The Best Foods That Burn Calories

Boost Weight Loss Results With Better Food Choices

Salmon skewers

Gabriel Bucataru / Stocksy United

You already know that a good workout can burn calories. And you might even boost your step count during the day to burn calories and slim down. But did you know that there are also foods that burn calories?

Everything that you do during the day burns calories, including eating. But eating some foods can burn more calories than others. And the best calorie-burning foods provide other nutritional and weight-loss benefits as well.

How Food Burns Calories

When you eat food, you consume calories or energy. But you also need the energy to carry out the eating process. Chewing, digesting and storing food require your body to burn calories. Scientists call it the thermic effect of food or TEF. 

TEF or the thermic effect of food is a primary component of your total daily energy expenditure or TDEE. That's the total number of calories that you burn throughout the day

So how much more can you burn with the best calorie-burning foods? Unfortunately, not many. The calories you burn from eating and digesting food make up about 10% of your daily calorie expenditure. 

That means that if you burn 2000 calories per day, you burn about 100 to 200 of those calories from eating food, roughly 30 to 75 calories per meal, regardless of the foods you choose. You might be able to boost the number a little bit with better food choices.

And there are other benefits as well. Many of the best foods that burn calories are also foods that provide smart nutrition. They provide vital macro and micronutrients to help your body feel and look better. They help you to feel full and satisfied and they allow you to consume more food for fewer calories—a game-changer when it comes to weight loss.

What to Eat

While you burn calories digesting any food, there are some foods that burn more calories than others.

When you eat a meal that is high in protein, you burn more calories from TEF than when you eat a meal that is high in carbohydrates or high in fat.

Simply put, your body has to work harder to break down and store protein than it does to break down and store carbohydrates and fat.

Foods with protein can also help your body burn more calories by helping you to build and maintain muscle. If you participate in strength training activities, you'll build muscle more effectively if you eat the right amount of protein. If your body carries more muscle, you burn more calories all day long.

So, which protein foods are best for your diet? A single-serving (about three ounces) of these lean protein foods can provide a calorie-burning boost and other nutritional benefits:

  • Chicken
  • Tuna
  • Lean cuts of beef
  • Turkey
  • Salmon
  • Lean Pork

Your body also has to work harder to chew and digest fiber. Also known as "roughage," foods with fiber can relieve indigestion and promote good digestive health. When you choose a side dish to serve with your protein, consider adding foods that are full of fiber.

Radishes, celery, hearts of palm, and white beans are great examples. And spicy vegetables might help to burn more calories, too. Some evidence suggests that eating spicy food can (slightly) boost your body temperature to burn more calories. 

When you combine protein foods with fiber-rich food, you help to ​curb hunger cravings for hours after you eat, complementing the thermic effect of the snack or meal.

So, not only do these foods burn calories but they also help you to eat less and consume fewer calories throughout the day.

A Word From Verywell

Choosing foods to burn calories can make a small difference in your weight loss plan, but it won't make or break your diet. The thermic effect of food is an important part of your total caloric expenditure, but trying to change it is not the most effective way to lose weight.

However, if the increased TEF of protein serves as a reminder to build healthy meals around lean protein, then your weight loss program may benefit in the long run. Choose weight loss foods and plan meals that help to keep you energized and satisfied. A nutritious, calorie-controlled diet will provide the best results.

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3 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Du S, Rajjo T, Santosa S, Jensen MD. The thermic effect of food is reduced in older adultsHorm Metab Res. 2014;46(5):365–369. doi:10.1055/s-0033-1357205

  2. Pesta DH, Samuel VT. A high-protein diet for reducing body fat: mechanisms and possible caveatsNutr Metab (Lond). 2014;11(1):53. doi:10.1186/1743-7075-11-53

  3. Morozov S, Isakov V, Konovalova M. Fiber-enriched diet helps to control symptoms and improves esophageal motility in patients with non-erosive gastroesophageal reflux diseaseWorld J Gastroenterol. 2018;24(21):2291–2299. doi:10.3748/wjg.v24.i21.2291

Additional Reading
  • Cedric B, Green DJ, Merril S. Thermic Effect of Food. American Council on Exercise Health Coach Manual. 2013: 228-229