13 comfort foods that burn fat
They're called "comfort" foods for a reason—they bring back warm memories, tickle your taste buds, and soothe your soul. Though some comfort foods are deep-fried, covered in cheese, or packed with sugar, some can actually help you lose weight. Beat the battle of the bulge with the following cozy eats.
--By K. Aleisha Fetters, Health.com
Cocoa is packed with antioxidants, which reduce your levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that causes your body to cling to belly fat. In fact, one Cornell University study found that the concentration of antioxidants in hot chocolate is up to five times greater than it is in black tea.
Hot chocolate's combination of carbs and protein can also help your muscles recover faster from a tough workout, according to research in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. Adding a dash of cinnamon boosts your treat's health benefits even more—it contains compounds that keep insulin out of the blood stream and from storing fat, says Gidus.
A single serving of this hearty veggie adds up to a mere 46 calories. A serving also packs more than your daily-recommended doses of vitamins A and K, which can strengthen your immune system for a healthy metabolism, says Jonny Bowden, PhD, a nutritionist and the author of The 150 Healthiest Comfort Foods on Earth. Plus, a cup of collard greens contain 7.6 grams of belly-filling fiber.
Research from the US Department of Agriculture shows that eating fiber-rich foods can lower your body's absorption of calories from carbs.
Chicken noodle soup
"People who eat a broth- or vegetable-based soup before their meal consume fewer calories overall," says Rania Batayneh, MPH, nutritionist and author of The One One One Diet. "The water in the soup helps fill you up and boosts satiety, and just the act of eating soup helps slow your eating down so that your body has time to notice feelings of fullness."
One Penn State study found that people who ate soup before digging into their entrees reduced their total calorie intake by 20%. Plus, chicken noodle varieties pack the protein, vitamins, and fiber you need to rev your metabolism even after your meal.
Your old friend joe can boost more than your mood. It can also boost your metabolism, thanks to a healthy dose of the antioxidant chlorogenic acid (CGA), which increases your body's use of fat for energy, Bowden says.
Research has also shown that the chemical compound can slow the release of glucose into the bloodstream after a meal while lowering insulin resistance to prevent weight gain. Opt for the strong stuff: Several recent studies have found that caffeine in small doses before exercise can improve performance and help your muscles recover in record time.
The moment protein passes your lips, it starts fighting fat. Your body has to work harder to break down protein and use it for energy, which means you burn more calories as you digest it, Gidus says. It also takes more time to leave your stomach, literally keeping your belly fuller for longer.
In one study published in the journal Nutrition Metabolism, dieters who increased their protein intake to 30% of their total diet ate about 450 fewer calories a day. Over 12 weeks, that equals 11 pounds lost—without doing anything else!
One cup of warm, gooey oatmeal contains 4 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein, a combination that slows the digestion of carbs, reduces your insulin response, and keeps you fuller for longer, says Batayneh. In fact, a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition evaluated 38 common foods and found that oatmeal was the third most filling.
When possible, opt for steel-cut oatmeal, which goes through less processing than other varieties and as a result has a lower Glycemic Index score, a measurement of how much a food increases your blood sugar.
As a side or mixed in with your favorite meats, the high water and fiber content in carrots fills you up fast. Roast them for a better calorie burn: University of Arkansas researchers found that carrots roasted at 104 degrees contain three times as many antioxidants as raw carrots.
In addition to being a heart helper, red wine may be a weapon against excess weight. A 2009 report from the University of Ulm in Germany suggests that resveratrol—the renowned antioxidant found in grape skins—inhibits the production of fat cells. What's more, a substance found naturally in red wine called calcium pyruvate helps fat cells burn more energy, says Gidus.
Meanwhile, in a 2011 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, women who had one or two drinks a day were 30% less likely to gain weight than teetotalers. So drink up, but stick to just one glass—each 6-ounce serving contains about 150 calories.
Don't let the pies fool you. One cup of this good-for-you gourd contains a mere 46 calories and 3 grams of fiber, according to the USDA.
Plus, pumpkin is an excellent source of the antioxidant beta-carotene, which fights the oxidative stress and inflammation in the body that's linked to increased fat storage, Gidus says.