(flickr/rubber slippers in Italy)
We know, it sounds like it's too good to be true. But there actually are some things you can eat that spike the metabolism, trigger hormones that release fat, and eliminate toxins that make it hard for your body to shed unwanted pounds. Of course, you should know that...for these foods to work their miracles, they must be consumed as part of a clean diet. That's right, don't expect to make up for a junk-filled day by noshing on a few fat-burning kale chips.
This king of vegetable is not only the most nutrient-dense food on the planet, it also helps suppress the appetite and clears toxins from the body. Four cups of kale (the amount you'd use for a salad) has 10 grams of fiber and enough detoxifying nutrients to super-charge your liver's detoxification pathways for 48 hours! A cleaner body means fewer cravings for sugar and fried food, your fat cells' greatest allies.
Easy meal ideas: Assemble a raw kale salad with avocado, yellow peppers, and grape tomatoes; try crunchy kale chips; or sip on a cooling green vegetable juice.
2. Broccoli Rabe
Who knew that food could talk to your fat cells? That's exactly what the phytonutrient sulforaphane in broccoli rabe does. It stimulates an enzyme that tells your fat cells to burn fat. Meet your negotiator.
Easy meal ideas: Sauté broccoli rabe with lemon zest and chili flakes, mix broccoli rabe and sweet Italian sausage together, or toss broccoli rabe and summer squash with olive oil, mint, lemon juice, and pine nuts.
The much-maligned fat in avocado is actually a triple-fat burner. Its monounsaturated fat plumps up cell membranes, enabling cells to better chat with fat-burning hormones. It also switches off the body's fat storage hormones. In addition, it boosts the metabolism by protecting the energy-producing part of cells from free radical damage. Bring on the guacamole!
Easy meal ideas: Eat half an avocado with sea salt and tomatoes for an on-the-go breakfast, add avocado to a spinach and green bean salad, or make an avocado smoothie with coconut milk and cinnamon.
4. Brazil Nuts
Next time you want to discard those large nuts from the mixed nut selection, don't. They're actually little fat-burners. They help boost the metabolism by converting the thyroid hormone to its active form. They also bind up toxins that would otherwise store themselves in your fat cells and contribute to cellulite.
Easy meal ideas: Snack on Brazil nuts, drink Brazil nut milk with vanilla and cardamom, or sprinkle Brazil nuts on a mango, papaya, and citrus fruit salad.
5. Chia Seeds
Packed with omega-3 fats, fiber, and protein, these tiny seeds help suppress the appetite, fire up the metabolism, and turn on glucagon, one of the body's fat-burning hormones. The trick is to soak them for 15 minutes so they swell up to 10 times their size. Just as with oatmeal, the larger the seeds are, the quicker your stomach will release those hormones that let you know you're full-and hopefully satisfied.
Easy meal ideas: Make a chia seed pudding by soaking them in almond milk and then topping them with raw almonds, blend them with coconut milk and pineapple for a piña colada-inspired dessert, or eat a chia energy bar.
6. Wild Salmon
While you can't eat your way to a six-pack (that requires a few crunches), you can strip abdominal fat by consuming wild salmon on a regular basis. The omega-3s in wild salmon help improve insulin sensitivity, which shrinks fat from your waistline. Wild salmon also activates the thyroid hormone for a faster metabolism.
Easy meal ideas: Poach wild salmon with a watercress and pink grapefruit salad, make a wild salmon ceviche, or eat smoked wild salmon with dill and mustard.
Oysters are your salvation when you're dieting and dining out. In addition to being low in calories-it's only 50 calories for six oysters-they are the richest dietary source of zinc, which helps to decrease the appetite and PMS-induced cravings.
Easy meal idea: Eat a few oysters at the raw bar with a squeeze of lemon and a dash of Tabasco.
8. Coconut Oil
Not all dietary fats are created equal. Coconut oil is rich in medium-chained-triglycerides (MCTs), which your body preferentially uses for energy, leaving less opportunity for them to be stored as fat. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed greater abdominal fat loss over a 16-week period when MCTs were consumed versus olive oil. That doesn't mean ditching your olive oil entirely (it has other beneficial properties). Instead, use coconut oil to cook with and olive oil for a salad dressing.
This aromatic spice helps move glucose into the cells faster so our fat storage hormone, insulin, hangs around a lot less. But note: Eating a cinnamon bun doesn't count! You need to consume at least a quarter of a teaspoon of cinnamon to reap its fat-burning benefits.
Easy meal ideas: Add cinnamon to a vanilla smoothie, make an apple-spiced chia pudding, or toss cinnamon through warmed quinoa with raspberries and pistachios.
We knew there was a reason we loved our morning cup of Joe! Coffee stimulates adrenaline, which sends a message to your fat stores to burn fat. When you drink coffee 20 minutes before a workout, it also acts as an ergogenic aid enabling you to train more intensely. The key is to make it caffeinated and black, as milk reduces its fat-burning potential. Also, if you drink more than one cup a day, coffee can start to interfere with your body's ability to regulate insulin, its fat storage hormone.