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The Brilliant Food Combo That Helps You Burn More Fat

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Some foods just naturally work well together and combining them can make a dish more than just the sum of its ingredients. And no, we're not talking about chocolate and peanut butter or chocolate and mint (or chocolate and—well, anything, really). Rather, a new study looks at two types of foods that turn into a nutritional powerhouse when eaten together. Who's up for some...fish and green bananas?

Hear us out: For the Nutrition Journal study, women of various weights ate a breakfast with pancakes that were either plain, made with protein powder, made with powdered resistant starch (the kind that's in green bananas, plantains, and cold potatoes), or made with both protein and resistant starch. (We're not sure how those tasted honestly but hey, it's for science!) Turns out, the women who ate the starch/protein combo pancakes had much higher levels of a satiety hormone and burned more fat afterward than the women in any of the other groups.

And the effect was significant. "We saw as much as 30 percent greater fat burning with the combo compared to other pancake meals," says Paul Arciero, D.P.E. (doctor of physiology of exercise), lead author and director of the Human Nutrition and Metabolism Laboratory at Skidmore College. "It made a huge difference."

How does this work? It's based on the science of food combining, which looks at different ways to pair foods that enhance the health benefits of each one. You've probably already heard about how eating protein fills you up and curbs cravings. But resistant starch is relatively new on the scene. It's a type of starch that is found naturally in foods like cold potatoes, green bananas, plantains, and cooked-and-cooled rice and beans. (Note: The "cool" and "cold" part is important as the resistant starch bonds are formed as part of cooling process. If you're using a powdered form, like in this study, temperature doesn't matter.) Resistant starch is harder to digest in the body, filling you up without adding lots of extra calories, similar to the way produce and whole grains do. Resistant starch also feeds good bacteria in your gut, which helps improve your immune system, boost your mood, and metabolize fat, according to an Advances in Nutrition study. So put the two foods together and you have a powerful tool for weight loss, says Arciero.

"I would without question recommend this as a weight loss strategy," he says. "It's perhaps the most natural, safest, and healthiest nutrition-related lifestyle strategy to enhance satiety and burn fat calories while eating carbohydrates."

The best part of this trick is how easy it is to try. Chances are you're probably already eating protein and resistant starch (even if you didn't know that's what it was called!) so all you have to do is make sure your meals contain both. Try chicken and cold potato salad, or a simple bowl of cooled rice and beans. Need more ideas? Arciero has compiled his favorite recipes using this power pair (including cookies!) in his GenioFit nutrition/fitness app on iTunes and cookbook.