Add chili peppers to your diet

Five Foods That Fire Up Your Fat Burn

If there’s one goal that unites every dieter… it’s to burn extra calories without extra effort.

Is that even possible? Surprisingly, yes. And the secret is found right in your kitchen.

Today I’m going to tell you about five foods that can ignite your body’s thermal burn (aka: your metabolism) to help zap calories without you setting foot in the gym.

What are these wonder-foods? I’ll tell you in just a few.

But first, let me give you the 411 on metabolism. Whether you’re watching The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, or running the New York City Marathon, your body is working away, keeping your heart, lungs, kidneys, and every other process in your body going. That’s what we call metabolism, and keeping you alive uses energy, in the form of calories.

There’s also a special kind of metabolism, called the “thermic effect of food.” That’s the energy (calories) your body uses in order to take your chicken salad sandwich and digest, process and use it. So the net calories your body ends up with is actually less than the amount contained in the food.

Certain foods have a high thermic effect. They fuel your internal furnace just by working, and working hard, to get through the digestive process. And those, my friends, are the foods today’s post will focus on. What are the five foods I recommend you eat and drink often?

Grab a fork (and maybe a knife, spoon, and a cup too)… and read on…


Calorie-Kicking Food #1: Hot peppers

Cayenne pepper brings new meaning to turning up the heat in your food. A Purdue University study found that when people sprinkled one half-teaspoon of cayenne pepper on their food they sped up their metabolism, burning more calories after eating.1 Pepper also decreased appetite, especially for fatty, salty and sweet foods, in people who weren’t used to the spice.

Calorie-Kicking Food #2: Tea

Detoxify while losing weight with these potent antioxidantsTea is rich in polyphenols, potent antioxidants that detoxify cell-damaging free radicals in the body, and may also help you lose weight.

A large, long-term study in Taiwan found that those who drank at least one glass of black, green or oolong tea per week had 20 percent less body fat and two percent less abdominal fat than those who drank none. Since the results were independent of subjects’ physical activity, food intake, and other lifestyle habits, researchers concluded tea was the key to kicking up their metabolism.2

Tip: The longer you steep the tea, the more flavonoids you’ll get in your brew.

Calorie-Kicking Food #3: Vinegar

In my last post I told you about the fat-fighting effects of olive oil. Well vinegar appears to have some of the same effects. In one study out of Arizona State University, two teaspoons of vinegar with a meal effectively reduced postprandial glycemia (a highfalutin term that means the sugar rush you get after eating).3

Vinegar’s lip-puckering potency comes from acetic acid, which allows some sugars and starches to pass through to the intestines more slowly. So, you feel fuller longer, and are less tempted to raid your secret stash of leftover Halloween candy.

Calorie-Kicking Food #4: Lean beef

Chicken and fish get all the glory when it comes to weight loss. And while I’m not knocking either (see my next calorie-kicking food), lean beef should have a place on your diet plate too.

Beef contains the amino acid leucine, which helps you maintain more muscle as you lose weight. And beef takes a while to chew, maximizing your mealtime, and giving your stomach more time to register that it’s full, and help you eat less overall.

And, digesting protein uses more thermal-burn than carbs or fat (increasing your metabolism by a whopping 20 to 30 percent, compared to 5 to 10 percent for carbs, and a measly 5 percent for fat).

In other words, if you eat 200 calories of a high-protein food, your body will use 60 calories just to digest and process it! So your metabolism will still be on full throttle long after you swallow that last bite of steak.

Calorie-Kicking Food #5: Fatty fish

Muscle building foods that burn calories

You already know that fatty fish is good for heart health.

But did you also know that research has shown the omega-3s in fatty fish like salmon, anchovies, albacore tuna, sardines and lake trout help build muscle?4

And the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn all the time.

Remember I talked earlier about how your body works all day to keep your system running. Well, it takes more calories to maintain muscle than it does to maintain fat… translation: The more muscle you have, the more calories you’ll burn 24/7.

Is your mouth watering yet? Mine too! I love finding foods that not only taste great, but really work for you as well. Got any favorite foods that may help you lose weight? Tell me about them!

Steve Sisskind, M.D.

Hi, I'm Dr. Steve Sisskind, Chief Medical Officer & Founder at RealDose Nutrition.

As a young physician, I struggled because my patients came to me with serious health issues, but I didn't have the right tools to help them. Medical school taught me how to put "band aids" on their symptoms with drugs and surgery, but not how to address the root causes of their problems.

Years later I discovered a better approach... based on the fundamental idea that the power of nutrition can transform your health and vitality. But there's a lot of confusion... What foods should I eat? Which supplements should I take? What does the science say?

I have dedicated my life to answering these questions... And I share this knowledge with you every day here at RealDose Nutrition.

I invite you to connect with me by joining my free private community. I've helped thousands of people and I know I can help you too!

Join the Whole Body Club

Dr. Steve Sisskind is on a mission to help you achieve amazing health and vitality through the power of nutrition. Sign up to get access to his valuable health tips, recipes, videos, and discounts for FREE!

