When it comes to clean weight loss hacks, thermogenic foods, aka fat-burning foods, are number one.
But, some of the science behind this is a bit controversial. So, we did the research, and these are the top 10 foods with a thermogenic effect to help you boost metabolism and burn belly fat.
Lose weight, eat healthier, and exercise more.
Sound familiar? Odds are, if you’re one of the 40% of folks who wrote New Year’s Resolutions, those were your top three goals.
So, you might be wondering what some clean eating hacks can help you accomplish them. What’s better than learning about foods with a thermogenic effect?
What are Thermogenic Foods?
Thermogenic foods are foods that burn fat. A great example of a high thermogenic food is celery.
Celery burns more calories to consume than what it contains. Therefore, the act of eating celery burns fat. It turns out this is true, as a 2016 study published in Science Focus confirmed.
A stick of celery (6 calories), after chewing, digestion, and fueling your metabolism will burn 25 calories, leaving you with a 19 calorie deficit.
While celery is a prime example, we research and share the highest thermogenic foods (aka fat burning foods) proven by science.
Generally, fat burning foods are thought to be the ones that either most stimulate your metabolism or reduce your appetite to promote weight loss.
They are also high in nutritional value but low in calories, giving you the most bang for your buck.
Clean Eating for Weight Loss
There’s no silver bullet when it comes to eating for weight loss, but knowing the foods that fight belly fat while being nutritionally dense is a great place to start.
This article is our top 10 thermogenic foods list. Many others list the top 15 thermogenic foods, however, since the science behind some of the natural thermogenic foods was controversial, we shortened our list.
For more clean eating resources, don’t miss our clean eating guide in our article, “How to Eat Clean for Beginners.”
We also recommend learning how to accurately measure for weight loss, because there’s more to the tale than just the number on the scale.
Let’s get started with our thermogenic foods list!
Top Thermogenic Foods to Burn Fat
The following foods have incredible, and scientifically proven thermogenic properties.
Add these thermogenic foods to your grocery list and they will help you burn fat and boost your metabolism. Consuming these foods is a smart way to naturally burn more calories.
1. Split Peas (1/2 cup cooked = 115 calories)
Reducing hunger is an effective way to prolong your fasting times between meals, allowing the body to work through the glucose (sugars) and get onto burning the fat.
One important way to do this is making sure to eat high-fiber foods.
In a 2011 study published in Nutrition Journal, different proteins were studied to see which had the greatest impact on curbing your appetite.
The Researchers found that consuming pea protein (derived from yellow and green split peas) beat out whey protein in delaying appetite.
We also voted to put split peas as our number one pick due to their high nutritional density. They are high in fiber, low in fat, and a great source of iron, potassium, and folate.
2. Chili Peppers
It’s not a myth: adding a hot sauce or chili peppers to your dish promotes weight loss. Chili Peppers are likely the most thermogenic food.
In a 2012 study by the Machester Food Research Centre, capsicum (chili peppers) was analyzed for its ability to increase energy expenditure, increase lipid oxidation (reducing adipose fat stores), and reduce appetite.
The chili pepper was found to promote weight management on all counts. Win, win, win!
Adding chili peppers to your daily diet could burn an extra 50 kcal/day, which over years can add up to some nice weight loss!
3. Green Tea
If you’re wondering “What drink burns fat?” There’s your answer.
One of the most ubiquitous weight loss supplements seen on grocery store shelves is green tea — and for good reason.
Green tea contains caffeine and catechins (a type of phenol and antioxidant), both thought to aid in weight loss.
A large-scale review shared one study where, after 12 weeks, 0.2-3.5 kg (0.44-7.7 lbs) were lost while drinking green tea. However, there was no indication of what the best preparation was for the tea and more studies are needed.
Either way, green tea is one of the best fat burning drinks.
Salmon has often been touted as a fat-burning food, although the studies are a bit weak.
In 2007 in the International Journal of Obesity, a controlled study found that men who supplemented with salmon while eating a low-calorie diet lost 2 more lbs. in the control group.
Since then, fish oil supplementation was found to have weight loss effects in animal studies, but more studies are needed in humans.
While salmon may not have the greatest thermogenic effect, you can’t go wrong with either eating salmon or supplementing with fish oil. After all, omega-3 fatty acids have been found to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of a heart attack.
Prefer the supplements? This is the fish oil we consume every day.
5. Greek Yogurt
Believe it or not, some high-fat foods, including Greek yogurt, are foods that fight belly fat.
It’s been long known that consuming too little calcium will make you pack on pounds. So, in an interesting study out of the University of Tennessee, the effect of dietary calcium on weight loss was tested.
After 12 weeks, participants who ate yogurt lost 81% more belly fat than the participants who took a calcium supplement.
The best type of Greek yogurt to buy is the full-fat yogurt to get the greatest effect of probiotics, calcium, and amino acids to fuel fat burning.
What’s even better, is making your own kefir yogurt at home. It sounds hard but it’s simple and excellent food to help burn belly fat.
6. Collard Greens
Still riding on the calcium train, collard greens have the highest amount of calcium out of any other vegetable (175 mg of calcium per half-cup).
The more calcium your body has, the more fat your body will burn, as found in another University of Tennessee study.
Paired with the fact that it’s packed in dietary fiber which keeps you full longer and offers a thermic effect (aka calories burned for heat and thus an increase in metabolism), it’s a fat-burning no-brainer.
Don’t like collard greens? Any dark, leafy green will do the trick. We love adding kale and spinach to our smoothies!
