It’s safe to say that spending hours in the gym will only give you results if you practice clean eating. We spoke with Josh Axe, certified doctor of natural medicine, about eliminating fried and processed foods from the diet and incorporating more leafy greens and fruits. “While physical fitness is a major component of getting in shape, abs truly are made in the kitchen,” Axe said. “Adding these good-for-you foods to your diet can transform your body into a fat-burning machine — and even reap extra health benefits.”
This delicious, creamy nut butter is an ideal example of the perfect combination of protein and fat that will fill you up and keep you satisfied. A two-tablespoon serving of plain almond butter, with no added salt or sugar, clocks in at 196 calories, seven grams of protein, and about 18 grams of healthy fat. Pair your almond butter with a carbohydrate source such as whole wheat bread or a banana.
Eating fat to lose weight? Welcome to the misunderstood world of the avocado. “Many people trying to slim down steer clear of the fruit – yes, it’s a fruit – because avocados are high in fat,” Axe said. “What they don’t realize, however, is that avocados are actually fat fighters. They’re full of monounsaturated fats and studies have shown that diets high in those healthy fats have been found to burn more calories, even during a state of rest.” This means you can burn fat even when you’re not at the gym. That’s something most people can get behind. Axe recommends dipping veggies into guacamole, adding half an avocado to your breakfast smoothie, or even incorporating it into dessert, such as chocolate avocado mousse.
“Train like an Olympic athlete and start chugging beet juice to whittle away pounds,” Axe said. “Beets increase the amount of oxygen your blood carries to cells, while also reducing the amount of oxygen your muscles need to perform at their best. The result of all this additional oxygen? I means you’ll get an all-natural boost in endurance and stamina to pump out that extra set of reps and up your gym game.”
Axe recommends drinking beet juice if you are looking to reset your cravings after a weekend of indulgences. “This special juice contains the antioxidant betalain, and it can help rid blood of toxins, heavy metals, waste, and potentially, excess pounds,” he said. “Enjoy the benefits on a regular basis by drinking it between meals or adding it to your daily green juice.”
“The secret that makes chia seeds the number-one enemy of fat and flab is the amount of water they absorb — up to 10 times their own weight,” Axe told us. “This expansion prolongs hydration and improves nutrient absorption, meaning your body is able to extract more of the good stuff from the other foods you’re eating without making any drastic diet changes. It’s like eating a super vitamin with each meal.”
You may even be able to resist that afternoon cookie because chia’s high fiber levels also help you feel fuller for longer periods of time. Axe recommends adding chia seeds to your salad, using them to thicken soups, or starting your day with coconut chia protein pancakes.
“We’ve been told to avoid deep-fried foods and to blot excess oil off our pizzas, so it seems counterintuitive that we can actually lower the number on the scale by consuming more oil,” Axe said. “That’s exactly the case when it comes to coconut oil and you can thank medium-chain fatty acids, or MCFAs, for that. These fatty acids are easy for your body to digest, not readily stored as fat, and are processed by the liver, so they’re immediately converted to energy.”
What does this mean for your body fat? According to Axe, instead of the fat sticking to your hips, it burns off and takes plenty of extra pounds along with it.
“Seventy-five percent of our immune system lives in the digestive system, with a constant battle being waged between good and bad bacteria,” Axe said. “Eating probiotic-rich foods, such as kefir, means that good bacteria will win the war.” So what does this showdown mean for your weight-loss goals? According to Axe, consuming kefir on the regular keeps cells happy and healthy and continually detoxes the body of toxins and ingredients that promote inflammation and weight gain.
“A diet rich in probiotics helps regulate the systems in the body. This is a key factor in ensuring our metabolisms are running speedily and shedding pounds,” Axe said. “Kefir is naturally creamy and is an excellent substitute for yogurt or sour cream. You can even use it in your gluten-free cauliflower macaroni and cheese.”
“Medium-chain triglycerides doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but MCT oils are proving to be one of the most effective weight-loss aids available,” Axe said. “Coconut oil contains high amounts of the oil, but more concentrated forms are growing in popularity.”
MCT oil is also found in foods with saturated fats, such as grass-fed butter, cheeses, and whole milk. “MCTs are easily digested and sent almost immediately to your liver, where it’s burned as energy instead of being stored as fat,” Axe said. “MCTs increase satiety, helping you put that fork down earlier than normal. They also speed up your metabolism, helping you burn more calories while doing the same activities.”
Axe recommends whisking it into homemade salad dressings or using it in place of coconut oil in baked goods.
“When it comes to burning fat, protein is your not-so-secret weapon,” Axe said. “Filling up on this nutrient at every meal ensures that you stay fuller longer, thus decreasing cravings and causing your body to burn current fat stores. Additionally, adequate protein intake helps build and maintain lean muscle mass, so your body will turn to those pesky love handles for fuel — instead of your hard-won biceps.”
If you are thinking about incorporating different types of protein, salmon is a great alternative to red meat and poultry and it’s leaner and more nutrient-dense, too. “A three-ounce serving of wild salmon has half the fat and calories as a cheeseburger and seven grams more protein,” Axe said. “Salmon is also chock-full of omega-3s, which reduce weight-loss sabotaging inflammation, regulate blood clotting, and help prevent heart disease and stroke.”
Axe recommends choosing the wild-caught varieties of salmon, which have more nutrients and are leaner than farm-raised brands.