Last Updated on October, 2023
All of us have that one friend who can eat ANYTHING and NEVER gain a single pound.
You know who I’m talking about- the one who’s been blessed with a fast metabolism.
But if your inherent slow metabolism has been holding you back from achieving the body weight you’ve always wanted, I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to anymore.
Stick around to find out how you can speed up your generally stable metabolism and lose or maintain weight more effectively!
What is Metabolism?
But first, what exactly is metabolism?
It’s a pretty vast concept, so it’s understandable if it goes over your head a couple of hundred times.
But in simple terms, metabolism refers to all the chemical reactions within an organism that occur to create or break down energy necessary to sustain life.
Even when we aren’t doing anything physical, our bodies are constantly using energy to breathe, regulate hormones, grow and restore cells, and the list goes on and on.
And the number of calories that your body uses to carry out these functions is your basal metabolic rate or metabolism.
If you burn more calories than you eat, you will lose weight.
But if you burn fewer calories than you eat, you will gain weight.
And that is why metabolism plays a role in weight loss and gain.
How Do Certain Foods Boost Your Metabolism?
Digesting and processing food requires energy.
This situation is known as the thermic effect of food (TEF). (1)
Breaking down some foods takes up more energy than others, and therefore, consuming these food items will help in metabolism boosting.
TEF adds up to around 10% of our total daily energy usage, and this means that consuming foods that take more energy to digest will result in you burning more calories.
And these are exactly the type of food items we will be talking about in this article!
17 Foods That Boost Metabolism
1. Foods High in Protein
Proteins have the highest TEF out of the three macronutrients, and it takes 10-30% of the energy of the consumed protein to digest foods rich in protein.
This amount of energy is compared to the 5-10% energy of consumed carbohydrates and the 0-3% energy of consumed fat needed to digest them, respectively.
As you can see, our bodies take up way more energy to break down and store protein and therefore, a diet with high protein content can help you rev up your metabolism by burning more calories.
Consume protein rich foods like the following to boost your metabolic rate.
2. Foods With High Mineral Content
The minerals iron and selenium are necessary to facilitate the proper functioning of the thyroid gland.
And guess what?
Your thyroid gland plays a huge role in regulating metabolism.
Too little iron or selenium and your thyroid gland may not produce as many hormones, which could lead to your metabolic rate slowing down.
To prevent this from happening, eat metabolism boosting foods like;
Avocados contain high levels of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which helps to leave you feeling full with just half of the fruit.
In a 2013 study detailed in the Nutrition Journal, researchers found that eating just half an avocado can decrease the desire to eat in overweight adults over 3 to 5 hours after ingestion.
These results mean that eating avocados helps promote satiety and can stop you from eating at odd hours and snacking for no earthly reason, which will help you lose weight.
And that’s not all.
Avocados prevent inflammation which is a cause for changes in a person’s metabolism.
Inflammation refers to our bodies’ reaction to a wound or threat. (2)
It’s a good thing- as long as there is an injury or threat.
Chronic inflammation occurs when cells inside the body are damaged, and it triggers the same response as with an outward issue. And the problem is this may persist for months or even years if the cause is not fixed.
Sometimes, inflammation can persist even after the problem has been solved, which can negatively affect your metabolism.
Research has also shown that people who switched their cooking and finishing oils for avocado oil showed a reduction in abdominal fat compared to those who were consuming other oils.
So, if you want to get on the health train, avocado is the station you need to go to!
4. Chili Peppers
Hot peppers contain a compound called dihydrocapsiate or DCT, which increases how many calories are burned after a meal.
The participants in a study investigating DCT were randomly assigned to take either a placebo capsule or DCT in a 3-milligram or 9-milligram dosage.
The researchers measured their metabolic rate and energy expenditure at the start of the study and four weeks later.
Participants who took the 9-milligram dose of DCT showed an increase in total energy expenditure and fat burning compared to the control group.
So take your pick; jalapenos, habaneros, serrano- the options are endless.
But take care, don’t load up on too many peppers, especially if you aren’t used to spicy foods.
Too many spicy foods can cause your throat to swell, and if your body perceives them as toxic, you might have to go through a lot of vomiting!
Caffeine can increase your resting metabolic rate by 3-11%, and the larger the dose, the greater the effect.
Research in the Food Science and Biotechnology journal states that coffee amps up the sympathetic nervous system and boosts fat burn. (3)
But DON’T go all crazy with the coffee.
Caffeine is an appetite suppressant, and if you take a lot of it, you may not eat a lot throughout the day.
So, even when you finally eat, your body won’t burn the food for energy.
Instead, it will start storing it as fat in case your body is deprived of food again, and this will slow down your metabolism.
Excessive coffee drinkers might also experience tolerance, which reduces caffeine’s effect on metabolism-boosting.
While solely drinking tea isn’t going to make you miraculously lose weight, combining it with a healthy diet and exercise can help speed up your metabolism.
