Want to lose weight fast? The solution is simple: Eat more. Although that may sound counterintuitive, there’s some sound food combination science behind the recommendation. But before you get too excited and double-up on ice cream and cookies, realize this food pairing trick does have some caveats.
To burn belly fat, you’ll need to pair the right foods together on one plate. Thanks to their complementary nutrients, all the mighty duos below either fry fat, beat bloat, or ignite your metabolism. Why consume just one better-body food when you can eat two and double your weight loss efforts?
Nut Butter + Banana
Carb pairing is a simple premise: eat a carb and protein at every meal. Why? Pairing healthy sources of protein and healthy complex carbs does more than aid with muscle recovery post-workout. It also keeps you fuller longer. Both protein and healthy fats slow your body’s digestion of sugars, helping to keep your blood sugar from spiking. In this pairing, bananas are your source of carbohydrates and peanut butter is your source of protein and fat.
Spinach + Lemon Juice
Whether you squeeze a lemon over your sautéed spinach or add some juice to your morning smoothie, this dynamic duo is going to do wonders for your health. Why? Lemons are a source of vitamin C, while spinach is a vegetarian source of non-heme iron. To increase the bioavailability of the dietary iron in the spinach, you have to add vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid). Vitamin C enhances iron absorption, according to the International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research.
Bell Peppers + Eggs
Grab a pepper and a few eggs, and get crackin’! This mighty fat-frying duo is sure to help you fit into your skinny jeans in no time. Eggs contain a metabolism-boosting nutrient called choline, and peppers are a good source of vitamin C. What does vitamin C have to do with weight loss? Getting an adequate amount of the nutrient can help fight off cortisol, a hormone that causes fat to accumulate around the midsection. Chop some peppers, add them to a hot pan with some olive oil, add in two or three eggs and scramble them up to stay slim.
Oatmeal + Berries
If you’re trying to lose weight, oatmeal topped with berries is another delicious fat-frying breakfast option you might want to consider. What makes the duo so powerful? They each contain insoluble fiber which, according to Canadian researchers, boosts levels of ghrelin—a hormone that controls hunger. Plus, berries are packed with chemicals called polyphenols that aid weight loss and can actually stop fat from forming. Adding this meal to your weekly repertoire is sure to help you see your six-pack before swimsuit season. And, believe us, the cook time is worth it.
Honeydew + Red Grapes
Fight fat and banish bloating with a fruit salad comprised of honeydew and red grapes. Melon is a natural diuretic, so it helps fight the water retention responsible for making you look puffy even though you have a toned stomach. Red grapes add fuel to the better-belly fire because they contain an antioxidant called anthocyanin that helps calm the action of fat-storage genes. This dynamic duo makes for a delicious, healthy dessert and is sure to turn your two-pack into a six-pack—stat!
Pistachios + Almonds
While a snack mix comprised of cereal and pretzels may taste good, it’s not going to give you that tight stomach you crave. Ditch the starchy carbs and replace them with a combination of pistachios and almonds. According to researchers, reaching for these nuts in lieu of carbohydrate-based foods can help speed the rate of weight loss. More good news: A study printed in The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that the amino acid L-arginine, found in almonds, helps the body burn more fat and carbs during workouts, too. So while you’re doubling down on the workouts before spring break, make sure your diet is doing double duty, too!
Yogurt + Cinnamon
You’ve almost reached your weight loss goal, but those last few pounds seem to be holding on for dear life. Ditch the last bit of flab with a daily dose of vitamin D-fortified yogurt (we like Stonyfield Organic). A Nutrition Journal study found that diets rich in both calcium and vitamin D can significantly decrease the amount of fat the body absorbs and stores.
Why should you add a sprinkle of cinnamon to your container, you ask? Not only does it taste great, but it also contains powerful antioxidants that improve body composition and insulin sensitivity. Animal studies have also found that consuming cinnamon can ward off the accumulation of belly chub. Enjoy this tasty duo as a quick, on-the-go breakfast or an afternoon snack. Just make sure you’re choosing a pot with more protein than sugar.
Leafy Greens + Olive Oil
If your monster appetite is making it difficult for you to trim down, consider making a sautéed side dish or salad with some olive oil and kale. How will eating these foods help you slim down? Not only is olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats that help ward off hunger, and high-volume, low-calorie greens like kale help fill you up without filling you out.
