Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFAs)
How They Melt Fat: One Danish study of 26 men and women found that a diet that included 20 percent of its calories from MUFAs, a type of fat found in olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocados, peanut butter and chocolate, improved 24-hour calorie burning by 0.1 percent and fat burning by 0.04 percent after six months. Other research shows that MUFAs zero in on belly fat. Specific foods that are high in MUFAs—especially peanuts, tree nuts and olive oil—have been shown to keep blood sugar steady and reduce appetite, too.
Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)
How It Burns Fat: CLAs are potent fat burners that are found, along with vitamin D and calcium, in dairy products. They're fatty acids that are created when bacteria ferments the food in the first part of the stomach of cows, sheep and other ruminant animals. The CLA that's created through fermentation then makes its way into the meat and milk of these animals.
When we consume these foods, the CLA helps blood glucose enter body cells, so CLA can be burned for energy and not stored as fat. CLA also helps to promote fat burning, especially in muscles, where the bulk of our calorie burning takes place.
Note: There's a downside to this fat melter. Most of these studies involving CLA were performed using huge amounts of CLA—amounts that you'd only be able to consume if you ate 40 pounds of beef at once. (We don't know about you, but we certainly can't eat 40 pounds of beef for dinner.) While you might not be able to consume enough of it through food alone to melt off a huge amount of fat, you can consume enough of it to help nudge your metabolism into a fat-burning state. And when you add it to the other fat melters—especially vitamin D, calcium and protein—you'll create the perfect environment for total-body fat burning.
How They Melt Fat: Polyphenols are the antioxidants that give green tea its health-and metabolism-boosting punch. Research shows they boost resting metabolic rate by up to a whopping 17 percent, helping the body to burn more fat. One recent study done on rats found that EGCG, the polyphenol in green tea, blocked weight gain and prevented metabolic syndrome when rats were fed a high-fat diet.
You can actually feel this effect after you drink the tea. Your body will literally heat up as your cells waste calories as heat. Green tea is a great winter elixir for that reason. Drink a cup whenever you feel chilled and are tempted to eat even though you're not really that hungry. The tea will warm and soothe you, reducing hunger and cravings.