23 fat-burning foods for weight loss, scientifically proven to help you lose weight

Certain foods aid weight loss better than others. We asked the experts for their pick of the best fat burning foods...

A collage of fat burning foods for weight loss
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These fat-burning foods are not only delicious, but they're scientifically proven to help aid weight loss too.

If you're a parent with young children, then you've probably got a few more important things to think about before you start looking for ways to burn fat and how to lose belly fat. And even once you've done your research and found a diet that works fast, trying intermittent fasting or cutting out carbs isn't a realistic adjustment to make when you've got a toddler running rings around you. That's why we've put together this list of fat-burning foods to aid weight loss, so you can kick start your health journey without making a dramatic change to your eating habits.

"If you’re focussing on weight loss then it’s great to know that certain foods can help you reach your goals faster," says Suzie Sawyer, a clinical nutritionist with over 20 years of experience in the industry. "These foods that are scientifically proven to help the body burn fat when eaten as part of a controlled eating plan." And while no one should feel pressure to lose weight, it can be useful to know which foods to eat more of and which can help actively burn fat and calories.

21 of the best fat-burning foods for weight loss:

1. Salmon

A simple salmon dinner can help you lose weight fast, as this delicious lean fish is packed with protein and omega-3s. 

Nutritionist and personal trainer David Weiner, explains, “Salmon is a fantastic source of high-quality protein which is beneficial for weight and fat loss as the body must work harder to digest it. In addition, salmon is a great source of omega 3 fatty acids which are shown to reduce inflammation and promote fat burning, with studies showing that fish oil supplementation can help to reduce weight and the stress hormone cortisol, which is also linked to fat storage.”

Indeed, one study in a Public Library of Science journal into omega-3 found these friendly fats helped with a “reduction in abdominal fat”. Whilst another study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that salmon - compared to cod and fish oil capsules - was the most effective for weight loss overall. 

There’s further good news too. As one serving of salmon contains around two-thirds of the nutrient selenium - which your body needs for a healthy thyroid. This is especially important, as your thyroid holds the key to an efficient metabolism. With this in mind, make sure to stock up on salmon on the weekly supermarket shop.

Three raw salmon fillets on a wooden board

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2. Greek Yogurt

Not only is this breakfast food delicious, Greek yoghurt is good for you and is scientifically proven to help burn body fat too.

“Greek yoghurt can really help with fat burning but it needs to be the full-fat variety,” says clinical nutritionist Suzie. “Firstly, full-fat Greek yoghurt contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which promotes fat burning. And secondly, probiotics naturally found in the yoghurt support the good gut bacteria which is key to any weight loss programme.”

This is important, Suzie notes, as the more overweight the person, the more imbalanced the bacteria in their gut. And it's this imbalance that makes it harder to lose fat overall. 

As for Greek Yogurt's fat-burning qualities - researchers in a Journal of Nutrition study reported that the amino acids, vitamin D and calcium it contains speed ups fat burning. And this was further supported by one University of Tennessee study in which participants who cut calories and ate just over 500g of yoghurt daily lost an incredible 81% more belly fat than their counterparts.

Suffice to say we'll be drizzling over our granola and adding to our morning smoothies in the hopes of reaping the same rewards.

3. Dark Chocolate

It seems that dark chocolate is good for you, your body AND your waistline. Win-win!

Nutritionist David says it reduces sugar cravings, leaves you feeling full, and fires up your metabolism. "Dark chocolate is packed with monounsaturated fatty acids which help boost your metabolism," he explains. "And as a result, you will burn calories faster. However, when choosing dark chocolate, check the ingredients as many are still packed full of sugar."

As an added plus, science has suggested that giving in to the evening chocolate munchies might work in our favour. In one study in the FASEB Journal, women who ate chocolate at night (compared to those during the day) had a better metabolism and lost weight from around their middle after two weeks. 

However, while there was evident weight loss, the researchers advised against regularly overindulging in chocolate due to its overall high-calorie content.

