Nutrition is a powerful thing. Food can heal the body, fuel performance, improve your mood and even help you burn fat. We’re not talking about caffeine loaded energy drinks or raspberry ketones here either, this article is about real foods that offer an abundance of nutrients to support a healthy metabolism and enable you to hit your fat loss goals.
Fat loss is a complicated thing and we could certainly debate the finer details until the cows come home, however, there are some fundamentals things that most experts agree will promote fat loss and help you sustain a healthy body composition. A great start is eating foods that support optimal hormone health and an obvious first step is moving away from processed foods. Start by looking at your plate and assessing how natural the contents are, a simple approach would be:
“If it doesn’t swim, run, or fly, or isn’t green and grow in the ground, don’t eat it” or “If man made it, don’t eat it”
Another key aspect of nutrition for fat loss is nutrient density which we frequently promote in our recipes and across our online plans, there’s no room on your plate for empty calories, even desserts can support a healthy body composition by packing in health fats, vitamins, minerals, protein and antioxidants. Remember food also plays a role of pleasure, social and celebration in life so we need to be able to have some cake and eat it every now and then 🙂
From Food To Fuel
In order to transform our food to fuel it must be transported into the cells in the body too be utilised as energy. Insulin plays a key role in this and we’ve spoken about the importance of hormone sensitivity in a previous blog here. Within the cell a series of chemical reactions take place in an energy powerhouse known as the mitochondria which enables the body to convert protein, fats and carbohydrates into energy. This energy is used to fuel every biological process in the body including breathing, cardiovascular function, digestion and physical activity. A number of nutrients are required as cofactors in these chemical reactions including B vitamins, amino acids (constituents of protein), zinc and magnesium. Other nutrients play an essential role, CoQ10 is similar to the ignition on a car and kick starts the whole cycle – interestingly our natural production of CoQ10 declines from the age of 30. All the macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats and protein) require transportation into the cell, for example, carnitine found in red meat, cod, nuts and bacon (did you hear that…bacon!) helps to transport fats into the mitchondria.
The Fat Loss Heroes
Many of these nutrients are sold in so called fat loss formula’s but sadly our body doesn’t work on such a simplistic level, perhaps if it did we’d all be chasing down a tray of chocolate brownies with a shot of fish oil and carnitine capsules. Digestive heath, liver support, genes, stress, emotional health and other environmental factors will all influence how our body adapts and manages energy production and fat storage. However, in your quest for an optimal body composition it certainly helps to consume foods that support hormone regulation, pack in micronutrients (especially those that play a vital role in the Krebs cycle) and support both gut and liver function. Most Fitter Foods fit this role and we work hard to put delicious combinations in our recipes so they can effortlessly make up 80-90% of your nutritional intake. Here we’ve highlighted a few heroes that can help to nail your fat loss goals; either due to their hormone, gut and liver supporting powers or because they are simply packed with nutrients that fuel energy production, you almost can’t afford not to eat these fat burning foods!
Sardines are a super food in our opinion. As a small, oily fish they are a fantastic source of omega 3 fatty acids which help to improve insulin sensitivity, yet are also low in toxins that infiltrate seafood including dioxins, PCB’s, mercury and other heavy metals. If you consume the tinned variety which usually include skin and bones they are a great source of B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, zinc – micronutrients that play a fundamental role in the krebs cycle, and also contain an amino acid known as glycine which we are often lacking these days due to our preference for muscle meats (over skin and organs of animals). Glycine is a component of connective tissue and therefore important in supporting the integrity of the gastrointestinal tract, it also plays an essential role in the removal of toxins from the body and is a precursor nutrient for our master antioxidant glutathione. Bone broth is another rich source of glycine (so consume that too!)
We love tinned sardines as a cheap, healthy, portable snack and often have them topped with apple cider vinegar and salad. If you struggle to eat oily fish try our Thai Omega Balls with either tinned sardines or salmon (and anchovies if feeling brave) you can ADAPT this recipe to your taste by adding more desiccated coconut, fresh lime/lemon juice, fresh coriander, apple cider vinegar or chilli to disguise the fish taste (taste the recipe before baking to check it’s to your liking).
