What Foods Can Boost Your Metabolism?

Medically Reviewed By Amy Richter, RD
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Metabolism refers to a group of chemical reactions in your body that converts food into energy. Certain foods combined with lifestyle factors may help to boost your metabolism. This can lead to increased energy and make it easier to maintain a moderate weight. Supporting your metabolism is important if you’re trying to reach or maintain a moderate weight. Dietary changes alone may not be enough to increase your metabolism. However, they may help when paired with certain lifestyle factors.

This article discusses what metabolism is and why it is important, along with foods that may help to boost it.

What is metabolism?

cups of coffee
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Metabolism refers to a combination of functions your body uses to convert food and drinks into energy. However, this process involves much more than just food. 

Your body requires energy when you move and even while you sleep. Your basal metabolic rate refers to how much energy your body needs to sustain basic life functions.

Learn more about your metabolism.

How does it work?

Your body combines calories in the food you consume with oxygen to make fuel for building and maintaining cells. This happens through a complex chemical process known as metabolism.

Any extra fuel your body does not use is stored as body fat. By increasing your metabolism, you encourage your body to use more of this fuel before it is stored.

Speeding up metabolism may be desirable for those who wish to prevent storing extra energy as fat.

Can foods boost your metabolism?

Certain foods can have a temporary impact on the speed of your metabolism, or metabolic rate. Always contact your doctor or dietitian for advice before making significant dietary changes.

Green tea

Green tea is a type of tea that has not undergone the same oxidation process as black tea. Researchers have extensively studied green tea’s metabolism-boosting effects and other health benefits, such as:

A 2020 study suggests that the caffeine combined with catechins in green tea can increase the amount of energy your body uses. This is also known as your energy expenditure.

Read more about the health benefits of green tea.

Coffee

Coffee is another beverage with decades of research supporting its effect on metabolism. The caffeine in coffee increases your daily energy expenditure and stimulates your body’s ability to burn fat.

Read more about the health benefits of coffee.

Protein 

Research suggests that a high protein diet increases energy expenditure, which can lead to weight loss. Your body uses more energy to digest protein than it does for carbohydrates or fats.

Examples of protein-rich foods include:

  • chicken
  • salmon
  • lean beef
  • eggs
  • lentils
  • peas
  • beans

Read more about the best sources of protein.

Chili peppers

Spicy foods can give your metabolism a small boost. Chili peppers contain capsaicin, the compound responsible for their spiciness. Capsaicin may also help promote weight loss.

Researchers have linked capsaicin to increased resting energy expenditure. One study found that people with obesity who were given 2 milligrams of capsaicin had increased energy expenditure 3 hours later. However, the study found no effects on appetite or energy intake at a later meal.

While these studies are promising, more research is needed to confirm the effect chili peppers have on weight loss.

Ginger

Ginger can improve your metabolism by enhancing your body’s ability to utilize glucose. Glucose is a simple sugar your body needs for energy. If your body has more glucose than it can use, the excess may be stored as fat.

Ginger also contains antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties.

Read more about the health benefits of ginger.

MCT oil

MCT oil has gained popularity in recent years as a weight-management supplement. Some research supports claims about this benefit.

Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT) oil may enhance endurance during exercise by increasing your metabolism. Research also suggests that MCT oil may improve other metabolic processes, such as insulin sensitivity and beta cell function.

Read more about the health benefits of MCT oil.

Water

Many of your body’s functions rely on water, including your metabolism. Water may help temporarily speed up your metabolism by expanding the volume of your cells.

Some studies have connected expanded cell size to increased metabolic rate.

Mineral-rich foods

Foods rich in minerals may help boost your metabolism by supporting thyroid function. Your thyroid’s main job is regulating metabolism. To function properly, it needs minerals such as iodine, zinc, selenium, iron, and magnesium.

Some mineral-dense foods include:

  • meat
  • seafood
  • fortified cereal
  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • legumes
  • nuts

Visit our hub to learn more about your thyroid and thyroid disorders.

How can you boost your metabolism?

Choosing metabolism-boosting foods is one way to help increase your metabolic rate. However, combining them with lifestyle factors such as exercise and adequate sleep can have a greater impact.

Exercise 

Moving your body has a significant impact on the speed of your metabolism. Using your muscles during exercise requires energy, which leads to burning more calories. Exercise can also build muscle. Having a high ratio of lean muscle to body fat increases your resting metabolic rate.

Additionally, exercising regularly can help prevent metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a condition that increases your risk of stroke, diabetes, and heart disease. Factors that can lead to metabolic syndrome include high blood sugar, having a large waist circumference, and low levels of good cholesterol in your blood.

Read more about metabolic syndrome.

Sleep 

Not getting adequate sleep can trigger metabolic changes in your body linked to obesity. Some of these changes include increased appetite and decreased energy expenditure.

Summary

Research indicates that certain foods and beverages may help to boost your metabolism. These include coffee, green tea, spicy foods, and ginger. Mineral-rich foods may also increase your metabolism by supporting thyroid function.

In addition to energy-boosting foods, certain lifestyle factors can have a significant impact on your metabolism. These include sleep habits, activity level, and blood glucose levels.

Always consult your doctor or a dietician before making significant changes to your diet. They can help you design a safe plan to meet your goals.

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Medical Reviewer: Amy Richter, RD
Last Review Date: 2022 Nov 4
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