medium chain triglcyerides instead of long chain triglycerides doesn’t lead to weight loss,” says Rizzo.
Apple cider vinegar has been touted for all sorts of health benefits, including burning belly fat.
Rumor has it that eating grapefruit burns fat but in actuality, it doesn’t. Research suggests that consuming half a grapefruit before meals can help you lose more weight.
“However, that’s likely because of its water and fiber which is filling thus causing a lower caloric intake at the meal,” says Harris-Pincus. So it’s not actually the grapefruit itself that’s helping you burn fat. The more you know!