To merit the all-important fat burning medal a food has to achieve on a number of levels. It has to encourage the glucose from carbohydrates to be stored in calorie-munching muscle cells rather than lazy fat cells, it has to reduce the action of the enzyme system which is programmed to store fat and it has to keep the communication lines open between the brain and the hunger and appetite hormones so we recognise when we need to eat and when we are full. Here are 4 foods that tick the boxes.
A growing body of evidence indicates that a diet rich in calcium allows us to burn more calories per day. There is also some evidence that when calcium levels in the body are low the brain detects this and stimulates feelings of hunger, causing us to eat more. We should aim for 1000mg+ of calcium per day which can be achieved by having a small tin of salmon with bones (180g), a small pot of 0% Fat yoghurt (170g), a glass of calcium-enriched soya milk (300g), a small pot of hummus (70g) and a couple of dice of Swiss cheese (270mg) – not that hard!
All beans are rich in resistant starch which works within the body in such a way that it doesn’t add much to our daily calorie intake, promotes bowel regularity , is associated with less fat storage after a meal and encourages a phenomenon known as second meal effect where its ability to keep blood sugar balanced for many hours results in us eating less at our next meal. They also increase the absorption of calcium already mentioned. Cannellini beans are readily available and generally included in a 225g pot of 3 Bean Salad or make your own and add a diced, cold cooked sweet potato to get more than half the recommended 15-20g of resistant starch per day.
Like a car, fat cells have brakes and accelerators so we want to turn up the action of the receptors that increase the rate at which stored fat is broken down and released for efficient fat burning. Testosterone has been shown to reduce the activity of the enzyme system that promotes fat storage and whilst women don’t want this sex hormone to dominate, a healthy level is vital to keep our sex hormones balanced and broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts boost its production. Aim for a generous portion (around 100g) of one, two or all three per day and for those who hate sprouts, try them raw and very thinly sliced with a mustardy dressing – delicious!
Vitamin D deficiency is currently big news and recent research reveals that women who are D-deficient carry between 40% and 80% more abdominal fat than their D-rich counterparts. Deficiency has also been shown to disrupt the delicate balance of insulin production and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Daily exposure of your skin to sunlight (exercising outdoors) and a diet packed with foods rich in vitamin D are crucial. Eggs are a great source as are oily fish. Have a big bowl of salad and add a couple of sliced cold boiled eggs and calcium-rich tinned salmon for a D-rich lunch or supper.