7. Legumes (Beans, Peas, Lentils)
We’ve already called out split peas, but other legumes like black beans and lentils are known as thermogenic foods – meaning that the body converts their calories to heat.
About 10% of the foods we are used for this purpose, and some foods (such as high fiber foods) are better at it than others.
Since high fiber foods take more energy to digest, this increases their thermic effect. Personally, we think these are the best and healthiest thermogenic foods.
The unsung hero: water. What can’t water do?
As we share in our experiment drinking a gallon of water a day, water helps the blood deliver nutrients throughout the body, is imperative for digestion, has anti-aging effects, and even increases happiness.
We can go on and on, but another secret is that water is one of the best fat burning foods out there. The American Council on Exercise found that dehydration makes you burn 2% fewer calories. So drink up!
Another fatty food you weren’t expecting to see on the list?
Well, as we mentioned, high-protein foods keep you satiated for longer and thus help you avoid snacking in between meals.
Plus, the science backs this up. Saint Louis University followed folks who either had a bagel or an egg for breakfast (both breakfasts were equivalent in calories and energy density).
The folks eating the eggs lost over 30% from their waists. This also goes to show that when you’re looking to burn fat, avoid simple carbohydrates at all costs.
Just remember, eat the whole egg and never skip the yolk! The yolk is packed with amazing nutrients and the “egg-white is healthier” myth has been debunked time and time again.
Berries such as blueberries and raspberries are excellent options when looking for foods that fight belly fat.
A University of Michigan study on obese rats found that feeding 2% of their daily calories in blueberries made them lose abdominal fat while also lowering cholesterol and insulin sensitivity.
Outside of these promising results, berries are high in antioxidants but low in sugar, making them the perfect snack.
More Fat Burning tips
Looking for other ways to burn off the belly fat? Consider the following weight loss tips.
1. Don’t Skimp on Sleep
Getting less than 6-hours of sleep has been proven to derail your diet and your appetite.
If you don’t sleep enough, the hormones helping control your appetite and food intact, ghrelin and leptin, respectively, become imbalanced. On a poor night’s sleep, you’ll be far more likely to grab those extra cookies by mid-afternoon.
2. Strength Training
Muscle burns fat, so make sure your workout routine includes strength training or weight lifting.
There are no specific moves you can do to target your belly fat, so you just need to work on your overall body fat composition. To get you started, we have a free bodyweight workout plan that covers the full body.
Otherwise, these are the most effective workouts we’ve found for strength training.
Your body digests foods differently at different times of the day.
Also, when your meals are spaced out and your body has time to fast, you’re able to control your hunger levels better while increasing metabolic flexibility. Studies have equated this to a 4-7% reduction in waist circumference.
New to intermittent fasting? We share extensively on how to get started, meal planning, and health benefits on our Fasting page.
4. Set Realistic Expectations and Track Progress
Remember the story of the Tortoise and the Hare? The tortoise is slow. The hare is fast and arrogant. The Tortoise wins because the Hare took a break.
If you want to lose weight permanently, be like the tortoise. If you want to lose weight fast, crash, and yo-yo back to the start defeated.
To help you set realistic goals, we recommend you read our article titled, ‘How Long Does it Take to Lose 20 Pounds The Healthy Way?‘
Then, you’ll need some accurate ways to measure your weight loss progress. While the scale is important, there are several other metrics that you need to be tracking.
Read our article (and download the progress tracking charts) titled, ‘The 5 Most Accurate Ways to Measure for Weight Loss.’
Closing Thoughts On Thermogenic Foods
We hope our list of the top thermogenic foods will help you eat clean and reach your weight loss goals.
As you know, there is more to weight loss than just eating high thermogenic foods, such as exercise, tracking calories, consuming fiber, and hydration to name a few.
Since you’re to burn fat, check out our 30-Day Weight Loss Challenge.
As engineers with a combined twelve years of health coaching experience, we needed to create a data-driven way for our clients to sustainably lose weight in 30 days.
The goal of our 30-day weight loss plan (now completed by several thousand people) is to strip away the fluff and track numbers related to weight loss for one month.
You have never tried our 5 numbers approach before. And it’s going to work!
For questions regarding the top thermogenic foods, please ask in the comments. Otherwise, for more helpful weight loss articles, such as our zero calorie foods list, or our walking to lose weight plan, head over to our Weight Loss page.
30-Day Weight Loss Challenge
As engineers with a combined twelve years of health coaching experience, we needed to create a data-driven way for our clients to sustain weight loss.
Too many weight loss challenges involve a long list of what you can, cannot, and need to do every day. We’ve reduced the overwhelm and only require you to track five numbers a day — calories, steps, fiber, sleep, and waistline.
You’ll track five numbers daily to give you the highest return for sustainable weight loss. As a bonus, we’ll share our Weight Loss Bundle, which includes strategies, progress tracking tools, and additional weight loss plans.
Hey we're Ryan and Alex
The creators of Ryan and Alex Duo Life. We are a husband-wife duo and “lifestyle engineers.”
After eight years working in the corporate world as engineers, we left our high-powered jobs to tackle our true passion — helping couples engineer their best lives.
The synergy of our engineering minds and ten years of health coaching experience produced Ryan and Alex Duo Life. Our mission is to help you transform your bodies, minds, and relationship as a couple.
Join our 120,000 monthly readers
Receive our newsletter bringing healthy couples practical tips and life-changing ideas based on science.
As engineers, we know these to be true:
1. What gets tracked, gets improved
2. If you fail to plan, plan to fail
Therefore, when you join, you get our Goals and Habits Bundle to track and plan your best 2022.