But, the combination of healthy fat with vitamin-rich greens is essential for your body to absorb those fat-soluble vitamins. Vitamin K, in particular, is found in high levels in kale. Vitamin K is necessary to boost cell growth, blood circulation, and bone strength. The thing is, you need the fat from the olive oil to reap all these body-boosting benefits.
Bananas + Spinach
Slightly green bananas are rich in something called resistant starch. This type of starch not only boosts satiety but also—as the name implies—resists digestion. The result: the body has to work harder to digest the food, which promotes fat oxidation and reduces abdominal fat. What’s more, bananas are rich in potassium, a nutrient that helps banish pesky bloat that can make you look less trim and fit than you actually are.
Pair this mighty fruit with spinach, a low-cal veggie that boosts satiety and aids post-pump recovery, to create a fat-frying smoothie in just seconds. Simply throw a small banana, two handfuls of spinach, and a cup of organic 1% or carrageenan-free almond milk into a blender with a couple ice cubes, blend and enjoy!
Tuna + Ginger
Want to look slim and fit on the beach? Look no further than the ocean—or at least the beachside sushi joint. Pairing a tuna roll or a few pieces of tuna sashimi with ginger, the oft-overlooked pickled spice that comes on your plate, can help your abs shine through. Ginger accelerates gastric emptying, which helps diminish that “food baby” look more rapidly than other foods, and it also blocks several genes and enzymes in the body that promote bloat-causing inflammation.
Tuna’s role on this team is important, too; it’s a prime source of docosahexaenoic acid, a type of omega-3 fat that can ward off stress chemicals that promote flab storage and down-regulate fat genes in the stomach, stopping belly fat cells from growing larger.
Apples + Watermelon
All fruits are healthy, but some fight fat better than others. And when you put the best of the best together in one simple fruit salad, you’ve got yourself a solid defense against health-harming flab. Apples are one of the very best sources of fiber in the fruit kingdom—and the nutrient is integral to reducing visceral fat. In fact, a Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center study found that over five years, for every 10-gram increase in soluble fiber eaten per day, visceral fat diminished by 3.7 percent.
Watermelon, which is one of our best fruits for fat loss, adds fuel to the waist-whittling fire by improving lipid profiles and lowering fat accumulation. This dynamic duo makes for a delicious, healthy dessert or anytime snack, and is sure to turn your two-pack into a six-pack—stat!
Corn + Beans
While eating something that can make your belly bloated may not sound like the best way to lose weight, it’s actually a solid strategy. Eating a calorie-restricted diet that includes two daily servings of protein- and fiber-rich legumes aids weight loss more effectively than a calorie-equivalent diet that doesn’t include beans, a study in Arya Atherosceloris says. Besides tasting delicious, pairing beans with corn can help boost the slimming effects.
Corn, like bananas, contains resistant starch, a type of carb that dodges digestion. In turn, the body isn’t able to absorb as many of the corn’s calories or glucose, a nutrient that’s stored as fat if it’s not burned off, aiding weight loss efforts. To reap the benefits, create a tasty corn and bean side dish. Combine salt- and BPA-free cans of corn and beans in a saucepan and warm over medium heat. Season with ground pepper and cilantro.
Add the mixture to greens for a waist-trimming salad, use it as a flavorful topper for grilled chicken, or load the mixture into a toasted whole-grain pita pocket for a quick, on-the-go lunch.
Potatoes + Pepper
Thanks to the popularity of low-carb diets, white potatoes have been unfairly blacklisted. However, a second look at the science reveals that the spuds are actually powerful hunger tamers that can help you lose weight. In fact, Australian researchers found that potatoes are actually more filling than fiber-rich brown rice and oatmeal! The root vegetable is also a good source of bloat-banishing potassium, so they can help you look slimmer almost immediately.
But, just because potatoes are a go doesn’t mean your favorite high-cal toppings also have the green light. We’re looking at you, bacon bits! Our suggestion: Enjoy half a baked potato with a bit of olive oil and fresh pepper instead. Piperine, the powerful compound that gives black pepper its taste, may interfere with the formation of new fat cells—a reaction known as adipogenesis—which can help trim your waist, zap body fat and lower cholesterol levels. It’s a triple win!
Yogurt + Raspberries
Ditch that layer of cold-weather chub with a slimming bowl of yogurt and berries. Consuming a combination of calcium and vitamin D—what’s typically found in a tub of vitamin D-fortified yogurt—can significantly decrease belly chub and fat absorption in overweight populations, a Nutrition Journal study found.
