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6 Fat-Fighting Superfoods

The best news we've heard all year: Chocolate is a top metabolism boosting food. When we combed through the research, the sweet treat wasn't the only surprise standout. While calories are the key to diet success (or failure), certain ingredients act as natural fat burning foods. Here, the best foods to fight belly fat and how to incorporate them into your diet.

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Woman with chocolate pudding
Darren Keith
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Dark Chocolate

"Foods stimulate the body to produce hormones," says Jonny Bowden, PhD, the author of The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. "Some of those hormones coax your metabolism into fat-burning mode, and others make it sluggish and more apt to store fat." These six superfoods will rev up your fat-burning engine.

Dark Chocolate

A particularly sweet study found that daily consumption of roughly one and a half ounces of dark chocolate -- about the amount in a Hershey's bar -- reduced the stress hormone cortisol. (Stress has been linked to a sluggish metabolism.) Researchers suspect that certain compounds in chocolate, like caffeine and theobromine, may be responsible. Another reason to indulge: A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that adults who ate moderate amounts of chocolate regularly were actually thinner than those who didn't, even though they consumed more calories and exercised the same amount.

Look for chocolate that contains at least 70 percent cocoa -- the darker, the better. Pair a square with a cappuccino for a midmorning pick-me-up or stir some chunks into homemade trail mix.

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Eggs

According to Bowden, eggs are the best protein source on the planet. They contain all nine essential amino acids, which your body needs to build muscle tissue. And the bigger your guns, the greater your fat-burning potential, because it takes more calories to maintain muscle than it does fat.

Start your day with two scrambled eggs instead of waffles or cereal. Or get creative and cook an egg in an avocado for a dose of healthy fats: Slice the avocado in half lengthwise, remove the pit and carve out some additional space in the center, then crack an egg into it. Bake at 425° for about 10 minutes or until set, and voil?!

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Sesame Seeds

Animal studies showed that plant chemicals, called lignans, in sesame seeds enhance fat burning by increasing liver enzymes that break down fat. "Many studies found that protein and essential fatty acids increase the metabolic rate, and sesame seeds are loaded with both," explains Christine Gerbstadt, MD, RD, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. They're also a rich source of minerals and fiber.

Roast sesame seeds (spread evenly on a baking sheet and put in an oven set to 325° for about 15 minutes or until golden brown and fragrant), then sprinkle them on salads, stir-fried vegetables, chicken, fish, and soups. Spread tahini (sesame paste) on celery or bread and opt for sesame seed buns and bagels over plain.

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Smoothies

Sipping a smoothie can stoke your fat-burning fires, as long as it contains whey protein powder. New research suggests that this substance triggers satiety hormones, including cholecystokinin, which sends your brain a "Hey, I'm full" signal. Plus, whey, a protein found in milk, contains the muscle-building amino acid leucine. "When you're losing weight, eating whey protein can help reduce the loss of lean muscle mass, which keeps your metabolism revved," Dr. Gerbstadt says.

Whey protein powder isn't just for smoothies. Mix it into yogurt and pudding or add it to the dry ingredients when you're baking muffins or cookies.

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Yellow Bell Peppers

It's time to "pep" up your diet. About one-third of Americans are vitamin C deficient, and one yellow pepper supplies 341 milligrams, nearly three and a half times the amount in a large orange. "The body needs vitamin C to produce a molecule called carnitine, which helps muscles use fat for energy and, in turn, boosts metabolism," says Carol Johnston, PhD, RD, the associate director of the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion at Arizona State University. Sure enough, people with higher levels of C in their blood had lower BMIs and less body fat, according to a study in the Journal of Nutrition.

Raw yellow pepper strips make a satisfying snack with a little hummus, and they add crunch to fish tacos. Or core and clean a pepper and fill it with tuna salad (use low-fat Greek yogurt instead of mayo) for lunch.

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Peanuts

These fiber-packed nuts don't just help curb your intake of calories, they can help torch them too. "Peanuts induce a strong thermic response, which means that the process of digesting them actually burns calories," Johnston says. A study in the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders found that when people consumed 500 calories' worth of peanuts daily for 19 weeks, their resting metabolic rate increased by 11 percent, even without added exercise.

Don't go overboard, as peanuts are calorie-dense. Keep a stash in your purse for a quick snack (aim for one ounce, or about two tablespoons, daily), revisit your childhood with an afternoon PB&J, or make pad thai with ground peanuts for a delish fat-burning dinner.

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The Drink That Helps You Shrink

Want to lose an extra 6.6 pounds a year? Down two glasses of water before breakfast (you can try it before any meal). People who did this in a recent study at Virginia Tech consumed an average of 75 fewer calories at their a.m. meal than those who didn't. "The water acted as a calorie-free appetizer," says study author Brenda M. Davy, PhD, RD. "It filled participants' stomachs, so they reported less hunger just prior to eating." Other research suggests that H2O boosts metabolism, because your body has to work to raise the temperature of the ingested water to match that of your core. In one study, people who drank eight to 12 glasses a day had higher metabolic rates than those who sipped just four.

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, November/December 2012.

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2/27/2014 05:19:21 PM Report Abuse
garyeuless wrote:

I love chocolate! I have thyroid disease and it is so hard to shed pounds. I get frustrated with my health. I'll give it a try! Thanks! :)

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v2b2 wrote:

Nice to know! I eat dark chocolate (the darker the better) as an afternoon pick-me-up... :)

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mssissy1 wrote:

I am glad to see that eating dark chocolate everyday may boost your metabolism..I am a chocolaholic and feel deprived on every diet I have tried because they all eliminate sweets...So now I will buy very dark chocolate for my cravings and still stay on my low calorie diet..thanks for the interesting information...

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julie2280 wrote:

I eat about 200 cal of good dark chocolate every day. I count my calories. 1,800. per day. I am 60 yrs old. 5"6' 131 lbs sooo, I think it may be true, Most of the rest of the foods I eat are lean meats, fruits, vegies, and some grain, and legumes. Nothing white

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Chubbs12 wrote:

love this. Have been drinking a milk shake of Rice milk, a little sugar, cocoa and protein powder. This article tells me that's good!

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nsdixon0_348274 wrote:

This whole story is definitely doable and plan to start tomorrow, in fact I just ate a granny smith apple with PB, so I have already started. Super info. THANKS

1/13/2013 01:41:27 AM Report Abuse
juliepenkova wrote:

I eat a few squares of dark chocolate or dairy free chocolate a few times a week as a treat with dried fruits. So was aware of this dark pleasure.

12/28/2012 10:40:58 AM Report Abuse

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