A “Good” Body Fat That Burns The Bad Stuff? Doctor Explains How Brown Fat Can Help Keep You Healthy

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Playing How Brown Fat Is Good For You + Can Burn The Bad Stuff Away

Harmful, excess body fat not only slows down your metabolism, but may prevent you from living a long, healthy life. But did you know that not all fat is the same? 

Dr. Will Li, author of the new book Eat to Beat Your Diet, says scientists have discovered that our bodies naturally have another type of body fat called “brown fat” that is different from “the wiggly jiggly stuff that's under your arm.” Turns out, it’s actually good for you.  

He adds that eating certain foods may ignite your brown fat, which can kick-start your metabolism and burn harmful body fat as well as calories. 

In other words, “good fat can fight bad fat.” 

Dr. Li explains: 

1. What Is Brown Fat? 

Dr. Li says brown fat is a kind of body fat that when turned on, can act like a space heater in your body.  

He also describes it as “wafer-thin” and sticks “close to the bone and is distributed throughout your body.” 

2. How Does Brown Fat Burn the Bad Stuff? 

Dr. Li says that when you eat foods that activate brown fat, “you actually turn on the flame.” Translation: your metabolism is activated, your body burns more calories—and the energy that’s burning comes from harmful body fat. 

“It's like the top of your gas range on your stove. It actually burns. And as you light up, and [eat foods that] ignite your brown fat, your brown fat can burn down your harmful body fat,” he explains. 

3. What Are Foods That Activate Brown Fat?  

Fortunately, all of these foods are likely found at your local market.  

Dinosaur Kale 

One of his favorites, Dr. Li says dinosaur kale contains a natural chemical bioactive called sulforaphane that activates your brown fat.  

Calabrian Chili Peppers 

He says these chili peppers activate a receptor in your tongue that “text messages your brain”  to release a signal that turns on your fat-burning metabolism.  

Spices Such as Turmeric, Cinnamon & Cayenne 

While Dr. Li says turmeric is “metabolism-activating and anti-inflammatory,” he says cinnamon also burns away harmful body fat.  

Just like the Calabrian peppers, he says that cayenne pepper tells your brain to turn on your metabolism to burn away fat.  

Alliums Such as Shallots & Garlic 

Dr. Li says garlic contains a molecule called allicin, which activates your brown fat and prevents new fat cells from being made. He adds that shallots contain a molecule called quercetin that activates your metabolism and burns away harmful fat as well. 

Garbanzo Beans AKA Chickpeas  

In addition to being a great source of dietary fiber, Dr. Li says eating chickpeas can lead to better gut health, better metabolism and help you lose weight. (Here are 11 recipes you can make with a can of chickpeas!

Coffee Beans 

Dr. Li says organic coffee beans contain chlorogenic acid, which prevents fat cells from growing bigger. (And having your coffee with cinnamon could also help slow down aging). 

Dried Apple Chips 

He says these also contain chlorogenic acid and are a good metabolism activator. Get an easy recipe for homemade baked apple chips here

Dried Prunes  

These have bioactives which are good for your metabolism and gut health. They are also anti-inflammatory and can lower your lipids.  

Apple Cider Vinegar 

Dr. Li says ACV contains acetic acid — which makes vinegar vinegar — that prevents your fat cells from getting bigger. (Here’s how to make a homemade version!)  


Last but not least, he says capers — little flower buds picked from wild bushes that grow in the Mediterranean — contain quercetin which activates your metabolism.  

Dr. Li uses several of these metabolism-activating foods in his delicious recipe: Spiced Chicken, Rice + Kale.  

Also, be sure to check out his insights on food dosing as well as intermittent fasting.  

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