Many rumors surrounding claims about “negative calorie foods” or magic elixirs that are capable of melting fat with little effort have now been disproven. However, that doesn’t mean that certain healthy foods can’t help nudge you towards your fat loss goals by making you feel fuller, giving you more energy, or resolving underlying nutrient deficiencies that might be taking a toll on your hormonal health.
Whether you’re brand new to Paleo, or trying a more strict eating plan like the ketogenic diet to really boost weight loss efforts, here are some of the best foods to incorporating into your diet more often for that extra nudge:
Coconut-derived foods—including coconut oil, real coconut milk and coconut flour—are Paleo favorites, and for good reason. Coconut is a great source of easily digestible medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs), which are converted into energy more efficiently than other, larger fatty acids, instead of being stored as fat. Coconut products are also filling due to their high fat and fiber content, which may help you to consume fewer calories overall.
When it comes to fat metabolism, coconut oil is a superstar, with over 90 percent of its fat content coming in the form of healthy, saturated fat, which, in moderate amounts, is needed for proper hormone production and various metabolic processes. And as the Paleo crowd knows (and experts confirm), healthy fat helps you metabolize fat. Coconut oil is even usually tolerable by people with very sensitive digestive systems, which is often a reason why people first decide to try Paleo.
One of the easiest ways to incorporate coconut oil in your diet is to swap any refined vegetables oils in your diet (like corn or safflower oil) with virgin, cold-pressed coconut oil.
One of the key components of health fat metabolism is healthy digestion, and if you aren’t breaking down food properly, losing body fat will be nearly impossible. This is precisely why I love bone broth.
In case you’re not yet versed with bone broth, this gelatinous stock is made from boiling meat or fish bones along with herbs and vegetables. Bone broth is an ancient food that is chock full of healing power and nutrients that support the maintenance of lean muscle mass, a strong digestive system and an efficient metabolism. These nutrients include collagen, which helps form and repair connective tissue throughout the whole body; several amino acids that help prevent muscle breakdown and protect bone density; a number of trace minerals needed for various metabolic processes; electrolytes; and even antioxidants like glutathione.
Additionally, if you’re exercising regularly, you’ll see added bone broth benefits through nutrients like arginine and glycine. These have been found to help decrease the expression of genes associated with illness or age-related muscle protein breakdown, while it also helps you maintain higher energy levels by sending essential nutrients, including nitrogen, into cells.
Chia seeds are capable of absorbing one of the highest levels of liquid of all foods, helping to slow down digestion and leaving you feeling fuller longer. Chia seeds are a traditional food native to central and southern America, and while they have long been consumed for various health benefits, one of the main reasons they have become so popular is due to their ability to help maintain healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels—two factors in the development of obesity.
Because chia seeds expand to form a gel-like substance inside your stomach once combined with water or another liquid, they take up a lot of room which sends signals to your brain to stop eating sooner. They also add bulk to stool, which can ease constipation.
Try adding chia seeds to your morning smoothie, or mix 1 tablespoon of ground chia seeds to three tablespoons of water for a vegan egg replacer. Or, for a healthy, spring dessert, try this recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Chia Seed Pudding.
Cayenne Pepper & Other Spicy Foods
Spicy foods, such as those made with cayenne pepper, have a warming effect on the body that actually stimulates metabolism. There’s evidence that cayenne pepper and other spices can increase circulation, reduce acidity, cause you to eat less overall, and even serve as a natural anti-inflammatory.
How is all this possible? The capsicum plant that cayenne pepper is derived from contains an active ingredient called capsaicin that has been shown to reduce inflammation, stimulate the flow of enzyme production and increase gastric juices that aid the body’s ability to metabolize foods and convert them to useable energy.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has numerous health benefits—both when added to homemade beauty and personal care products and also when taken internally. I especially love it for its detoxification properties (it’s a key ingredient in my Secret Detox Drink), which makes it a great aid for fat metabolism.
ACV aids in digestion and normalizing the pH level of your stomach, and it also contains active, health-boosting compounds including acetic acid, electrolytes like potassium and magnesium, probiotics, polyphenols, and enzymes.
One 2007 study found that when people with diabetes consumed vinegar with a meal it helped delayed gastric emptying (adding to satiety) and lowered blood glucose and insulin levels after eating. Some find that adding a tablespoon or two to a glass of water before a meal allows them to feel less hungry, leading to lower calorie intake in addition to help with digestion. There’s also some evidence that ACV may help reduce sugar cravings and be beneficial for overall gut health.
Bonus: Non-starchy Veggies (Like Leafy Greens & Cruciferous Types)
No matter the type of diet you adhere to, when it comes to filling up on fewer calories yet getting lots of nutrients in return, non-starchy veggies are hands down going to give you the biggest bang for your buck. When you eat plenty of veggies throughout the day you’re much more likely to keep calories and portions in check, as it’s very hard to over-consume unprocessed, high-volume, low-calorie foods like broccoli, lettuce or peppers.