References:1. Ludy MJ, Mattes RD. The effects of hedonically acceptable red pepper doses on thermogenesis and appetite. Physiol Behav. 2011;102(3-4):251-258. PMID: 21093467.

2. Wu CH, Lu FH, Chang CS, Chang TC, Wang RH, Chang CJ. Relationship among habitual tea consumption, percent body fat, and body fat distribution. Obes Res. 2003;11(9):1088-1095. PMID: 12972679.

3. Johnston CS, Steplewska I, Long CA, Harris LN, Ryals RH. Examination of the antiglycemic properties of vinegar in healthy adults. Ann Nutr Metab. 2010;56(1):74-79. PMID: 20068289.

4. Smith GI, Atherton P, Reeds DN, et al. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids augment the muscle protein anabolic response to hyperinsulinaemia-hyperaminoacidaemia in healthy young and middle-aged men and women. Clin Sci. 2011;121(6):267-278. PMID: 21501117.

Check Also

Women sitting holding cheeseburger needs fiber

Appetite Troubles? Inulin Soluble Fiber Can Help

Raise your hand if you have ever experienced this… You wake up with fresh determination …


  1. I was wondering if you could send me an article you posted a couple months ago about a study that showed 3 different results when people were on a strict no carb diet, a calorie counting diet, and a diet where they did no carbs only 2 days a week. I would appreciate it. Thankyou, Karen G.

  2. How much apple cider vinegar to a tablespoon of honey?

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Karen,

      Thank you for writing in and for posting! The general rule would be 2 tablespoons ACV to 1 tablespoon Honey and diluted into 8 or 12 ounces of water. Make it a healthy day!

  3. I appreciate your approach. I was wondering about the effects of RealRed powder. I have candida and I wonder if that powder would be suitable for people who have candida? Always enjoy your information. Thank you for being here for us.

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Esther,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your concerns with us! Yes, RealReds can be taken as directed and with the recipe you love. However, if your infection is recurring or have had it for quite some time, you may want to speak to your doctor before adding any supplement to your diet. Hope this helps, Esther! Have a healthy day!

  4. Hi Dr,
    Is frozen veggies has the same benefits as fresh one?
    I always but the mix frozen bags from the super markets and steam them

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Cy,

      Thank you for writing in and for posting! it will highly depend on the kinds of vegetables you are referring to. Carrots, peas and the like freeze well and can be stored for months. Leafy greens, on the other hand, should be bought fresh. Most supermarket frozen vegetables are fine to steam. They are cooked gently and you get maximum effect, minus the empty calories. Hope this helps! Make it a healthy day!

  5. Interesting information I haven’t heard before, and I need to know more!
    I’d like to receive your advice on a regular basis.
    How do I do that?
    Terri K.

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Terri,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your thoughts with us! I am so happy that you have found our blogs informative and helpful. Please feel free to share with your friends and loved ones. Also, if you would like to get the latest articles or get in on our mailing list, click on the ” Join Our Whole Body Club ” and enter your email address. Make it a healthy day!

  6. It is worth noting that some people who are deficient in VitB need the injections. As you recommend, it is best to follow the doctor’s advice, and ask questions!

  7. Hi I’m taking levothyroxin 75mg daily is it true that they say you can’t lose weight know matter have hard you workout? Because of low thyroid? I’ll been working out alot an only lost maybe two pounds then gain it back again it’s been a struggle for me any suggestions please!!!

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Sheila,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your story with us! A sick thyroid may make losing weight seem difficult but it is still quite possible. It is important that you start with making small healthy changes, which you know you can incorporate and maintain your daily routine. Small changes such as getting more fresh vegetables into your diet, lean protein from skinless turkey or chicken breast, fish, and even good cuts of pork. Stay away from processed foods and sodas too. Lastly it is important to always work closely with your doctor and be sure to keep him updated on your progress or of any changes you observe. This way, he will not only be able to see your progress but also advise you on other changes you may need to do to stay on track. Hope this helps! Make it a healthy day!

  8. Jeanne Strausz

    Where can I buy Apple Cider Vinegar – with Mother?

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Jeanne,

      Thank you for writing in and for posting your question! Apple Cider Vinegar with mother is widely available in most supermarkets and grocery stores. You can look for them in the condiments aisle or ask the store’s customer rep to help you out. Hope this helps! Make it a healthy day!

      • What’s the difference in all apple cider vinegers

      • Dr. Steve Sisskind

        Hi Annie,

        Thank you for writing in and for sharing your concerns with us! Apple Cider Vinegar is pretty much made the same way. However, the mother may or may not be included in some and other name brands choose to package their products differently. Hope this helps! Have a healthy day!

  9. Dr. Sisskind – With regard to the befits of black tea, is orange pekoe considered black tea, and is there a certain name of black tea type that is best? Also, with regard to cider and honey, should someone concerned with daily sugar and carbohydrate intake and count be careful about taking honey on a daily basis? Thank you. I love your columns

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Alan,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your concerns with us! orange pekoe is the highest grade of Black tea. Teas have a grading system which range form Dust, Fanning to Orange Pekoe being of the highest quality. The tea leaves of the Camelia family is the kind of black tea you want as it has a good amount of antioxidants in them, although other blended tea varieties also have their own health benefits. As for honey, yes, you should always be careful of how much you use as you still run the risk of having too much. A heaping tablespoon or two is allowed for those on a diet or watching their carbohydrate intake. Hope this helps! Make it a healthy day!

