Fat Burners: Can Certain Foods Really Make You Slim?

Summer seems to finally be here. June in New England was literally a washout, but the sun came out for the Fourth of July holiday. While it hasn’t exactly been beach weather lately, it hopefully will be very soon. This means, of course, that a person needs to have a “beach-ready” body, right?

Most of us know that losing weight and staying fit (and managing diabetes[1]!) requires a certain measure of discipline to choose the right foods in the right amounts and to stay active on a fairly regular basis. But it’s hard, and temptations sometimes get in the way of good intentions. When’s that magic pill coming?

It may not be here yet, but what about all those “fat-burning” foods we hear and read about? Is there something to them? Let’s find out.

Vinegar is acidic, so it can be irritating to the mouth, throat, and stomach if ingested in too high a quantity. But it has its benefits. Vinegar is thought to help slow the rise in blood glucose[2] after a meal (essentially lowering the glycemic index[3] of a meal), and it may also help with blood pressure control[4].

It used to be one of those old wives’ tales — swallow a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar before your meals and you’ll rev up your metabolism. Vinegar supposedly helps curb appetite and cut cravings. But until lately, there was no credible research proving any of this.

However, Japanese scientists have found that there may actually be something to vinegar and weight loss: The researchers gave two groups of mice white vinegar (in various concentrations) via a stomach tube and gave another group of mice water. Both groups were fed a high-fat diet. The vinegar-fed mice had 10% less body fat than the water-fed mice. Vinegar contains acetic acid, which may turn on genes that signal the body to break down fat, preventing it from accumulating in body tissue.

Should you take vinegar for weight loss? It’s hard to say. It’s certainly fine to use vinegar as a marinade or in salad dressings. If you decide to try it before meals, dilute it with some water to reduce possible irritation.

Spicy Foods
Do you love hot, spicy dishes? Is Tabasco sauce one of your must-have condiments? If so, you may be in luck — with regard to your metabolism, that is. Some studies show that eating foods seasoned with chili pepper or black pepper can boost metabolism by up to 23%.

When you eat a spicy dish, your body generates more heat, which, in turn, helps burn calories. But unless you eat spicy foods constantly (and maybe you do!), the amount of calories that you actually burn may be negligible. And the effect on metabolism only lasts for about 30 minutes.

However, spicy foods may offer another benefit: making you feel more full. In fact, in one study, men who were fed appetizers seasoned with hot sauce before eating a meal ate about 200 fewer calories than men who didn’t eat the hot sauce. The researchers think that the sauce, which contained capsaicin[5] (the chemical that makes certain peppers hot), helped to blunt their appetites. So, spice up your meals with some red pepper flakes, hot sauce, or even ginger. But be careful if you have heartburn, as these spices may aggravate the condition.

Green Tea
Green tea has received a lot of press over the past few years, particularly in the realm of helping to fight heart disease[6] and some types of cancer. Green tea is rich in certain polyphenols (types of antioxidants[7]) called catechins that have anti-inflammatory[8] and anticancer properties.

But green tea may do more than fight disease. Some evidence shows that drinking green tea may also help with weight loss. In one study, Japanese men were given oolong tea infused with green tea extract. A control group drank oolong tea without green tea extract. After three months, those who drank the green tea extract lost an average of 5.3 pounds, while those who didn’t drink the extract lost only 2.9 pounds. And in research looking at mice prone to obesity, those who ate food containing green tea extract gained less weight and body fat. It may be that the catechins in the green tea increase thermogenesis, or the burning of calories as body heat. At any rate, if you’re thinking of trying green tea to help with your weight, be prepared to drink between 4 to 7 cups of it each day.

OK, eggs don’t have magical fat-burning properties (although, to be honest, not many foods actually do!). But a study published last year in the International Journal of Obesity showed that men and women who ate two eggs for breakfast (as part of a lower-calorie diet) lost 65% more weight and had a 34% greater reduction in their waist circumference than men and women who ate a bagel for breakfast. The secret? Eggs very likely increased satiety (a feeling of fullness) so that folks ended up eating less. I’ve mentioned eggs in previous postings[9] — they can be part of pretty much anyone’s eating plan.

So maybe there aren’t any foods that will melt away the fat. But the foods I’ve mentioned above can certainly be part of an eating plan geared to help you lose and maintain a healthy weight.

  1. diabetes: https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/Articles/Diabetes-Definitions/diabetes/
  2. blood glucose: https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/articles/Blood-Glucose-Monitoring/
  3. glycemic index: https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/Articles/Nutrition-And-Meal-Planning/glycemic_index_update/
  4. blood pressure control: https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/Articles/Heart-Health/the-pressure-is-on/
  5. capsaicin: https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/Articles/Diabetes-Definitions/capsaicin/
  6. heart disease: https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/Articles/Heart-Health/update_on_heart_disease/
  7. antioxidants: https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/Articles/Nutrition-And-Meal-Planning/antioxidants/
  8. anti-inflammatory: https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/Articles/Diabetes-Definitions/inflammation/
  9. previous postings: https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/Blog/Amy-Campbell/eggs_choline_and_national_egg_salad_week/

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Amy Campbell: Amy Campbell is the author of Staying Healthy with Diabetes: Nutrition and Meal Planning and a frequent contributor to Diabetes Self-Management and Diabetes & You. She has co-authored several books, including the The Joslin Guide to Diabetes and the American Diabetes Association’s 16 Myths of a “Diabetic Diet,” for which she received a Will Solimene Award of Excellence in Medical Communication and a National Health Information Award in 2000. Amy also developed menus for Fit Not Fat at Forty Plus and co-authored Eat Carbs, Lose Weight with fitness expert Denise Austin. Amy earned a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from Simmons College and a master’s degree in nutrition education from Boston University. In addition to being a Registered Dietitian, she is a Certified Diabetes Educator and a member of the American Dietetic Association, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Association of Diabetes Educators. Amy was formerly a Diabetes and Nutrition Educator at Joslin Diabetes Center, where she was responsible for the development, implementation, and evaluation of disease management programs, including clinical guideline and educational material development, and the development, testing, and implementation of disease management applications. She is currently the Director of Clinical Education Content Development and Training at Good Measures. Amy has developed and conducted training sessions for various disease and case management programs and is a frequent presenter at disease management events.

Disclaimer of Medical Advice: Statements and opinions expressed on this Web site are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the publishers or advertisers. The information, which comes from qualified medical writers, does not constitute medical advice or recommendation of any kind, and you should not rely on any information contained in such posts or comments to replace consultations with your qualified health care professionals to meet your individual needs.