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12 Metabolism-Boosting Foods for Weight Loss (Infographic)

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Broccoli, strawberry and pepper on a fork; 12 Metabolism-Boosting Foods for Weight Loss

Your metabolism, or how fast your body converts food into energy, is an important piece of the weight loss puzzle. Some things that are out of you control, like age and genes, can slow down metabolism. However, adding certain healthy foods may play a part in boosting your metabolism by accelerating energy levels and helping to improve metabolic functions. 

Try adding these 12 metabolism-boosting foods recommended by UnityPoint Health dietitian Allie Bohlman to help move you one step closer to your weight loss goals. (Don’t forget to scroll to the bottom for an important bonus tip!)


1. Fish & Shellfish

Metabolism-Boosting Powers: Fish (salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel) are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and protein. Your body burns more calories digesting protein than fat and carbohydrates.

Tip: The American Heart Association recommends people should eat fatty fish at least two times per week. Don’t like the taste of fish? Take an omega-3 fatty acid supplement (vegetarian-friendly) or fish oil supplement.

2. Legumes

Metabolism-Boosting Powers: Legume is a general term used to describe the seeds of plants that are in pods. They include high-protein black bean, chickpeas and peanuts. High-protein food requires your metabolism to work harder to digest. This also keeps you feeling full longer.


Tip: Add legumes in an easy and affordable way by putting canned beans on your shopping list. If you’re keeping tabs on salt intake, look for the low-sodium labels. Try tossing beans in salads, soup recipes or pasta dishes.

3. Chili Peppers

Metabolism-Boosting Powers: Hot peppers like chili peppers and jalapeños contain the chemical capsaicin, which gives these vegetables their heat. Capsaicin increases your body’s internal temperature which helps you burn more calories.

Tip: Grill, stuff, steam, bake or stir-fry a serving of peppers, or serve them raw to pair with low-fat dips or cottage cheese.

4. Lean Meats

Metabolism-Boosting Powers: Chicken, turkey and other lean meats take more energy for your body to break down, therefore, burning more calories during the digestive process.

Tip: Trim off any visible fat from meat and poultry, including the skin. Low-fat cooking methods include broiling, roasting, sautéing, grilling and baking.

5. Low-Fat Milk

Metabolism-Boosting Powers: The calcium and vitamin D found in milk are essential for building dense muscle mass and maintaining a vigorous metabolism.

Tip: Add low-fat milk instead of water to oatmeal, hot cereals and condensed cream soup. Ask for skim or 1% milk when ordering lattes and cappuccinos.

6. Broccoli

Metabolism-Boosting Powers: Broccoli is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family. It's known for its high water and fiber content, which boosts the body’s ability to burn fat and helps you feel full.

Tip: Try steaming broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables (in steamer or microwave) instead of boiling or stir frying to preserve maximum nutritional value. Or, enjoy broccoli raw with a low-fat veggie dip.

7. Lentils

Metabolism-Boosting Powers: Lentils are a type of legume, which are rich in protein, fiber, iron, vitamin B and resistant starch. Resistant starch is a healthy carb that burns fat and boosts metabolism. Lentils come in a variety of colors including red, brown, green and yellow. All are equally healthy for you.

Tip: Adult women should get more than twice the amount of iron as men. One cup of lentils provides about 35 percent of your daily iron needs.

8. Oatmeal

Metabolism-Boosting Powers: When eating whole grains rich in fiber, such as oatmeal and brown rice, your body burns nearly twice as many calories than when eating processed foods.

Tip: Sprinkle flax seed or chia seeds over oatmeal and top with fresh fruit for a powerful fat-fighting and heart-healthy breakfast.

9. Berries

Metabolism-Boosting Powers: Berries, such as blueberries and strawberries, are low in calories and high in fiber, a key factor in weight control. Fiber promotes overall fat loss by reducing your appetite. 

Tip: If you can’t find your favorite fresh berries, unsweetened frozen berries are a good substitute during off seasons and are just as nutritious.

10. Almonds

Metabolism-Boosting Powers: The protein found in almonds fights hunger hormones and burns belly fat. 

Tip: Enjoy a handful of almonds between meals to curb hunger or chop up for a crunchy salad topper.

11. Low-Fat Cottage Cheese

Metabolism-Boosting Powers: Cottage cheese is low in fat, low in carbs and high in protein, making it a metabolism-boosting ingredient for healthy eaters.

Tip: Add a scoop of low-fat cottage cheese to a berry smoothie for metabolism-boosting powers.

12. Tempeh

Metabolism-Boosting Powers: Tempeh is a great protein substitute for meat if you are looking for a vegetarian option. It is also a great source of folate, an essential nutrient for producing DNA and helping your tissues grow and cells work.

Tip: The CDC recommends women take 400 mcg of folic acid (the man-made form of folate) every day, starting at least a month before getting pregnant and during all stages of pregnancy to prevent serious birth defects.

Bonus Tip!

You can boost your metabolism through the right food and drink. Our thirteenth tip is an essential ingredient to any healthy diet.

13. Water

Metabolism-Boosting Powers: Water can help you burn more calories by regulating your metabolism. One study shows drinking as little as 17 ounces (one glass is considered 8 ounces) of water a day, your metabolism could speed up by as much as 30%.

Tip: Divide your weight in half and use this number to indicate how many ounces of water you should drink each day.

Accompany these metabolism-boosting eating tips with daily exercise that includes muscle strengthening to optimize your weight loss efforts. If you need more help regulating your weight, talk with your primary care provider about options available to you.