Tea helps to boost your metabolism because of the flavonoid catechin, which helps burn fat more quickly.
The caffeine in tea will also help your body burn more calories.
Additionally, once weight loss has occurred, tea can also help maintain your weight by preventing your metabolism from slowing down again.
Studies have proven that oolong tea (which is made by drying tea leaves under the hot sun) helps in weight loss.
More than two-thirds of obese individuals lost more than two pounds and reduced belly fat by drinking oolong tea every day for six weeks in one particular study.
A review reported in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences analyzed the findings of 60 studies and found that the overall conclusion is that ginger helps fight obesity, diabetes (by improving insulin sensitivity), and cardiovascular disease.
The research was concentrated on the different facets of metabolic health and metabolic syndrome.
Metabolic syndrome refers to many conditions that an individual will experience together, and it can increase the risk of heart diseases, type 2 diabetes and strokes. The conditions involved in this syndrome include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, abnormal cholesterol, etc.
Ginger has been connected to improvements in the above conditions, and it also reduces inflammation, which is a factor that influences metabolism.
Like ginger and avocado, cocoa helps reduce inflammation too.
It consists of over 200 chemicals that can help speed up your metabolism, among other things like easing depression.
Any saturated fat is not stored in the body as harmful fat, and cacao also doesn’t contain any cholesterol.
Instead, it is rich in iron, magnesium, zinc, protein, fiber and folic acid.
Research states that 40g of dark chocolate can not only speed up your metabolism but also aids digestion by improving your gut environment.
9. Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) Oil
Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) are fats found in foods such as coconut oil, and they are medium-length chains of fat called triglycerides.
MCTs are easier to digest than long chain fats as they are shorter in length and have around 10% fewer calories.
Research has shown that MCTs promote weight loss by making people feel fuller through the secretion of the hormones peptide YY and leptin.
In an eight-week study done in 2013, 50 overweight girls drank two cups of water half an hour before all three meals of the day with no change made to their diets.
These participants experienced weight loss and reductions in BMI and body composition scores.
And how may this be the case?
It’s because drinking water stimulates heat production (thermogenesis) in the body, especially when the water is chilled.
Thermogenesis occurs because your body has to use energy to warm the water to match your body temperature, and the more your body has to do this, the more you can rev up your metabolism.
Let’s talk numbers.
In a 2003 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, drinking two cups of 71℉ led to a 30% mean increase in the metabolic rates of 14 adults.
Seaweed contains iodine, which helps produce the thyroid hormone that regulates your metabolism.
Some types of seaweed may even help with obesity since they allow you to burn calories by a larger amount.
12. Cruciferous and Leafy Green Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables are lax in calories and rich in fiber, which helps you stay sated for longer. Therefore, these vegetables (e.g., broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, spinach, etc.) aid weight loss.
Leafy greens can speed up your metabolism because of the iron they contain. Iron is essential for metabolism, as is magnesium, which these veggies also have ample amounts of.
13. Whole Grains
Whole grains consist of the entire grain kernel, and they include foods like brown rice, oatmeal, grain bread, barley, etc.
On the other hand, refined grains are starches that have been processed to extend their shelf life.
In a study that investigated 81 participants, those who ate whole grains showed a higher resting metabolic rate. They also lost almost 100 extra calories per day than the participants who consumed processed grains.
So load up on the whole grains!
Flaxseeds are little brown seeds obtained from flax plants that contain two fatty acids that your body can’t produce naturally. These are Omega-3 and Omega-6, and they help in reducing inflammation.
Inflammation, if you recall, can negatively affect metabolism.
Flaxseeds also contain a ton of proteins, promoting metabolism because of the higher TEF of proteins.
2-4 teaspoons of flaxseed are what’s recommended, and remember to limit your intake of flaxseeds if you already consume a lot of fiber through your diet. Excessive fiber consumption can lead to diarrhea or nutrient malabsorption because too much of a good thing is good for nothing!
Ground or milled flaxseed is most likely to help with weight loss because, in general, the cover of flaxseed is difficult to digest.
Garlic is an excellent way to speed up your metabolism as it increases energy levels, increasing your body’s ability to burn calories.
Raw garlic contains allicin- a sulfur-containing compound- that has shown to be effective in reducing obesity and related metabolic disorders by getting brown adipose tissue or brown fat going.
Unlike white fat, brown fat burns calories through the process of thermogenesis that we discussed earlier.
And the thing is, garlic is super easy to integrate into your diet.
Add minced garlic to your salad dressings, make garlic bread, make some ginger lemon tea- take your pick!
Related: 2 Weeks Lemon Water Diet Review
Eating these delicious fruits can speed up your metabolism and control your blood sugar as well.
They are also a great source of fiber and have anti-inflammatory effects.
It has also been concluded that berries are a good way to combat metabolic syndrome in a 2016 study on berry consumption and metabolic syndrome.