  10. Thank you for the info

  11. What is ‘mother’ in the vinegar. …I have never seen this.. also.. have had recomendations of adding olive oils as well..any thoughts here..thanks

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi I West,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your concerns with us! Yes, olive oil is a great addition to any diet and I do recommend that you use them for salad dressings, marinades and for cooking too. The “mother” in some Apple Cider Products are the friendly bacteria and enzymes produced during fermentation. They give off a cloudy appearance at the bottom of the bottle after long standing. Hope this help! Make it a healthy day!

  12. Dr.I am 68. I have dull pain through out the body with stiff joint and muscles ligament. All blood reports are Normal,including Arthritis test.. Before taking a medicine , I walk like turtle or duck. LO l. with the sound,of Ah and oh.. After taking Tar…….dol, I am like a football player. My concern is …long time addiction, with no good prognosis.

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Nutschii,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your concerns with us! I completely understand your concerns and do feel some of the aches and pains every so often. I find that fish oil does help with my joint health but I cannot say the same for the other kinds of pain. You may want to talk to your doctor about your concern as they need to assess your kind of pain. It may not be more than the usual wear and tear but could take time to heal and may need to be addressed directly. Hope this helps! Make it a healthy day!

  13. Apple Cider Vinegar with raw honey. Has little stronger taste, In morning before breakfast I use a two spoon of fresh lemon (fresh lemon cut from long way into 6 equal pieces, keep it into a paper towel and keep it in refrigerator) into a boiled hot water,plus add a spoon of pollen grain Honey. Eat breakfast after 1 hour.

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Nutschiii,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your morning drink recipe! It sounds like a great way to start the day. I am eager to give this one a try. Again, I thank you for sharing! Make it a healthy day!

  14. How can I lose 10 pounds in a week?

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Patricia,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your concerns with us! It would be so easy to say that to lose 10 pounds in a week, you would only have to cut back on your food intake and exercise more. However, I do not recommend that you do so and much less, encourage you to lose that much weight in such a small time frame. A healthy rate of weight lose is 1 to 2 pounds per week. That said, to lose 10 pounds, I do suggest you adapt a healthy eating plan and active lifestyle to help you burn more calories and make you drop the weight slowly and gradually. Hope this helps! Make it a healthy day!

  15. You mentioned in your article about the thermic effect of foods. I was wondering how smoothies/protein shakes affected this thermic effect. I eat a smoothie/protein shake every morning for breakfast. I usually consists of avocado, some fruit, greens (usually spinach but sometimes kale) chia and flax seed, cacao beans or cocoa powder, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, zeal protein powder, zeal wellness formula and water. Since I am putting this in a blender and chopping it up, am I reducing the thermic effect of these foods?

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Michele,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your concerns with us! No, not necessarily, you will not affect the thermic effect of your individual food ingredients when you blitz them in a smoothie. You may reduce the process of chewing but the food components themselves will still take time to be completely digested and absorbed. Blending your food will only make it convenient and easier for you to take on the road but they will still take the same amount of time to be fully broken down and absorbed in your digestive tract. Hope this helps! Make it a healthy day!

  16. Hi Dr. Steve recently I went for a blood test , my Dr called me and said that my vitamins B12 and D and also my iron levels are very low he mentioned that he needs to give me an ingection of B12 vitamins, if I don’t want to get the shot what’s the best way to get this vitamins through the vegetables fruits what is the best ones to eat ? Any other tips will be appreciated thanks

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Emma,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your concerns with us! Colored fruits and vegetables are packed full of nutrient and vitamins.The trick is to eat them fresh to get the most amount of vitamin and enzymes. However, before getting started I do ask that your first speak with your doctor. I do defer to the wisdom of your doctor as he might have good reason to recommend vitamin injections for you. Hope this helps! Make it a healthy day!

      • Thanks Dr Steve for your interesting blogs!

        Regarding VitB12 injections, if pernicious anemia is diagnosed, the best/correct way to obtain this essential vitamin is in an injection
        (over a three month period). First and
        foremost, check with your GP for the diagnosis.

        your GP, ask questions. Good luck.

    • Dark raisins are a good source of iron, and avoid black tea it take iron out of you.

  17. I am intrigued about taking two teaspoons of vinegar as a “calorie-kicking food”. What kind of vinegar works best? And should you take it prior to eating, during, or after? Any other tips would be appreciated. Thanks!

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Kimberly,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your concerns with us! Apple Cider Vinegar- with Mother and a tablespoon of raw honey is my drink of choice. Now that Summer is around the corner, I also add a few slices of lemon and plenty of ice. You can take it any time of day and even with your meals. I suggest making a big batch and keep them refrigerated. So much better than soda! Make it a healthy day!

    • bragg’s apple cider vinegar … organic

  18. Good stuff… Thanks for the helping information…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *