Metabolism is the process the body uses to convert food into the energy needed to survive and function. Metabolism often slows down due to things out of our control, including aging and genetics. However, there are some healthy changes you can make, like eating right and exercising, to help boost your metabolism. The healthier your body is, the better your metabolism may work.
Try these 12 healthy foods, recommended by UnityPoint Health dietitian Allie Bohlman. Many are rich in fiber or protein, which can make you feel full longer and support weight loss efforts. Remember, metabolism is just one piece of the weight-loss puzzle.
(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 slightly 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 (vegetarian-friendly) or fish oil supplement.
2. Legumes (Also known as beans)
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 kidney beans.
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 temporarily helps you burn more calories. Even though this might boost your metabolism, eating more of these won’t significantly help your weight loss.
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 protein-packed lean meats take more energy for your body to break down than carbohydrate or fat-rich foods, therefore, burning slightly 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, which is important for overall health.
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.
Metabolism-Boosting Powers: Broccoli is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family. It's known for its high water and fiber content, which is a great combination to help you feel full.
Tip: Eat broccoli steamed or roasted. Or, enjoy it raw with a low-fat veggie dip.
Metabolism-Boosting Powers: Lentils are a type of legume and are packed with iron, magnesium and potassium. They are a great plant protein and fiber source with 8 grams of each. 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.
Metabolism-Boosting Powers: This is a powerhouse full of fiber that will not only help you last through the morning without hunger but will slow down the release of sugar into your blood stream.
Tip: Start the day with a hot bowl of oatmeal in the morning or make overnight oats the night before in a mason jar for an on-the-go breakfast.
Metabolism-Boosting Powers: Berries, such as blueberries and strawberries, are low in calories and high in fiber. Fiber promotes overall weight 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.
Metabolism-Boosting Powers: Almonds contain lots of healthy fats, fiber and protein, which is a combination that curbs hunger.
Tip: Enjoy a handful of almonds between meals to avoid unhealthy snacks or chop them 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 ideal for healthy eaters.
Tip: Add a scoop of low-fat cottage cheese to a berry smoothie for a non-traditional twist.
Metabolism-Boosting Powers: Tempeh is a great protein substitute for meat if you are looking for a vegetarian option.
Tip: Try using Tempeh in stir-fries, sandwiches, bowls or wraps.
Our thirteenth tip is an essential ingredient to any healthy diet.
Metabolism-Boosting Powers: Water can suppress your appetite and maybe boost your metabolism for a short amount of time. Research suggests the more hydrated you are, the better able your body is at just about everything from thinking to making exercise easier.
Tip: Try starting the day off with a glass of water or drink a glass before you eat your meals. To determine how much water to drink per day, divide your weight in half. The number you get should be your liquid amount in ounces.
Don’t Forget about Your Muscles
Besides these healthy eating tips, one of the best ways to speed up your metabolism is with weight or muscle strengthening. Lean muscle mass increases your metabolism. Muscle is metabolically active, which means people with lean, muscular bodies need more energy to function than people with a higher percentage of body fat. Make sure to talk with your doctor before beginning any new workout routine.