The fibers of mustard seeds are hard to digest, meaning that our bodies have to expend greater amounts of energy and burn more calories to digest them.
Mustard also contains iron, calcium, phosphorus and selenium- all of which influences your metabolism.
A study done in the Oxford Polytechnic Institute found that consuming 1 tablespoon of mustard seeds can speed up your metabolism by up to 25% for the subsequent 3-4 hours.
You can incorporate mustard seeds into your curries, salad dressings, and eggs.
What to Avoid When Trying to Speed Up Your Metabolism
1. Refined Grains
In order to extend the shelf life of grains, they are mechanically milled to remove the bran and the germ parts of the seed.
Unfortunately, this alters the composition of the grain and reduces its nutritional value, making them empty calories.
Refined grains are easier to digest and this means your body won’t work as hard to break them down.
They can cause blood sugar spikes and are also not very filling, which can prompt you to eat more and result in weight gain.
2. Sugary Beverages
A study conducted within a metabolic chamber discovered that adding a sugary beverage to your protein-rich diet significantly lessens fat loss and reduces thermogenesis.
The study also discovered that of the 120 kcals the drink provided, only 80 kcals were used.
The results of this study imply that the sugary beverage reduces the body’s metabolic rate, which leads it to make and store more fat.
One of the basic functions of your liver has to do with metabolism.
And excess alcohol can lead to a condition known as alcoholic fatty liver, which can damage your liver and affect your metabolism all in one go.
Alcohol can also increase your body fat and result in *drum roll please* the dreaded beer gut.
And that’s not all.
Being intoxicated can lead to poor decision making. And no, not just in the realm of calling up exes but also with food.
Some studies suggest that alcohol triggers hunger signals in the brain, which means that it may lead you to overeat.
You don’t have to completely cut alcohol out of your diet- just make sure you are mindful of how much you drink.
4. Steer Clear of Crash Diets
Crash diets are short-term weight-loss diets that purport to help lose weight incredibly fast.
And while they do help lose weight at a jarring pace, they also harm your metabolic rate.
Which in turn makes you gain weight in the long term.
The nature of these diets is what has led them to be termed as yo-yo diets. So, if you’re looking to maintain a healthy metabolism, it would be best to avoid these kinds of diets.
Related: Metabolism Boosting Recipes
You didn’t expect to see granola here did ya?
But the rumors are true!
Masquerading as a healthy food, granola actually DESTROYS your metabolism due to its high fat and calorie content.
Granola increases your blood sugar, makes you feel hungrier, and usually contains processed honey (which also causes weight gain!)
Extra Tips to Speed Up Your Metabolism
1. Drink Lots of Water
Water is really out here doing the most.
For one thing, it’s a natural appetite suppressant and promotes satiety, which will stop you from consuming too many calories.
Drinking water burns calories due to thermogenesis among other reasons.
It also helps remove waste from the body and prevent bloating (which adds a few extra pounds) and is necessary to burn fat.
2. Sleep Well
Sleeping doesn’t help you lose weight- but lack of sleep messes with your metabolism and causes you to gain weight.
Too few hours of sleep can trigger a cortisol spike.
Cortisol is a stress hormone that’ll tell your body to reserve energy to keep you going while you’re awake.
And increasing energy reservation means your body will let go of less fat!
So, put your devices away a good hour before going to sleep and try getting 7-8 hours of sleep everyday.
3. Ensure You Get Enough Vitamin D
Vitamin D helps maintain strong bones and teeth and keeps your immune system healthy.
It can’t be found naturally in food, which is why experts recommend at least 5-30 minutes in the sun everyday.
There is evidence to suggest that increased levels of vitamin D reduces body fat and sustains long-term weight loss by boosting metabolism.
Vitamin D also blocks the formation of new fat cells.
4. Laugh More
Laughter reduces the stress hormone cortisol that signals the body to store more fat.
A reduction in this hormone speeds up your metabolism and helps you lose weight.
A huge belly laugh uses as much energy as walking for more than half a mile. It also makes your heart beat faster and prompts the use of many muscles.
So, laugh as much as you can! Your days will be brighter and lighter (quite literally).
5. Adjust Your Bedroom Temperature At Night
A study conducted by the National Institute of Health discovered that when men slept in cooler temperatures, their metabolisms received a boost.
The participants of the study had more brown fat in their bodies after sleeping for a month in a 66-degree room.
Brown fat is a metabolically active fat that burns calories to help the body maintain its core temperature.
The effects only last for as long as you sleep in cooler temperatures though. As soon as you switch back to sleeping in warmer conditions, the effects on your metabolism are undone.
You need to remember that none of these food items is a magic lamp that grants you the instantaneous wish of weight loss.
Much of these whole foods help reduce weight by reducing inflammation, increasing satiety and burning more calories.
On their own, these foods may have very slight effects, but if you combine them with a healthy diet and regular exercise, you can boost metabolism overall and reduce your body fat.
So, good luck on your weight journey and happy eating!
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