Thanks to certain scientifically-proven fat-burning ingredients and weight loss foods, smoothies can be rich, creamy, belly-flattening and muscle-building, ideal for your AM start, an afternoon energy lift, or a post-gym recovery drink. Here are 10 of the best fat-melting add-ins, a mix of starters, sweeteners and boosters, along with some of our favorite recipes.
It’s a dietary miracle: A fat that makes you skinny. Dietary supplementation of coconut oil actually reduced abdominal obesity in a study published in the journal Lipids. Of the participants, half were given two tablespoons of coconut oil daily and the other half were given soybean oil, and although both groups experienced overall weight loss, only the coconut oil group saw smaller waistlines. And other researchers have also pointed to the waist-whittling effects of the tropical oil. In a separate study of 30 men, those who ate 2 tablespoons of coconut oil a day shrank their waists by an average of 1.1 inches in one month. Thank C.O.’s medium-chain triglycerides, which are burned as energy instead of being stored as fat, and lauric acid, which has been shown to pinpoint belly fat and torch it.
The little waist-shrinking soldiers are an easy way to sweeten your smoothies—and one of the most effective fruits at burning fat. They’re loaded with polyphenols, naturally occurring chemicals which burn fat and can even prevent it from forming! In a Texas Women’s University study, mice who consumed berries had 73% less belly fat than those who didn’t. We love this healthy smoothie we dubbed “The Blue Monster”, which combines berries with a double pop of polyphenols courtesy of iced tea, along with brain-boosting, omega-3-rich flaxseeds.
In addition to lending any smoothie a delicious creaminess, Greek yogurt brims with muscle-building protein — about 20 grams in a 7-ounce cup. It has the one-two punch of vitamin D and calcium, which turns off cortisol, a stress hormone that causes the body to hang on to belly fat. Researchers at the University of Tennessee found that people who ate 18 ounces of Greek yogurt a day lost 22 percent more weight and 81 percent more belly fat than those who didn’t.
Kickstart your morning — and your metabolism — with this sweet spice. Japanese researchers found that mice who ate a daily helping of cinnamaldehyde (the ingredient that gives cinnamon its flavor) lost belly fat, while those who skipped the spice did not. A smoothie with added cinnamon will also help head off the 11 am hangries: It contains powerful antioxidants that keep blood sugar stable, preventing hunger-inducing spikes and crashes.
In addition to soothing an upset stomach, ginger can burn fat off your belly—it actually accelerates your metabolism. In a recent study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, Japanese researchers fed obese rats ginger extract and found that they had more energy, built more muscle and burned more fat. A separate study found that overweight men who drank a hot ginger beverage in the AM reported greater satiety and less hunger; the researchers also observed a spike in their metabolic rate.
Fat-burning smoothies don’t have to taste weak. To wit: savory almond butter, a protein powerhouse that builds fat-burning lean muscle. The tear-shaped nuts from which it’s made also contain a compound that limits the fat absorbed by the body. In fact, one study of overweight adults determined that eating around a quarter-cup of almonds for six months led to a 62 percent greater reduction in weight and body mass index than not eating the nuts. A separate study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association showed that eating just 1.5 ounces of almonds daily led to a reduction in belly and leg fat! We love combining almond butter with antioxidant-rich cacao powder, frozen banana and unsweetened almond milk for a peanut butter cup-inspired drink.
The leafy green is jam-packed with energy-boosting nutrients such as vitamin A, iron and folate. It can also reduce your appetite, thanks to natural compounds called thylakoids. Swedish researchers found that over three months, women who consumed a five-gram thylakoid supplement from spinach reported a 25 percent reduction in hunger and cravings and significantly more weight loss (11 pounds) than the control group! This protein shake is one of our favorite recipes for a lean, toned body.
Apples and greens are the Wonder Twins of smoothie ingredients; the apples add sweetness with minimal calories, along with a double shot of satiating fiber. In fact, they’re one of the very best fruit sources of fiber, which studies have shown are key to reducing belly fat. A recent study at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center found that for every 10-gram increase in fiber eaten per day, belly fat was reduced by 3.7 percent over five years! Apples are also high in pectin, which limits the amount of fat absorbed by the body.
A secret smoothie weapon, tea has been shown to boost metabolism, block the creation of new fat cells, and actually turn off fat genes. Green tea is particularly high in antioxidants like ECGC, the compound that burns fat and stops it from forming. Plus, its smooth taste makes any smoothie go down easy. Give this green tea smoothie spiked with matcha a shot; matcha is green tea supercharged with 137% more ECGC than its tea bag-brewed brother.
When you’re looking to maximize the protein content of a smoothie for a post-gym recovery drink or a meal replacement, stay away from whey protein, which can cause bloating and is often high in nasty artificial sweeteners. Plant based protein — which comes from sources such as rice, pea and hemp — offers muscle-building benefits without the pooch-producing qualities of whey. In fact, in a 2013 study published in Nutrition Journal, University of Tampa researchers found that rice protein was just as effective as whey in building muscle and strength among men who worked out frequently. We recommend blended plant proteins, which are combos of different plants that create a complete protein; Vega Sport and Sunwarrior are two of our favorite brands.