You were probably not expecting chocolate to appear on a list of fat loss foods but hear us out. Firstly, dark chocolate offers a great source of magnesium and other minerals that play a key role in insulin sensitivity and the Krebs cycle. Check out the mineral content in 100g of 85% cocoa (by the way we’re not suggesting you eat 100g in one go, 30g is a healthy dose).
Dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants including polyphenols, flavanols and catechins. Studies have suggested it may contain higher levels than so called superfoods like Acai berries – we know what we’d rather have! These antioxidants also play an essential role in lowering inflammation and supporting liver detoxification protecting you from chronic disease risk.
It also improves blood flow enabling nutrients to be moved around the body with ease, essential for metabolic efficiency. Another benefit to the consumption of dark chocolate (that you’re unlikely to find in any studies) is that it can fulfil the role of a daily pleasure food, keeping you away from regular confectionary and processed foods. Many people find a little dark chocolate just hits the spot and the cravings for junk foods and other rubbish are easily kept at bay. Once your taste buds adjust to the stronger cocoa content of dark chocolate you will likely find milk chocolate tastes far too sweet and bland as you come to want the bitter, cocoa hit. Many people soon find they prefer dark chocolate perhaps due to it’s mood boosting properties or the high-flavanol cocoa has improved blood flow to the brain so much it allows people to see sense and keep their hands off the peanut M&Ms and their ever growing lists of unrecognisable ingredients, sigh!
Green tea is being increasingly studied by the scientific community for its health benefits. Many of the benefits are believed to be a result of it’s polyphenol content in particular those known as catechins including epicatechin, epicatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), epigallocatechin.
It has been suggested there is a synergistic relationship between catechins in green tea and the caffeine and that together they increase the body’s ability to burn calories and increase resting metabolic rate.
Green tea is certainly one of the healthiest sources of caffeine and a recent study suggested if consumed before training it helped to improve fat burning during exercise. Furthermore as a source of antioxidants it will lower inflammation, support hormone health and liver detoxification. L-theanine in green tea also has a calming effect on the body reducing the impact of stress, which can also lead to weight gain around the middle. Having 2-3 cups a day of strong, loose leaf green tea has been shown to be powerfully protective against disease.
The Humble Egg
A nutrition power house with multiple vitamins, minerals, proteins (one egg provides roughly 6-7 grams) and healthy fats especially choline which is vital to cellular health, brain function and memory and liver detoxification. All this for just 85 calories you would be mad not to include them in your nutrition for any health goal including fat loss.
L-arginine and leucine, are two amino acid found in eggs that support protein synthesis (and therefore an increase in lean body mass), the release of growth hormone which is essential to burn fat and help regulate blood sugar levels. Most of the nutrients and almost half the protein are in the yolk so don’t go ditching those for one of those bland, egg white omelettes either. Some experts recommend eating yokes raw as a great way to supplement your nutrition, simply crack the egg into your hand and let the white slip through into a bowl (freeze these as they’re perfect for making meringues and macaroons) and down the yoke in one. Or if that’s too hardcore add yokes to smoothies, burgers, soups or even blend with olive oil and vinegar to make a creamy dressing.
Another food jam packed with over 20 vitamins and minerals including potassium, vitamin C, vitamin E, folate and other B vitamins. Plus lots of natural protective plant chemicals that help prevent chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease. Most of the beneficial antioxidants are located in the dark green, outer edge of the fruit closest to the peel, so be sure to scoop that bit out.
They also provide a great source of fibre which has been shown to aid weight loss by feeding healthy gut bacteria and reduce blood sugar spikes. Several studies have observed eating avocado 2-3 times a week enhances fat loss results and helps regulate appetite. One study discovered people who added fresh avocado to their lunch felt satiated for longer and had significantly less interest in eating for hours after consuming.
And one last thing…
We said 5 but just can’t resist giving one last shout out for organ meats. We know they’re rarely top of the weekly shopping list but as one of the most nutritious sources of of CoQ10 and carnitine (check that Krebs again) and all the B vitamins it’s a nutritional tragedy. Check out our Lamb’s Heart Tagine or Dairy Free Liver Pate as a place to start.
So there’s 5 (6 actually!) fat loss foods you could start planning into your weekly meals from today!