It seems like there is an excess of powders and drinks on the market today claiming to burn fat and boost your metabolism. The true potency of any of these magical products leaves us a little skeptical. When it comes to making a lasting impact on your metabolic rate through your diet, nothing leaves as permanent of a mark as eating fresh.
This likely comes as no surprise, but many of the best metabolism-boosting foods come from simple produce. Brightly colored fruits and vibrant greens are an easy way to spot the most nutrient-rich items at the grocery store.
After all, you can try all the adventurous diets you want, but at the end of the day, eating good, real food is the simplest way to maintain a healthy weight. Because your body needs the sustenance, you might as well eat foods keep your metabolism at its peak. Ahead, check out some of the top metabolism-boosting foods to add to your grocery list ASAP.
Meet the Expert
- Elissa Goodman is a holistic nutritionist and lifestyle cleanse expert based in California. She is the creator of the cleanse, "S.O.U.P. – Superfoods. Organic. Uniquely designed. Prepared with Love." Goodman is also the author of "Cancer Hacks," a best-selling story about her journey with cancer.
- Nutritionist, Dana James is the author of the best-seller, "The Archetype Diet," where she helps clients find eating patterns, emotional triggers, and their body composition. James is trained in cognitive behavioral therapy and the founder of Food Coach NYC.
Your body needs iron to carry out its calorie-burning processes effectively. Iron facilitates the flow of oxygen throughout the body, which helps increase energy and metabolism. "One of the absolute best foods on the planet for you in terms of nutrient quality is lentils! They have the highest protein, by weight, of any plant-based food, they are an easy substitute for animal protein in any recipe, and they are loaded with fiber," says Goodman. Just one cup of lentils provides 35% of your daily iron needs, plus protein and fiber, which aid in digestion.
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts contain three essential nutrients that power your metabolism: B vitamins, calcium, and vitamin C. They also have high water and fiber content, a combination that increases your body’s ability to burn fat.
Beans (think red and black, not refried) are a metabolism-boosting food loaded with fiber, which lowers insulin levels after eating and improves insulin sensitivity over time. The result? Your body stores less fat.
Your body works harder when digesting protein than when it’s digesting fat or carbohydrates. Eating good lean meats like white meat chicken and turkey requires more energy to fully digest. Plus, all that protein helps preserve your muscle mass to keep your metabolism at its peak.
"Berries are a powerful nutrient-dense food. They reduce lung cancer risk, slow cancer progression, increase stem cell levels, protect stem cells against stress, boost angiogenesis defenses, protect DNA, enhance immune response, and more, Goodman says." Eating berries have also shown to have beneficial effects on metabolism, stabilizing glucose levels, and decreasing body fat content.
"Gluten-free oats are an incredibly healthy whole grain, providing several vitamins and minerals along with fiber – making them a great breakfast food," Goodman explains. Oats not only keep your insulin levels low after you eat them, preventing blood sugar spikes that signal your body to store fat, but they also have plenty of fiber. As your body breaks down that fiber, it burns calories.
Citrus fruits, especially lemons and grapefruits, are great for digestion. They’re low in sugar and contain an antioxidant that can help lower your blood sugar response after meals—and the vitamin C helps your body metabolize fat faster.
Spicy foods have natural chemicals in them that fire up your metabolism. "Chili peppers are particularly impressive. They contain the bioactive ‘capsaicin’, which has the power to activate the immune system against cancer cells," says Goodman. Capsaicin, also helps your body burn more energy. Can’t handle red peppers? Even just a pinch of cayenne may boost metabolism and curb hunger.
Several spices (like cayenne pepper as you just learned) are known to rev up metabolism, but cinnamon also curbs your sweet tooth, helps balance your blood sugar, and improves insulin sensitivity. Add it to your dessert to help thwart post-meal blood sugar spikes.
Garlic supports balanced blood sugar and a healthy metabolism. Studies suggest that eating garlic may increase the number of calories burned while decreasing the body’s production of fat. Goodman shares, "The sulfuric acid compounds in garlic are strong enough to eliminate bacteria and infections and studies show that garlic consumption may reduce the risk of developing several types of cancer, especially cancers of the gastrointestinal tract."
"Two specific forms of omega-3: EPA and DHA, found almost exclusively in fish, are likely responsible for its superior health benefits. They have been found to drastically decrease inflammation, increase HDL cholesterol (the “good” kind that scavenges excess cholesterol in the blood), and help maintain brain function. In fact, up to fifty percent of fatty acids in the brain are made up of DHA. Just be sure not to eat fish too often because of the high levels of toxins," Goodman says. Oily fish like salmon, herring, and tuna are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
The short-chain fatty acids in whole grains trigger the release of leptin, which is also the satiety hormone, helping you eat less. The high levels of fiber also slow down the blood sugar release and even out insulin spikes, all of which means extra energy is used for digestion.
Both anti-viral and antibacterial, coconut oil works to keep a healthy balance of good bacteria in your gut, which is necessary for efficient digestion. "Despite the fact that coconut oil is primarily saturated fat, it is a fantastic choice for cooking oil. It is made up of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), which, counterintuitively, have been known to reduce cholesterol and obesity," Goodman says.
And its high-fat content (good fats) works to give your metabolism a boost. Coconut oil contains medium-chain fats, a type of fat that speeds up your metabolism more than the long-chain fats found in substances like butter.
The high protein content of nuts makes your body burn more fat in order to digest them. They’re also a low-glycemic food, which means eating them keeps your blood sugar very stable.
Hemp seeds and flaxseeds are a great source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, both of which reduce inflammation and improve blood flow to your muscles to kick your metabolism into high gear.
Harvard Health Publishing. Add color to your diet for good nutrition. Updated July 2013.
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