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Losing weight and belly fat is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight after you stop drinking soda. After all, it took time and probably quite a bit of bad eating habits to accumulate the weight and fat you’d like to lose. Similarly, it will take healthier eating habits over time to return your body to a healthier state.

Although slow and steady often wins this race, nutrition experts and clinical research suggest that certain habits can speed up fat burning by a) reducing the calories you eat and b) increasing your metabolism. It is up to you to turn these tasks into a pattern for life. Read on, and for more, don’t miss the 6 best foods to lose belly fat and slow aging.

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The fat you most want to attack through healthier eating habits is called visceral fat. This is the fat that sits deep in your abdomen, dangerously surrounding critical organs like the liver and pancreas. To research shows that visceral fat secretes biochemicals that can cause metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. But you can find a visceral fat-burning enemy in the crisper drawer of your fridge: dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, arugula and cabbage.

A study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests that eating plenty of non-starchy, dark-colored vegetables like these greens is associated with lower visceral abdominal fat as well as fat inside the liver. These dark leafy greens are superfoods because they’re low in calories — about 10-15 calories per cup — and packed with lots of nutrients like vitamin K, magnesium, folate, calcium, vitamin C, and mostly fiber. intractable, according to Eatthis.com medical review board member and registered dietitian Lisa Moskovitz, RD, CDNthe CEO of The NY Nutrition Group.

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Caffeine is a well-known stimulant for increasing alertness, cognitive function, and metabolism, the latter of which may aid in weight loss. You’ve probably felt the rush of nervous energy after drinking an espresso. It’s your heart rate and your metabolism speeding up.

Now, a little study in a 2021 issue of the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition suggests that a caffeine booster increases fat burning when combined with exercise. When researchers gave male participants caffeine equal to the amount of a cup of strong coffee 30 minutes before a morning and evening workout, men who consumed caffeine experienced a “significant increase body fat oxidation rate” compared to taking a placebo. Note: Avoid sugar and creams, which add more calories than you burn.

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Many teas contain caffeine, but one type has a particularly powerful fat burner called epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG for short. Present in abundance in green tea, this catechin has been shown in studies to help you burn more calories even at rest, leading to weight loss, says Eatis.com Medical Review Board Member and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN. Research in the Nutrition review demonstrated that obese adults who drank a caffeinated beverage containing green tea catechins burned more abdominal fat during exercise than obese adults who drank a placebo containing caffeine but no green tea extract.

RELATED: Secret Effects Of Drinking Green Tea, According To Science

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Here’s a tip that can help stave off hunger pangs while building muscle: When you eat carbs, make it a habit to combine them with a source of protein, suggests a registered dietitian. Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, a member of the Eathis.com Medical Review Board. Protein is digested more slowly, so you’ll feel full longer after a meal, which can translate to fewer calories consumed overall. Additionally, protein (eggs, nuts, jerky, fish, beans, legumes, and dairy) keeps the carbs you eat from quickly turning into glucose, which speeds through your bloodstream, thereby raising your blood sugar.

“If you eat carbs alone, they can spike your blood sugar, drop it later, and set you up for an energy crash,” Goodson says. The other reason you want to eat protein with every meal is because it’s the building block for muscle growth and muscle is more metabolically active than fat, allowing your body to burn more calories even when you are at rest.

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It’s a good habit for boosting fat burning for a number of reasons. First of all, water is essential if you want your organs to function optimally. Second, staying well hydrated can help you consume fewer calories. A glass of water before a meal fills your stomach like an appetizer soup would, helping to satisfy hunger but without the calories. And often we are fooled by the feeling of hunger.

“Sometimes thirst can come across as hunger,” says Eatthis.com medical review board adviser Toby Amidor, MS, RDdietitian and bestselling author Diabetes Build Your Plate Meal Prep Cookbook. “Sipping water throughout the day can help keep you hydrated and ward off hunger and cravings.”

Even bringing water into your body can increase metabolism. In a study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolismresearchers found that 60 minutes after both male and female participants drank about 2 cups of water, they increased their energy expenditure by 30%.

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Eating more vegetables and less meat is a great habit for health as well as weight loss. But that doesn’t mean you have to go full vegan to reap the benefits. Make a habit of cooking one dinner a week without meat and focus on plant-based protein. A University of Copenhagen study found that plant-based protein satisfied hunger even more than pork and veal meals and made people full. Additionally, the researchers also found that participants who ate a high-protein vegetarian meal consumed 12% fewer calories at their next meal compared to those who ate meat.

Jeff Csatari

Jeff Csatari, a contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, is responsible for publishing Galvanized Media books and magazines and advising journalism students through the Zinczenko New Media Center at Bethlehem Moravian University, in Pennsylvania. Learn more about Jeff