By Ben Kallen
When you’re trying to lose excess fat, every advantage helps. Of course, your main tools are an effective exercise program, a proper food plan, and supplements that fit your lifestyle. But beyond those basics, anything that can boost your results is a plus.
Luckily, you probably have some safe, effective, and inexpensive fat burners in your kitchen already. Include the following items in your diet plan, and you can start losing more weight right now—without even making an extra trip to the store.
- Apple cider vinegar. While cider vinegar may not be the magic remedy your great-grandmother thought it was, there is increasing evidence showing that it can help you eat less and reduce the effect that carbs have on your body. The active ingredient, acetic acid, appears to improve insulin sensitivity and slow the absorption of carbohydrates, helping prevent blood-sugar spikes and excess fat storage. It can also make you feel fuller with less food. In a recent study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, mice on a high-fat diet gained up to 10 percent less fat if they were given acetic acid than if they were given only water.Uses
- Mix vinegar with extra virgin olive oil and your favorite spices for a simple, healthful, and delicious salad dressing. In a Penn State University study, women who ate large, low-calorie salads before lunch ended up consuming 100 fewer calories during the meal itself . . . and they loaded up on extra nutrients as well.
- Combine vinegar with oil and herbs to make a tenderizing meat marinade.
- Add a splash of vinegar to top off soups or stews; this will brighten up the flavors.
- Add a tablespoon of vinegar before boiling, steaming, or stir-frying vegetables to bring out their fresh tastes and help them hold their colors.
Cinnamon.This common spice has been found in several studies to help improve insulin sensitivity and regulate blood sugar, so it helps prevent the spikes and dips that can cause food cravings. This effect may be due to healthful antioxidant chemicals known as polyphenols. Keep in mind that most grocery-store brands of “cinnamon” are actually cassia bark, a close-tasting relative of the cinnamon plant. (If you want the real thing, look for “true” or Ceylon cinnamon on the label.) Both varieties seem to have health benefits, but be careful about using cassia in large amounts—it contains coumarin, which acts as a blood thinner and may cause liver problems when taken in high doses.Uses
- Add powdered cinnamon to hot or cold cereal, fruit, sweet foods, and even savory dishes such as curry or chili.
- For cinnamon-flavored coffee, mix a little into your grounds before brewing.
- Heat a cinnamon stick in water, apple cider, or even red wine for a spicy hot drink.
- Hot sauce and red pepper flakes.The active ingredient in hot peppers, capsaicin, creates thermogenesis; that is, it temporarily turns up your body’s thermostat. Studies have shown that people who eat pepper-laced food get a small metabolic boost, and burn more fat, for up to half an hour afterward. Hot food also makes you feel full more quickly, so you’re likely to eat less.Hot sauce and red pepper flakes are great flavor boosters, too, adding zest to meals with few extra calories. You don’t need to ladle it on till there are flames coming out of your ears. A little bit will go a long way.Uses
- Add a few drops of pepper sauce to anything that needs spicing up, including eggs, soups, seafood, and even frozen dinners. (These sauces can be high in sodium, so go easy on the shaker.)
- Sprinkle red pepper flakes on pizza, pasta, or sandwiches, or add to sauces or salad dressing.
Curry powder. This complex spice mixture, which contains such ingredients as turmeric, ginger, cumin, and coriander, was created as a shortcut for preparing Indian food. While each of the spices can provide a small metabolic boost on its own, they may burn fat even better when used together. Turmeric itself has a variety of healthful properties, and shows promise as a potent anti-inflammatory agent that can help relieve joint pain and post-exercise muscle soreness.Uses
- Add as needed to flavor Indian and South Asian dishes.
- Mix with ground beef to spice up burgers or meatloaf.
- Add to soups and stews.
- Mix with a little olive oil or light mayo as a dressing for chicken or tuna salad.
- Ice.Really? Well, yes. Regular old frozen water has several properties that can help you in your fight against excess fat:
- When you blend ice into a fruit smoothie or protein shake, you get a thick, creamy consistency with no added fat or calories. And you’re likely to drink it more slowly, if only to avoid brain freeze.
- Making your beverages more refreshing encourages you to drink more, which is important when trying to lose weight.
- When you drink an ice-cold beverage, your body actually has to expend calories to warm itself up to a normal temperature. Nobody agrees on exactly how much of a calorie-burning effect this has, and it’s probably pretty slight. But every bit helps.
- Blend ice cubes or crushed ice with other ingredients to make thick and creamy protein shakes, fruit smoothies, or Shakeology®. (Check your blender’s instructions to make sure it’s powerful enough to chop ice.)
- Add lemon or fresh mint to water, and freeze it in an ice-cube tray. Whenever you want a cold glass of fresh, calorie-free flavored water, just add a few of the cubes
- Don’t keep your water ice cold while you’re working out. When it’s time for fast hydration, you’ll want a slightly cool or room-temperature beverage that goes down easy.