Healthy Eating: Foods That Help Fight Fat

“Foods That Help Fight Fat” is part-two of the three-part series.  The series  features guest posts by Janis Jibrin, M.S., R.D., and Dr. Barry Sears, and are featured in the Healthy Eating Section. Part-One “Are You a Food Addict?” can be found here.

Foods That Help Fight Fat

By Janis Jibrin, M.S., R.D.

Part 2

When I overdid it at dinner the other night (at least the risotto, key lime pie and wine were all excellent!), I took some comfort knowing that some of those calories would be spent processing the meal. As I explained in a previous blog, about 10 percent of your daily calorie burn comes from digesting, absorbing and metabolizing food—the so-called “thermic effect.”

Here are more foods with an increased thermic effect (or other weight loss benefits) that you may want to add to your shopping list:

  • Calcium and dairy. Some research suggests that people who eat more dairy—even full-fat dairy, like milk, yogurt and cheese (yes, cheese!)—seem to have an easier time regulating body weight. (There are some studies that show no effect.) And calcium supplements or calcium-fortified foods may also offer a weight-loss advantage. Scientists are still investigating the reasons; it looks like eating dairy (or getting enough calcium) on a regular basis encourages your body to burn more fat, according to a study in the journal Obesity. One note about cheese: Aim to limit yourself to two to three ounces daily as it’s still high in calories and saturated fat.
  • Vegetable oils. Not surprisingly, fats have a significantly lower thermic effect than protein and even carbs, but vegetable oils have an edge over animal fats when it comes to calorie burn. In a Spanish study comparing three meals, those in which the main source of fat was either walnuts or olive oil resulted in a 23 to 28 percent higher thermic effect than the butter/cream-based meal. And olive oil encourages the body to burn more body fat than cream, according to an Australian study.
  • Coffee and tea. A burst of energy isn’t all you’ll get from the caffeine in coffee and tea—your body will likely burn extra energy as well. Six cups of coffee daily could translate into an extra 100 calories burned. Caffeine also stimulates the body to release fat-burning hormones called catecholamines (such as adrenaline). And other compounds in coffee and tea may also help raise the thermic effect and spur on metabolic rate in other ways. Six cups sound extreme? Bear in mind that not all research finds a weight loss benefit with coffee and tea. My advice: Stick with an amount of coffee or tea that doesn’t leave you jittery and see how the research pans out.
  • Nuts. Studies consistently show that nut-eaters may be a little slimmer than nut-skippers. It’s probably because although nuts are high in calories and fat, they have a relatively high thermic effect. Plus, they’re not all that well absorbed, meaning a fraction of the nuts (and their calories) leave your body undigested. And like protein, they’re highly satiating, meaning you feel fuller, longer.

Risotto and key lime pie aside, I realized that all of the high calorie-burners I mentioned are staples in my diet (except caffeine—I mostly stick to decaf), and in the Best Life Plan. Healthy foods that may help burn calories—it’s a weight loss win-win.

About Janis Jibrin, M.S., R.D.

Janis Jibrin, M.S., R.D.

Janis Jibrin, M.S., R.D., is Lead Nutritionist at BestLife.  Janis can’t help but be immersed in nutrition, and not just because she is a registered dietitian or writes about the topic daily for It’s also because she simply loves food, and will try just about any dish you put in front of her. In addition to her work for The Best Life, Janis is a contributing editor at SELF magazine. She also wrote The Life You Want with Bob Greene and psychologist Ann Kearney-Cooke and The Best Life Guide to Managing Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes (Simon & Schuster 2009), along with Bob and endocrinologist and Best Life chief medical advisor John J. Merendino Jr., M.D. When she’s able to get away from the kitchen and her computer, she often walks around Washington, D.C., a wonderful walking city with lots of ethnic food stores, farmer’s markets and great restaurants. (Did we mention she loves food?)

[Post submitted to by Janis Jibrin and reprinted with permission. Original post,  “Janis on…Foods that Fight Fat (Part 2)” is published on January 17 , 2012.]

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Up next- Part 3 of 3

“What is Anti-Aging?” by Dr. Barry Sears

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