Informational Articles

Will Certain Foods Actually Burn Fat?

CHRIS MOHR FOR MEN’S HEALTH

The Truth About Fat-Burning Foods

The idea is a compelling one: If you eat the right foods, your metabolism switches into overdrive and your body magically starts depleting its fat stores. So, the theory goes, if you’d just eat more egg whites, or garlic, or grapefruit, you’d lose the weight you’d want.

Unfortunately, your body just doesn’t work this way. Yes, carbohydrates, dietary fat, and protein can increase your metabolism (your body’s ability to convert food to energy) slightly, but it’s still a relatively small increase in the long run.

The fact is that when you eat any food, your metabolism increases to digest and use the food’s calories for various functions. This is called the “thermic effect” of food—and the effect is always temporary. No one food can elevate your metabolism for extended periods. Green tea, hot peppers, celery—they’ve all been touted as “fat-burning” foods, but research has repeatedly shown that none of them cause any measurable increase in metabolism.

Interestingly, though, some recent data suggests that while certain foods may not “burn” fat, you may not absorb as many calories from them as once thought.

For example, David Baer, MD, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, studied the measured energy value of pistachios in the human diet. Baer’s team found that the amount of calories study participants absorbed from pistachios was actually five percent less than the number of calories on the nutrition facts panel for the pistachios.

No, that’s not a substantial amount you should obsess over, but know this: Your body doesn’t absorb every calorie from the food you eat (some just pass through you undigested), particularly if that food contains fiber and/or protein.

Does this mean that eating pistachios will burn fat? Of course not. But it lends evidence to the concept that the amount of calories you think you’re eating may not actually be what you’re eating.

Other foods have followed suit with the pistachio study: apples, carrots, sweet potatoes, and beef, are some examples. Scientists are still sorting out exactly what role protein and fiber play in non-absorbable calories.

What does this all mean for you?

1. Don’t believe the hype about certain foods possessing “fat-melting” properties.

2. This is just another reason to add more fiber- and protein-rich foods to your diet.

Try to include meat or seafood, vegetables and fruit, as well as complex carbohydrates at each meal. Though this won’t turn you into a metabolic machine, it will fuel your body and help you consume fewer calories from those foods you eat.

And it’s no coincidence that those exact same foods help to fuel muscle growth, fight disease, and keep you fuller for longer so you eat fewer calories over the course of a day. Bonus!

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