Fat-Burning Foods – Really?

By Briana Eruren

We have all seen those attention-grabbing headlines on magazine covers and those pesky side ads that distract you from your dot-com searches or Facebook creeping. (Don’t even pretend you don’t.)creep

I’m talking about the ones you just can’t get out of your head because they sound too good to be true.

“Melt Fat Away Over the Weekend on the Ben and Jerry’s Diet!”

or maybe something like,

“Top 5 Belly Bulge-Blasting Foods!”

They’re often accompanied by graphics like this

fat blasting

and they get forwarded 8 bazillion times on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

How could claims like these not catch our attention? Just eat these foods and lose my extra inches? I’M IN!

I’m sure by now you’ve caught on to the fact that I love sweets, and if the Ben and Jerry’s diet were in fact legitimate, my life would be forever changed for the better (or worse….which ever way you want to look at it). However, I prefer to deal in reality, so I’m here to offer a realistic perspective on fat-burning foods so that you can proceed with your dot-com searches or refining your creeping skills.  creep2


In order to fully understand the fat burning food concept it’s critical to know the basic science behind it. In simple terms, a fat burning food is one that uses more calories to be digested than the calorie content of the food itself. A good example of this could be celery because the body will use more calories while chewing and digesting than the piece of celery actually contains. These foods will cause the body to work harder during digestion, which ultimately reduces the number of calories the body retains.

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Fat-burning foods are considered to be thermogenic because there is an increase in the amount of heat the body generates while it is digesting food. So yes, the metabolism is raised for a short time.

The thermic effect of foods, or TEF, is proportional to the energy taken in from the food, and is generally estimated at 10 percent of the energy intake. This means if you consume 2000 calories, your body will probably expend about 200 calories on the TEF. These proportions do vary and can be influenced by many factors.

Typically, foods high in protein will have a higher thermic effect than foods that are high in fat, and a meal eaten all at once will have a higher thermic effect than one spread out over a few hours.

These headlines are misleading. There are no foods that actually burn fat, and the caloric effect of thermogenesis is minimal. The only way to burn fat is to exercise and take in fewer calories. Be cautious when it comes to attention-grabbing headlines and statements that ignore dietary recommendations, suggest only consuming certain macro and micro nutrients, or ones that suggest taking any specific dosages of a supplement.



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