To get similar results at home, start your day with some plain 2% yogurt and top it with fiber-packed raspberries. The fruit is a great source of insoluble fiber that boosts levels of ghrelin—a hormone that controls hunger. Plus, berries are packed with chemicals called polyphenols that aid weight loss and can actually stop fat from forming. Enjoy this tasty duo as a quick breakfast or afternoon snack.
Garlic + Fish
Fish host long chains of omega-3 fatty acids, which help to lower triglycerides and reduce inflammation. They’re also great sources of muscle-building protein, and the more muscle you have on your body, the higher your metabolic rate. Throw garlic into the mix, and you have a lethal weapon for fighting belly fat.
According to a study published in the journal Nutrition Research and Practice, women who ingested 80 milligrams of garlic extract a day for 12 weeks lost weight and reduced their BMI significantly.
Cayenne + Chicken
Turn up the heat on your belly bulge by flavoring your chicken with a dash of cayenne powder. Protein-rich foods like poultry not only boost satiety, but also help people burn fat meals, according to a study by the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. In fact, the macro increased post-meal thermogenesis by 100 percent!
If you thought it couldn’t get much better than that, think again! Researchers say that chili pepper can also help blast away stubborn belly fat! If you ask us, there’s no better reason to sprinkle some onto your chicken before it hits the grill.
White Tea + Lemon
Who needs Spanx when you can sip on a powerful brew? White tea works in three distinct ways to help strip away fat from your body. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism showed that white tea can simultaneously boost lipolysis (the breakdown of fat) and block adipogenesis (the formation of fat cells). Then, add some lemon to your tea to boost your Vitamin C intake.
Participants boosted fat burning by as much as 30 percent during a workout when they had adequate levels of vitamin C, according to one study. If there’s such a thing as a muffin-top-melting tea, this is it.
Raspberries + Walnuts
In a European Journal of Endocrinology study, researchers discovered that those whose diets were supplemented with insoluble fiber had higher levels of ghrelin, a hormone that controls hunger. And a cup of these little ruby jewels has 8 grams of fiber! Insoluble fiber helps feed the healthy bacteria in your gut, triggering the production of a fatty acid that reduces inflammation throughout your body.
Pairing these fat-burning bullets with good polyunsaturated fats, like those found in walnuts, activate genes that reduce fat storage and improve insulin metabolism. At about 13 grams per one-ounce serving, walnuts are one of the best dietary sources of those fats.
Pepitas + Greens
Pepita is the Spanish term for pumpkin seed, and if you consider them just jack o’lantern innards, you’re in for a treat. One ounce of seeds has eight grams of protein — more than an egg or almonds—and is rich in flat-belly nutrients like fiber, zinc, and potassium, which are key to muscle building and recovery. Sprinkle them in salads for any extra flat-belly fiber punch.
Sweet Potatoes + Greek Yogurt
When it comes to weight loss, fat burning, and fitness fuel, few foods are more powerful than yogurt. Why opt for Greek over regular? For one, Greek yogurt provides up to double the protein of regular yogurt for the same amount of calories, making it more satiating.
Sweet potatoes, on the other hand, are the king of slow-digesting carbs, keeping you feeling fuller and energized longer. Among the magic ingredients here are carotenoids, antioxidants which stabilize blood-sugar levels and lower insulin resistance, which prevents calories from being converted into fat. Use a dollop of Greek yogurt in place of sour cream for the combo’s fat-frying effects.
Water + Citrus Fruit
You see it sitting there every time you’re sitting around waiting for a massage. Spa water—a pitcher of ice water with sliced whole lemons, oranges or grapefruit—is a great substitute for sugary beverages. The citrus peels add d-limonene, a powerful antioxidant that stimulates liver enzymes, helping to rid the body of toxins and flush fat from your system.
Dark Chocolate + Apples
Dark chocolate is more than a blissful dessert—it’s heavenly for your waistline. A recent study found that the antioxidants in cocoa prevented laboratory mice from gaining excess weight and actually lowered their blood sugar levels. A separate study at Louisiana State University found that gut microbes in our stomach ferment chocolate into heart-healthy, anti-inflammatory compounds that shut down genes linked to insulin resistance and inflammation.
To enhance the effects, try pairing your chocolate (at least 70% cacao) with some apple slices. The fruit speeds up your gut’s fermentation process, leading to an even greater reduction in inflammation and weight.