A stack of squares of dark chocolate

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4. Broccoli

Our experts have given these cute tiny trees the green light as one of the best fat-burning foods for weight loss.

“Broccoli and its counterparts – like cauliflower and Brussels sprouts – are super high in fibre and nutrients that keep your body burning fat,” says registered dietician Claire Muszalski of MyProtein.

According to researchers, broccoli contains calcium, which is good for healthy joints and weight loss. One University of Tennessee study found that calcium in fact controls how fat is processed and stored in the body. And that the more calcium in a fat cell, the more fat that cell will burn.

Meanwhile, Scientists at Kanazawa University in Japan delved into the science of broccoli further and credited the chemical Sulforaphane, found in this mighty green veg, as the key to fighting flab.

They discovered this chemical not only encourages brown fat cells to speed up your metabolism but also helps to beat the bloat after a particularly salty meal.

A word to the wise though - steaming this green superfood is the best way to reap the full fat-burning effects, because it gives you the best chance of absorbing its nutrients. And of course, frying broccoli carries extra calories if seasoned and brushed with olive oil.

5. Nuts

Nibbling nuts on the regular has a number of nutritional benefits to our bodies, says nutritionist David. “Nuts, specifically almonds, are a great source of magnesium and healthy fats. These healthy fats also provide antioxidants, which both fight and repair the damage caused by inflammation,” he tells us. 

Indeed, almonds in particular are something of a fat-burning superfood, according to one study in the International Journal of Obesity. Overweight participants who enjoyed almonds as part of a low-calorie diet lost 50% more fat overall and around 18% of their weight compared to 11% lost by the other test group. 

“Nuts are also a good source of protein, and as such they require the body to use more energy during the digestive process which can boost your metabolism and help burn more calories,” David adds. 

And this was certainly the case with one European Journal of Nutrition study which find those who included nuts in their diet were at less risk of gaining weight or becoming obese. 

So far, so good. But Suzie notes that whilst peanuts may be tasty, these are not the nuts in question when discussing fat-burning foods. “Though nuts are really healthy, they are high in fats (although mainly healthy fats), meaning they do need to be eaten in moderation in order for any benefits to be noticed,” she adds.

6. Green Tea

Glugging a mug of green tea can do wonders for your waistline, with this herbal tea hailed as one of the best fat-burning foods out there.

“Green tea is known to be thermogenic, or a fat-burner,” Suzie tells us. “It’s loaded with antioxidants called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) which helps speed up metabolism.  Plus green tea also contains a small amount of caffeine, and research has found it to speed up metabolic rate and increase fat-burning if drunk before exercise.”

A cup of green tea

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One University of Birmingham study study reported that men who took green tea extract before a workout burned 17% more fat than those who didn’t. So be sure to sip some regularly before a gym session for maximum potential.

Mind you, dietician Claire adds that you don't necessarily have to drink green tea to get the goodness. “This nootropic tea can be used in its beverage form or found as a supplement to support a healthy metabolism,” she says.

7. Eggs

Starting the day with hearty eggs as part of a high-protein breakfast is excellent for weight loss. 

One study in the Journal of Nutrition Research gave one male group an egg breakfast and the other a bagel breakfast which contained the same calories. The researchers found that those who enjoyed eggs in the morning ate less during the remainder of the day, which is great news if you're making a conscious effort to watch the calories

Another study in the International Journal of Obesity with a similar egg vs bagel diet found that after eight weeks, those on the egg diet lost over 30% around their waists and saw a decrease in overall body fat percentage.

The reason eggs are good for you and your weight loss goals? It’s all down to protein says Suzie, “Eggs are one high-protein food that can promote fat-burning,” she says. “Protein speeds up metabolic rate, which can be as much as 30% after eating high-quality protein. Furthermore, protein is essential for building and maintaining muscle mass, and the more muscle you have, the more metabolically active you’ll be.”

