21 fat burning foods for weight loss, scientifically proven to help aid weight loss

Fat-burning foods to add to your diet - according to studies, research and a nutritional experts

a collage of fat burning foods like salmon, eggs and an avocado and whole grain salad

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

Most of us are always on the lookout for ways to burn fat (opens in new tab), with what we put into our bodies often the first area we start with. And whilst we can all make a conscious effort to limit the takeaways and treats in an effort to lose belly fat (opens in new tab). It's also useful to know which foods to eat more of which actively burn fat and calories.

"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 (opens in new tab), a clinical nutritionist. "These foods that are scientifically proven to help the body burn fat when eaten as part of a controlled eating plan."

21 of the best fat burning foods for weight loss

1. Salmon

A simple salmon dinner (opens in new tab) can help you lose weight fast, as this delicious lean fish 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.”

Salmon - one of the best fat burning foods

Credit: Getty

Indeed, one 2015 study (opens in new tab) into omega-3 found these friendly fats helped with a “reduction in abdominal fat”. Whilst another study (opens in new tab) 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.

2. Greek Yogurt

Not only is Greek yogurt good for you (opens in new tab) and delicious. It’s also scientifically proven to help burn body fat too.

“Greek yogurt can really help with fat burning but it needs to be the full fat variety,” says Suzie, a clinical nutritionist from Feel Alive UK (opens in new tab).“Firstly, full-fat Greek yogurt contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which promotes fat burning. And secondly, probiotics naturally found in the yogurt 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 Journal of Nutrition study (opens in new tab) reported that the amino acids, vitamin D and calcium it contains speed ups fat burning. And this was undoubtedly proven by one University of Tennessee study (opens in new tab). Participants who cut calories and ate just over 500g of yogurt 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 (opens in new tab), 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," says David. "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."

Moreover, science has shown that giving in to the evening chocolate munchies might work in our favour. In one 2021 study (opens in new tab), 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. 

But be warned: whilst there was evident weight loss, researchers advised against regularly overindulging in chocolate due to its overall high-calorie content.

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 (opens in new tab)of MyProtein.

According to researchers, broccoli contains calcium, which is good for healthy joints and weight loss. One University of Tennessee study (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab) 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. This is because steaming broccoli 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 US study (opens in new tab). Overweight participants who enjoyed almonds as part of a low-calorie diet lost 50 percent more fat overall and around 18% of their weight compared to 11% lost by the other test group. 

A pot of almonds on a yellow background

Credit: Getty

“They're 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,” he adds. 

And this was certainly the case with one European Journal of Nutrition study (opens in new tab) 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) but 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 on 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.”

She’s not wrong either, with one German study finding that the antioxidants in green tea promoted fat breakdown. Then there’s the University of Birmingham study (opens in new tab) which reported that men who took a green tea extract before a workout burned 17 percent 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 (opens in new tab) - is excellent for weight loss. 

One 2010 study (opens in new tab) gave one male group an egg breakfast and the other a bagel breakfast which contained the same calories. And they found that those who enjoyed eggs in the morning ate less during the remainder of the day. This is great news if you're making a conscious effort to watch the calories

Another study (opens in new tab) with a similar egg vs bagel diet found that after eight weeks, those on the egg diet lost over 30% round their waists and saw a decrease in overall body fat percentage.

The reason eggs are good for you (opens in new tab) and your weight loss goals? It’s all down to protein says Suzie, “Eggs are one high-protein food (opens in new tab) 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 rightly states: “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 2019 study (opens in new tab) found that eating an avocado daily, as part of a calorie-controlled diet, aided weight loss in participants. 

And the benefits of avocado (opens in new tab) don’t stop there, with another study (opens in new tab) 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.

She does share a word of warning though not to combine 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?

50 obese adults were given a white bean extract twice a day for eight weeks whilst on a low-fat diet in one 2011 study (opens in new tab). And scientists found that those in the bean research group lost more weight and had better control of their blood sugar levels. 

Cannellini beans are one of the best fat burning foods

Cannellini beans are one of the best fat burning foods (Credit: Getty)

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.

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 (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab) 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 afterward.

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 (opens in new tab). Blueberries are brilliant for burning fat - especially belly fat. 

One animal study (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab), quinoa, brown rice, a bowl of beneficial oats (opens in new tab) and whole grain breads 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 (opens in new tab) 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 significantly loss in belly fat too. 

Then there’s a 2017 study (opens in new tab) that found whole grains can help speed up your metabolism and increase calorie loss. And the reasoning behind this is that when digested, less calories from whole grains are retained overall. Porridge for breakfast and quinoa on your salad anyone?

13. Chia seeds

Dietician Claire swears by chia seeds as one of the best fat-burning foods out there. 

“Small but mighty, chia seeds have many benefits (opens in new tab) – many of which are thanks to their protein and fibre content,” she tells us. “They can turn liquids into thicker substances – think chia pudding (opens in new tab) or adding into your oatmeal. And they provide minerals and vitamins to support the conversion of fat to energy.”

One 2017 study (opens in new tab) found that the fibre and low-carbohydrate content of chia seeds was responsible for people feeling fuller for longer. Whilst another study (opens in new tab) in the same year, recorded that overweight adults who ate 30g of chia seeds daily for six months lost weight around their middles and body overall. Now that's a result worth emulating.

14. Chillies

Did you know that you can burn fat by eating spicy foods (opens in new tab) like chillis and peppers? 

Nutritionist David notes that a little heat can go a long way to aiding your weight loss goals, “Chillies can help to stimulate the metabolism, having a thermogenic effect which speeds up the metabolism and the rate at which your body uses energy,” he says.

