The fastest way to lose weight is to exercise more and shrink your portions at each meal. Some of my friends in Florida who like hitting the all-you-can-eat buffet hope to burn fat at the same time. Not possible. (Unless perhaps they run laps around the soup station!) But there are some calorie-burning shortcuts you can take. One of them is thyroid hormone, because it activates your fat-burning pathways. Another is to consume more thermogenic foods and beverages.
Thermogenesis is a metabolic process your body initiates in an effort to create heat. In other words, the foods I’m about to tell you about rev up your metabolism, which helps you burn more calories, contributing to weight loss! They can be a very helpful complement to your other weight reduction efforts without you even having to think twice. Here are the specific items I think can help, so try integrating what you like on a daily basis:
I love this in beverage form, however there are also supplements of it. Drinking green tea once or twice daily can be integrated very easily. Make sure it’s organic, the flavor doesn’t matter but if you put sugar in it, or a lot of honey, you’re defeating the purpose! So drink it straight up.
Even if you keep your regular diet steady, you could lose as much as 2.9 pounds over 12 weeks, according to a 2013 article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers theorize that it’s a combination of the caffeine content and the polyphenols present in green tea that produce a thermogenic effect. Luckily, green tea is delicious, and it’s just as good iced as it is hot. If you think it’s a little too bitter, try sweetening it with a few drops of stevia—an all-natural, zero-calorie sugar alternative. Also, don’t oversteep it, that’s a common way to make it more bitter than it should be.
Mmm, I love spicy food! I wonder how much it contributes to my own fat-burning capabilities. I’ve always been little, and I’ve always loved spice! Anyway, spicy food does more than make you sweat, it helps you burn calories due to the heat-forming compound called capsaicin. That’s the substance in chili peppers that causes the sting. Applied topically, it helps a little with nerve pain – I’ve written about this many times. Taken internally in the form of spice, it can turn on thermogenesis.
So next time you eat hot chili or salsa, or green curry… and feel yourself starting to get hot under the collar, remind yourself that you’re not being socially awkward, you’re being metabolically upregulated! Put a shake or two of some cayenne in egg salad, soups, scrambled eggs, salsa, guacamole or your morning carrot juice.
Turmeric is a woody root that’s bright yellow on the inside and is a key component of curry powder. You can buy organic powdered spice, and start using it in your everyday cooking. Taking it regularly can reduce your need for pain relievers if you suffer from chronic pain due to its anti-inflammatory effect.
For today’s purposes, I’ll also tell you about its thermogenic properties. A Tufts University study found that when mice were put on a high-fat diet, those who were also given turmeric every day gained significantly less weight, had lower cholesterol and less fat in their livers than the group who didn’t get turmeric.
A delicious way to consume more turmeric is to make a hot beverage, popular in India, called golden milk. It’s perfect for those rainy, cooler, summer evenings. To make it, start with 2 cups of cow’s milk or milk alternative and add one teaspoon powdered (ground) turmeric, one-half teaspoon cinnamon powder (another thermogenic food), a pinch of black pepper, and a dash of ground ginger. You can also add a tiny bit of cayenne pepper for even more fat-burning power! Heat everything slowly in a saucepan over the stove and then sip from your favorite mug or one of my beautiful handmade Cups of Love. It has such a nice flavor, very warming and similar to chai. I think you will love it; feel free to make adjustments to make the recipe your own.
This common, cozy-smelling spice is well-known for its ability to support healthy levels of blood sugar. The theory is that the lower your blood sugar, the less insulin you’ll release, and the less your cells get the signal to store your food as fat onto your thighs. So balancing blood sugar is a shortcut to losing weight, discussed fully in my book, Diabetes Without Drugs.
Cinnamon is thermogenic. Sprinkle it over a bowl of fresh berries with a splash of your favorite milk or cream, put some on top of your morning oatmeal, or into a protein shake or smoothie. Cinnamon is great on top of coffee too. And you can add it your golden milk as you imagine your body going to work on burning calories (while you relax). Ahhhh! Now that’s a lovely thought. Side note: I read an article that claimed thinking about working out can induce faster weight loss. Seriously, just thinking it, isn’t that nutso?! If that’s true, then I wonder if thinking about a banana split can make you gain weight?! 😉
Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has been regarded as a digestive stimulant for centuries. In 2009, researchers found that acetic acid, the main ingredient in apple cider vinegar, promotes the production of fat-burning enzymes in the livers of mice. And being able to burn fat for energy is the best way to get rid of any excess fat deposits you’re toting around. I advise against drinking it straight because it is very acidic and can damage your tooth enamel and esophagus. It always has to be diluted in something, even water. You can also use it to make salad dressing, or dilute a teaspoon (or up to a tablespoon) in a cup or two of water and boom… down the hatch! My ‘bookface’ mom drinks it that exact way, to this day.
Grapefruit is a great source of pectin, a soluble fiber that binds to glucose so the sugar doesn’t get absorbed in to your bloodstream. And remember, managing your blood sugar levels means lower insulin, which translates to less fat stored in your cells. Also, grapefruit appears to have its very own special powers when it comes to promoting weight loss.
A 2006 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that obese people who went on a low-calorie diet and either ate half a grapefruit, drank a seven-ounce glass of grapefruit juice or took a grapefruit capsule before every meal for 12 weeks lost significantly more weight than study participants who merely followed the diet (without any grapefruit whatsoever).
A great thing about grapefruit is that it can stay fresh in your produce drawer for weeks, so stock up when they’re on sale and enjoy half a grapefruit before meals or in place of a snack. Hey, you could also sprinkle some cinnamon on top of it and get a double thermogenic whammy. The only thing I ask is that you check grapefruit’s interaction with your medication. There are compounds in grapefruit and other citrus fruits that impact the levels of many medications and can dangerously spike them, so ask your local pharmacist or doctor, or look it up. Here’s an article I wrote on grapefruit and medication.
Coconut oil contains medium chain fatty acids, which is unusual for an edible oil, most of which have long chain fatty acids. Coconut oil’s molecular structure makes it uniquely able to bypass the digestive process (where its calories could be stored as fat) and go straight to the liver where it can be used for fuel. So coconut oil isn’t thermogenic because it increases calorie-burning per se, but rather because it doesn’t contribute to fat, and it could replace bad fats in your diet.
You can eat a tablespoon of organic coconut oil every day. It’s easy, you can just sauté your veggies in it instead of olive oil for example. Some people eat it straight off the spoon, others stir it into their morning coffee or tea which I have tried and find palatable. I love to make healthy chocolate candies with it sometimes. I combine a cup of melted coconut oil with a cup of raw cacao powder and a quarter cup of coconut milk (for creaminess). Then I sweeten the mixture with stevia, or unrefined cane sugar and I stir in some chopped up nuts, cinnamon or shaved coconut flakes. You can pour everything into a silicone candy mold and pop it into the fridge where it will harden into chocolate treats. It’s a satisfying sweet treat without a strong sugar hit and it has plenty of good, fat-burning coconut oil!
In addition to being thermogenic, these seven foods are extremely healthy for you in many ways, so integrating them into your healthy diet is a wonderful idea just for the health of it! Have a great summer, everyone, and stay well!