8. Avocado

Suzie told us: “With around 234 calories and 20 grams of fat per fruit, avocados would not be a natural ‘go-to’ when trying to burn fat and lose weight.  However, research says otherwise.”

One study in the Current Developments in Nutrition found that eating an avocado daily, as part of a calorie-controlled diet, aided weight loss in participants. 

And the benefits of avocado don’t stop there, with another study from Loma Linda University finding that those who ate this fat-burning food for breakfast or lunch were less likely to over-eat during the rest of the day. 

Nutritionist Suzie links this to research that avocados help stimulate leptin - our appetite-suppressing hormone - which helps us feel fuller and satisfied.

However, she does share a word of warning against your avocado munching with other high-fat foods. “If you’re including avos frequently into your diet (and they are nutritional powerhouses), but you overeat additional fat or calories from other foods, then your fat may be stubborn to shift,” she adds. 

As the saying goes - little and often is the mantra to follow in this instance.

9. Beans

Sadly the verdict is out on our beloved Heinz baked beans. But did you know that other beans, particularly cannellini beans, are a common fat-burning food?

In a study in the Nutritional Journal, 50 obese adults were given a white bean extract twice a day for eight weeks whilst on a low-fat diet, and scientists found that those in the bean research group lost more weight and had better control of their blood sugar levels. 

As David explains: “White beans such as cannellini beans act as alpha-amylase inhibitors, which means they can slow down the absorption of carbohydrates by blocking the enzymes needed for their digestion. This means you do not get a high blood sugar spike after eating them, which can result in the laying down of more fat around the body.”

Add into your stews and soups or scatter over a salad to get your lean bean fix.

A bowl of soup with white beans in it

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10. Chicken

Be it a breast, a thigh, or a good old chicken drumstick - chicken has earnt a spot on our fat-burning foods round-up, with research showing that this popular poultry can aid weight loss. 

A study by the University of Navarra found that those who frequently ate chicken as part of a balanced diet experienced a “significant weight reduction mainly due to the loss of fat mass”. 

Dietician Claire explains that this is due to chicken’s high protein nature, “Lean protein sources, like chicken, actually take more energy (or calories) to digest than simple carbs do,” she tells us.  “Eating lean protein also protects your muscle mass when you’re in a calorie deficit, and lean mass burns more calories than fat.”

Another study in the Molecular Metabolism journal found that chicken is also effective in making us feel full after a meal. The amino acids in it make our brains recognise that we are full afterwards.

Of course, be aware that deep-fried chicken does not carry the same nutritional benefits, and is best avoided or eaten as a rare treat.

11. Blueberries

Not only do they count as one of your five-a-day portions, but blueberries are also brilliant for burning fat - especially belly fat. 

One study by the University of Michigan on rats found that those who ate a diet rich in blueberries lost abdominal fat. And saw other health benefits like low cholesterol and improved glucose levels. 

“Blueberries, and other berries, have a high water content and are lower in sugar than other fruits without sacrificing sweetness,” says dietician Claire. “Their high antioxidant content helps keep you healthy, too.”

12. Whole grains

Adding a host of hearty whole grains to your diet can help aid fat loss in the future. Think healthy bulgur wheat, quinoa, brown rice, a bowl of beneficial oats and whole-grain bread and cereals. 

“Whole grains such as oats and quinoa are high in fibre, which can enhance weight loss, digestion, and blood sugar levels,” says nutritionist David. “Eating whole grains has also shown to reduce appetite and influence your body’s energy use, both of which can affect body composition.”

Indeed science agrees, with one study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition finding that a research group who added whole grains to their diet lost more body fat than those who continued eating refined grains. The same group also boasted a significant loss in belly fat too. 

Then there’s a 2017 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that found whole grains can help speed up your metabolism and increase calorie loss. And the reasoning behind this is that when digested, fewer calories from whole grains are retained overall. Porridge for breakfast and quinoa on your salad anyone?