Q&A: Do certain foods increase fat-burning

Q: I’ve heard that there are some foods you should not mix in order to avoid fat storage. For instance: Don’t consume a fat with a carb or a carb with a protein. I may have the combinations wrong but is there any truth to this and if so, what are the best combinations to maximize fat burning?

LM, Rocky Hill

A: There isn’t enough evidence to support the claim that eating certain foods together maximizes fat burning but there are several lifestyle patterns that can support your metabolism and increase fat-burning.

Get active.  People with more muscle mass tend to burn more calories because it takes more energy to maintain a pound of muscle (about six calories a day) than a pound of fat (two calories a day). The best way to maintain muscle is to exercise regularly (thirty minutes of heart-pumping exercise three-to-five days a week). Consider strength training to build muscle and enhance calorie burn. So, get active and remember that exercise does more than just burn calories it releases endorphins — feel-good molecules — that reduce stress and food cravings.

Get enough of the right kind of fats. Research shows that switching from saturated fats (such as butter) to liquid fats (olive oil and omega-3s) can increase metabolic rate. In addition, omega-3 fatty acids found primarily in fatty fish have been shown to boost metabolism by enhancing the activation of fat-burning enzymes. So, aim for 8 ounces — two servings — of sardines, mackerel, wild salmon or trout per week. Ground flaxseed and walnuts are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids (2). 

Walnuts are a good source of fat-burning omega-3 fatty acids. Image by Racool_studio on Freepik

Sip a cup or two of tea. Drinking tea combines the calorie burning benefits of caffeine and catechins — such as the primary antioxidant in green tea (EGCG or epigallocatechin gallate). Caffeine and catechins increase the release of fat into the blood stream, where it can be burned as fuel. So, sipping tea could help you burn more calories from fat during exercise (1). The caffeine in coffee can also increase metabolism for a short period of time, but remember that adding cream and sugar ruins that calorie-burning potential. And watch out for calorie bombs like a ‘grande’ (16-ounce) Eggnog Latte from Starbucks that has 450 calories and 52 grams of sugar!!

Be well.
1. Hursel, R., Viechtbauer, W., Dulloo, A. G., Tremblay, A., Tappy, L., Rumpler, W. and Westerterp-Plantenga, M. S. (2011), The effects of catechin rich teas and caffeine on energy expenditure and fat oxidation: a meta-analysis. Obesity Reviews, 12: e573–e581. doi:10.1111/j.1467-789X.2011.00862.x
2. Logan SL, Spriet LL. Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation for 12 Weeks Increases Resting and Exercise Metabolic Rate in Healthy Community-Dwelling Older Females. Nishi D, ed. PLoS ONE. 2015;10(12):e0144828. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0144828.

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