Protein Foods: Foods high in protein like whey protein, grass-fed beef, wild-caught fish or free-range chicken require more energy for the body to break down than foods lower in protein. They’re also beneficial for reducing hunger or cravings and maintaining lean muscle mass, especially as you get older and naturally lose some every decade. If your goal is to lose weight, I recommend consuming half your body weight in grams of protein a day. For those seeking to burn fat and build muscle, aim to consume 0.7 to a gram per pound of body weight (for example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should get 75 to 150 grams per day).
If you thought losing weight would mean giving up all your indulgences, look no further than dark chocolate. Louisiana State University researchers found that gut microbes in our stomach ferment chocolate and boost our body's production of gut-healthy polyphenolic compounds, including butyrate, a fatty acid that encourages the body to burn fat as fuel and turns off genes linked to inflammation. (Add fruit to the chocolate to boost fermentation and the release of the compounds.) Make sure you go with chocolate that has a cacao content of 70 percent or above—these have the highest concentrations of antioxidant polyphenols.
Some cheat meals are better than others. And a high-carbohydrate, moderate-protein meal, however "naughty," can help you stay on track. The reason: Carbohydrates have the greatest influence on leptin levels, which help you burn fat and feel satisfied. And protein has the greatest influence on satiety because of its influence on appetite-regulating hormones and high thermic effect—the process of digesting protein requires more energy of your body than any other macronutrient. So, go ahead and grab a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs. Contrary to popular belief, pasta is actually a fairly low-glycemic food, meaning it won't drastically spike your blood sugar levels.
Say cheese! Adding some extra calcium and vitamin D to your diet could be the best way to get the flat stomach you've been dreaming about. Over just 12 months, researchers at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville found that obese female study subjects who upped their calcium intake shed 11 pounds of body fat without other major dietary modifications. To keep your calcium choices healthy, try mixing it up between dairy sources, calcium-rich leafy greens, fatty fish, nuts, and seeds.
While few would suggest you start hitting up the tanning beds for better health, getting some natural sunlight can help you get rid of belly fat in a matter of weeks. Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center found that vitamin D-deficient overweight women between 50 and 75 who upped their intake of the so-called sunshine vitamin shed more weight and body fat than those who didn't. To practice safe sun, make sure you're limiting yourself to 15 sunscreen-free minutes per day.
If you've got weight to lose and you want it gone fast, try swapping out your usual proteins in favor of fish. Not only is fish lower in calories than an equivalent amount of beef or chicken, a study published in Obesity reveals study subjects who added omega-3 fatty acids, like those found in fish, to their diets shed more weight and had an easier time keeping it off than those who skipped them.