Thermogenesis works by raising our body temperature, and people may find they burn more calories during this process just by being warm. 

3 chillies (one of the best fat burning foods) on a blue background

Credit: Getty
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Indeed, a 2019 study (opens in new tab) credited chilli as one fat burning food that facilitates weight loss. It found that the active substance capsaicin in chilli aids thermogenesis and improves insulin levels in the body. Whilst in one Canadian study, researchers reported that men who ate spicy appetisers consumed 200 less calories than those who chose a non-spicy option. Spicy chicken wings or spring rolls anyone?

You can additionally reap the fat burning rewards of chilli without eating it. 

“You can use chilli directly on the skin in the form of a good quality chilli oil, this can help increase circulation and reduce cellulite and increase fat burning,” adds David. “But if you are applying chilli oil to the skin, do so very carefully, avoiding cracked skin, crevices and the eyes.”

15. Cinnamon

You may be curious why we’ve included cinnamon as one of our fat-burning foods. But it turns out that this spice has more than one special role in weight gain prevention.

Scientists at the University of Michigan (opens in new tab) found that cinnamaldehyde - an essential oil present in cinnamon - can help burn fat. Much like capsaicin in chili, this oil activates thermogenesis. This is the metabolism process where heat helpfully burns calories.

There are further fat-burning benefits too, as nutritionist Suzie points out, “Cinnamon has been found to help balance blood sugar levels, therefore helping stop the body store fat,” she tells us. “When blood sugar levels are imbalanced, there is a constant shunting mechanism - with insulin working hard to remove glucose from a high sugar/carb diet and sending it to the safety (from getting it out of the bloodstream perspective) of the fat cells.”

Incorporate it into your daily diet by sprinkling some on your morning porridge or adding it to smoothies.

16. Coffee

Your morning cup of joe can really help you achieve your weight loss goals - and that's according to science.

Coffee’s caffeine content has been hailed as an effective stimulant that fires up metabolism. And indeed, one Swiss study found that after a caffeine hit, fat burning increased by 44%. Whilst a University of London study (opens in new tab) reported that one group who drank 100mg of caffeine a day burned 150 more calories as a result. 

Though the evidence looks good, dietitian Claire has some words of warning, “While it provides its own metabolism boost, be careful that you don’t add too much sugar or fat to your coffee and counteract its energy-boosting effects,” she says.

Stick to a regular black coffee and stay clear of fattier coffee variations like flavoured lattes and Starbucks cappuccinos.

17. Coconut Oil

Suzie claims that the benefits of coconut oil go further than just your hair and skin - with this oil a fat burning food you NEED to know about. 

“It’s all down to the medium chain triglycerides in coconut oil which are metabolised by the liver and used as an energy source rather than stored as fat,” she explains.

One 2020 study (opens in new tab) by researchers at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro stated that:  “Coconut oil appears to help in weight loss and improve metabolic parameters associated with obesity.”

This being said, there have been other studies into the oil that have found little evidence to support this.

As Suzie clarifies: “Coconut oil has always been a consumer-driven food rather than backed by lots of research, but MCT’s do appear to promote fat loss and are very useful when eaten as part of the keto diet (opens in new tab).”

18. Apple Cider Vinegar

We’ve all heard of the Apple Cider Vinegar diet (opens in new tab), but how exactly has it earnt a place on our fat-burning foods list?

Researchers in one animal study (opens in new tab) found that it was the acetic acid in this vinegar that was effective in burning fat from our middle.

Then there’s a 12-week study (opens in new tab) that showed that obese males who had a daily tablespoon of the stuff saw a half-an-inch loss from their waistlines.

If you’re eager to give this fat-burning food a go, then start off small by diluting a teaspoon in water and seeing how your body responds. The taste and smell might make it one trick that doesn’t appeal to everyone.

19. Celery

We’ve all heard of the celery diet trick, as dietician Claire points out, “Celery is the famous ‘negative calorie’ food – some people claim it takes more calories to digest celery than it does to eat it.”

And it turns out that science agrees in this situation - with one UK study proving exactly that.  In Channel 4’s Food Unwrapped series, researchers from University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust and the University of Warwick placed presenter Matt Tebbut in a metabolic chamber. Here they recorded the number of calories he ingested and burned while eating celery in different forms over 12 hours.  

Two meals included raw celery and a celery smoothie - both worth 53 calories. And results showed that Matt burnt 73 calories when munching raw celery, and 112 when drinking the smoothie.

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20. Watermelon

Juicy and refreshing - this is one of many fat burning foods we can get on board with.

“A sweet summer treat, watermelon’s benefit is in its name – its high water content (and fibre) makes it satisfying without lots of calories,” says Claire.

And it’s not just it’s low calorie status that appeals to dieters. With research revealing that watermelon also aids weight loss too.

One San Diego University study (opens in new tab) found that participants who ate watermelon daily for four weeks had “reduced body weight and blood pressure". A win-win in our eyes.

21. Black Pepper

Turns out that our humble black pepper seasoning on meals could actually promote fat burning in our bodies.

Scientists in one study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry (opens in new tab) hailed black pepper as a natural treatment for fat-related disorders like obesity. And they put this down to the substance piperine, found in black pepper. Which they discovered prevents new fat cells from developing. 

There’s further good news, with the same researchers finding that pepper also increased the ‘bioavailability’ of other nutrients. This basically means when sprinkled on meals, it draws the goodness out of the other foods, making your dish more nutritious.

We spoke to the following nutritional experts: