Losing weight means making some necessary adjustments to your diet. Selecting the healthiest choices when ordering in or dining out can make all the difference in the world in your weight loss efforts and so too can reviewing your grocery list with a fine-tooth comb. One way you can revamp that shopping list is by adding some unique foods that activate a specific type of body fat called “brown fat” and boost your body’s ability to burn calories.
Brown fat—also known as “brown adipose tissue”—is a kind of fat that’s stimulated by cooler temps, Harvard Medical School explains. The key role of brown fat is to generate heat in order to regulate your body temperature. It does that via calorie-torching. This act of burning calories can promote weight loss. According to research published in Frontiers in Physiology, certain dietary compounds support the activation of brown fat and the “browning” of white adipose tissue. These foods also bring on plenty of health benefits.
We spoke to the Nutrition Twins®, Tammy Lakatos Shames, RD, CDN, CFT, and Lyssie Lakatos, RD, CDN, CFT, registered dietitians and members of our Medical Expert Board, who offer their expertise on the best foods that stimulate brown fat for weight loss, according to science. Keep reading to learn more about them, and next up, be sure to check out the 7 Habits That Destroy Your Chances of Losing Weight.
“Research has shown that capsaicin, the active compound in hot peppers increases fat-burning and energy expenditure and can even help to burn belly fat,” the Nutrition Twins tell us. “Capsaicin appears to help stimulate brown fat, which is a metabolically active type of fat that actually stimulates fat burning.”
If you’re looking for ways to incorporate capsaicin in your meals, the Nutrition Twins suggest sprinkling chili peppers/hot peppers into your pasta, rice, and egg dishes, along with incorporating them into guacamole, seafood meals, and anything you’re able to tolerate, due to the heat. The Twins also share their recipes for Spicy Carrot Fries and Spicy “Metabolism Booster” that pack a tasty kick.
“Green tea has been shown to assist the body in burning more fat and calories, thanks to its potent catechin, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) as well as its caffeine,” the Nutrition Twins explain. “Some research shows that EGCG and caffeine work synergistically to trigger fat burning. While some studies show that green tea appears to increase brown fat (the good fat that helps to keep you lean), some scientists say more research is needed to confirm this.” The great thing about green tea is its antioxidants can help you prevent oxidative damage, decrease inflammation, and avoid disease.
In need of a little green tea inspiration? Spruce up your glass of water by making green tea “ice cubes,” add it to your next stir-fry to avoid pan stickiness, incorporate green tea powder in your smoothies, or whip up some green tea popsicles. You can even swap out your morning cup of joe with a homemade green tea latte or the Nutrition Twins’ Ginger Mint “Flat Belly” Tea.
“Curcumin is found in the extract of turmeric root, and it appears to be promising when it comes to the fight against obesity,” the Nutrition Twins say. “Research shows that it can help with weight and body fat loss and can even help to reduce both waist and hip circumference. Other studies have shown that curcumin increases calorie expenditure, thermogenesis, and brown fat. The important thing to keep in mind is that the studies used very high doses of curcumin. Curcumin has a low bioavailability, so it typically isn’t absorbed so well. If you want to take a supplement, be sure to choose one that has a high bioavailability, that way you can use a lower dose.”
Be liberal with your turmeric usage. The Nutrition Twins suggest adding it to soups, marinades, bean dishes, stews, eggs, and rice dishes. Research suggests that you can boost turmeric’s bioavailability by also incorporating black pepper. “Turmeric contains potent antioxidants, so any way you can include it in your diet will be helpful in preventing oxidative stress and inflammation, which makes weight loss more challenging,” the Nutrition Twins add.
If you’re ready to hop on the turmeric train, check out this 5-minute Turmeric Gold Milk or these Ginger-Turmeric Ice Cubes. Or, for an extra powerful combo of brown fat stimulators—cayenne pepper and turmeric—consider whipping up this Morning “Detox” Shot.
“Long-term use of menthol has been shown to increase metabolically active brown fat, increase caloric expenditure, prevent weight gain that is caused by a high-fat diet, and even reverse insulin sensitivity,” the Nutrition Twins reveal. “The results seem promising when it comes to fighting against obesity and its associated diseases.”
You can easily work mint into your diet by adding it to a cup of yogurt with fresh berries, preparing a rejuvenating spritzer with seltzer and mint, or even brewing a pitcher of iced tea with mint leaves. Take your salad to the next level with refreshing mint leaves, or kick off the morning with this Chocolate Peppermint Smoothie.
Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA can help support your weight loss efforts. “The good news is that if you don’t like eating fatty fish like salmon, the supplements have been shown to be beneficial, too,” the Nutrition Twins explain. “Fish oil supplements have been shown to increase the protein in the interscapular brown fat of rats, while eating fatty fish has been found to reduce visceral fat (the fat that wraps around your belly and organs) while increasing interscapular brown fat.”
The Nutrition Twins point out that even though these studies suggest promising results, the majority of them used rodents as their test subjects. Regardless, it’s a smart idea to bump up your intake of omega-3 fatty acids, considering they help prevent inflammation that makes it challenging to shed excess weight. In order to boost your omega-3 fatty acids, consider working fatty fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, and anchovies into your meals.