Ricotta + Berries
According to the Nutrition Institute at the University of Tennessee, consuming calcium-rich foods like ricotta can help your body metabolize fat more efficiently. Top it with berries, which contain polyphenols, powerful natural chemicals that can help you lose weight–and even stop fat from forming.
In fact, in a recent Texas Woman’s University study, researchers found that feeding mice three daily servings of berries decreased the formation of fat cells by up to 73 percent! Mash 1 cup of berries and let them marinate in their own juices for an hour, then spoon them on top of ricotta for a belly-slimming dessert.
Chickpeas + Olive Oil
You might not think of these little beige bullets as a superfood, but it’s time to start. High in nutrients and soluble fiber, chickpeas are a prime weight-loss weapon, increasing feelings of satiety by releasing an appetite-suppressing hormone called cholecystokinin. And, they blend flawlessly with extra virgin olive oil (hello hummus!), which may increase blood levels of serotonin, a hormone associated with satiety.
Cucumber + Apple Cider Vinegar
Cucumbers are about 95 percent water. Not only will they hydrate you, but they also boost your weight-loss efforts thanks to their H2O content and low calorie count. One medium-sized cuke contains only about 45 calories, so you can chomp away guilt-free, but alone they can be kind of a bore. For added flavor and fat-frying, try drizzling them with apple cider vinegar, which has been shown to “switch on” genes that release proteins that break down fat.
In a study of 175 overweight Japanese men and women, researchers found that participants who drank 1 or 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar daily for 12 weeks significantly lowered their body weight, BMI, visceral fat, and waist circumference.
Hot Sauce + Eggs
Hot sauce is rich in capsaicin, a compound that’s proven to suppress appetite and boost thermogenesis—the body’s ability to burn fat as energy. A well-cited study by Canadian researchers found that when men ate appetizers with hot sauce (which has zero calories per teaspoon), they ate about 200 fewer calories at later meals than those that did not. Drizzle this fiery condiment over eggs, and fat will sizzle. Eggs are great sources of the weight loss weapon arginine.
Researchers found that administering the amino acid to obese women over 12 weeks resulted in a 7-cm average reduction in waist size and a 6.5-pound average weight loss, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements.
Black Bean Chips + Guacamole
Yes, you read that right; you have our permission to eat chips—so long as they are the nutrient-packed variety. We like Beanitos Black Bean Chips because they pack in more protein and fiber than a “regular” crisp. To boost the staying power of your snack, pair the sea salt-sprinkled treats with a 100-calorie pack of guac. Avocado—the primary ingredient in guacamole—packs healthy monounsaturated fats that contain oleic acid, which helps quiet feelings of hunger.
Sprouted Raisin Bread + Peanut Butter
Though this creamy and sweet combination tastes indulgent, nutritionally it’s anything but. The raisins in Ezekiel bread provide natural sweetness, which helps nip sugar craving in the bud, while the vitamin B6 and manganese-rich whole grains help boost your mood, making it ideal for afternoon slump snack attacks.
The nut butter contributes hunger-busting healthy fats and a solid hit of waist-whittling meat-free protein. To keep excess pounds at bay, be sure to buy varieties free of health-harming hydrogenated oils and added sugar.
Whole Wheat Crackers + Tuna
Unlike the majority of crackers you’ll find in the grocery store, Triscuit’s Baked Whole Grain variety is made with just three ingredients, of which fiber-rich whole-grain wheat is the most abundant. Low-cost, protein-rich tuna makes for a tasty cracker addition and is a solid source of docosahexaenoic acid. This type of omega-3 down-regulates fat genes in the stomach, preventing fat cells from growing larger and keeping you on track toward your trim-down goal.
Baby Carrots + Hummus
In addition to providing healthy fat, fiber, and weight-loss fueling protein to your plate, this savory duo is packed with belly-filling water, vitamin A (which helps the body synthesize protein), and magnesium, a mineral that helps boost lipolysis, a process by which your body releases fat from its stores. If you tend to snack away from home, look for single-serving hummus containers, and throw your veggies into a plastic snack bag to reap the benefits on the go.
Apples + Peanut Butter
Crunchy, filling (thanks to their high water and fiber content) and packed with nutrients, apples are one of the best weight loss fruits around. Smearing on all-natural peanut butter adds a creamy texture and slow-digesting, heart-healthy monounsaturated fats to the equation, which keeps your belly satiated until your next meal.
Bonus: Peanuts are a top source of genistein and resveratrol, two nutrients that help diminish the action of fat-storage genes.