At one point or other, you’ve probably wondered what you can do to boost your metabolism. After all, the faster your metabolism, the more calories you burn—so when your metabolism is fast, it’s easier to manage your weight.
As we age, our metabolism slows down a bit, which is why teenagers can eat all the pizza and ice cream they want without gaining a pound, and older people have to watch what they eat a bit more.
The good news? There are a few ways to boost your metabolism naturally, from getting more exercise to incorporating certain foods in your diet. If you want to start with the food side of things, we’re here to help you get started with the 20 best metabolism-boosting foods.
According to research, consuming omega-3 fatty acids increases resting and exercise metabolic rate.
“Like most seafood and sea vegetables, salmon provides the mineral iodine that is essential for a healthy thyroid,” Lisa Moskovitz, RD, CDN CEO of NY Nutrition Group. “Our thyroid gland is the most important organ for our metabolism as it helps our body convert food into energy. Salmon is also a leading source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids that fights inflammation which can lead to a sluggish metabolism.”
Along with being high in protein, studies show almonds can help control appetite.
“Almonds are perfect to keep on hand for metabolism boosting snacking. If your goal is weight loss, consider limiting nut consumption to about one serving a day, otherwise the calorie and fat content can really add up,” says Serena Poon, CN, CHC, CHN.
3. Chili peppers
Known for their spicy taste, chili peppers also increase the amount of calories you burn.
“Hot and spicy chili peppers appear to increase metabolic rate, increasing calorie burn and fat metabolism, which could translate to burning between 100 and 200 more calories per day, or according to one study, twice as many calories as a group eating the same meal without hot peppers,” Dr. Stacie Stephenson, Certified Nutrition Specialist and CEO of VibrantDoc, states.
4. Kidney beans
We know beans are good for our hearts, but as it turns out, they are also excellent for boosting metabolism.
“These satisfying, plant protein-packed veggies are also the best source of fermentable, soluble fiber that produces short chain fatty acids. Studies show these metabolites have a direct impact on overall metabolic rate: or the rate at which our body burns calories,” Moskovitz explains.
Drinking enough water is important for numerous reasons, including increasing the amount of energy our body expends.
“Your body is composed of about 60 percent water, and therefore drinking a lot of water is one of the most important components for healthy metabolism,” Poon states. “Researchers have found that water both increases the body’s energy expenditure and helps turn stored fat into energy. I usually recommend that people drink their body weight in ounces of water every day.”
“We know fiber increases metabolic rate as well as fat burning, and plays an important role in weight loss (among many other health benefits), and artichokes are one of the vegetables with the highest amount of fiber. The extract from the artichoke leaf also have a fat-lowering effect” says Dr. Stephenson.
This fruit is more than a delicious snack and topping, it’s packed with health benefits including keeping blood sugar levels balanced and slowing down digestion (which keeps you full longer!)
“Not only are they a great topping for yogurt or oatmeal, but berries can also help slow down digestion and keep blood sugar stable,” says Moskovitz. “These effects are attributed to their high-fiber and antioxidant effects. Keeping blood sugars stable keeps our insulin hormone stable. High insulin can increase body fat storage and appetite.”
Capsaicin is found in hot peppers and spices, such as cayenne. “Research demonstrates that capsaicin can activate brown fat thermogenesis, which can protect against weight gain,” Poon states. “This ingredient is quite spicy, so you may want to consider using sparingly and/or blending with other flavors.”
9. Grass-fed beef
Eating foods filled with protein causes thermogenesis, which leads to more calories burned. “Protein requires more calories to digest than either carbohydrates or fat, and lean grass-fed beef is an ideal source,” Dr. Stephenson explains. “A protein-rich meal induces thermogenesis, or body temperature, which can increase calorie and fat burn, but don’t overdo it.”
However, for optimal results it’s important to make sure to pair this with exercise.
“Too much protein will get converted to sugar if the body isn’t expending enough energy,” Dr. Stephenson adds. “The best way to get a metabolic boost from beef is to eat it on days when you are weight-training. The protein will help to repair and build muscle, and added muscle will, in turn, further increase metabolic weight, for a one-two weight loss punch.”
10. Chia seeds
If you’re trying to speed up your metabolism, you’ll want to give chia seeds a try. “These tiny versatile seeds can be incorporated into almost any dish, from cereal to soup,” Moskovitz states. “Jam-packed with soluble fiber and antioxidants, chia seeds fight inflammation and against constipation: both of which can make you feel more sluggish and make weight loss more difficult.”
11. Apple cider vinegar
Made from fermented apple juice, apple cider vinegar can reduce the risk of developing a metabolic disorder.
“Apple cider vinegar has been shown to protect against metabolic disorders caused by fat consumption,” says Poon. “This tangy liquid delivers a multitude of healthy compounds such as antioxidants and probiotics, which support overall health. Opt for raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to get the most out of its benefits.”
This fruit packs a powerful punch when it comes to speeding up your metabolism. “The soluble fiber, complex carbs, polyphenols, carotenoids, vitamins, and minerals all combine to increase fat metabolism. This effect was most pronounced when study subjects ate two apples per day—they had lower cholesterol and improved cardiometabolic measures,” Dr. Stephenson explains.
13. Green tea
The benefits of green tea are well-known, and one of them includes increasing your resting metabolic rate (RMR).
“Drinking a hot cup of tea can be very relaxing and healing. Green tea in particular contains a compound called EGCG which studies show can increase resting energy expenditure, or the amount of calories you burn at rest. Although the impact is mild, green tea also has powerful antioxidant abilities that fight against oxidative stress which can slow metabolism over time,” Moskovitz explains.
If you’re trying to maintain a healthy weight and metabolism levels, this root can get the job done. “This vibrant root has been shown to support fat metabolism, which is important for avoiding weight gain,” says Poon. “Ginger is also known for its digestion soothing properties, which can help with bloating and discomfort. I love drinking a simple ginger tea to draw out its flavor and health benefits.”
If appetite control is an issue, try incorporating more lentils into your meals.
“Rich in dietary fiber and protein, lentils are metabolically favorable as they promote efficient digestion to optimize fat metabolism and increase fat burning while also increasing feelings of fullness to curb hunger cravings,” Kimberly Bowman, Sports Nutritionist at F45 Training, explains.
This popular morning beverage not only gives you an energy boost, it also helps with appetite control and speeding up your metabolism.
“Although you must be careful with how much caffeine you consume due to toxicity, in moderation, caffeine-rich coffee is a stimulant that can increase your resting metabolic rate and suppress appetite,” says Moskovitz. “Keep in mind, once that caffeine wears off you can feel a lot hungrier as your appetite re-stabilizes.”
Spices are an excellent way to add flavor without the extra calories. “Cinnamon contains cinnamaldehyde which has been found to aid fat cells burn energy (increasing fat metabolism),” Bowman states. “Research has also found cinnamon to increase insulin sensitivity making it beneficial for carbohydrate metabolism,” Bowman states.
Avocados may be high in calories, but they are also high in metabolism boosting nutrients.
“With a hearty dose of antioxidants, vitamins E, potassium, iron, fiber, and magnesium, your body is getting all the nutrients it needs to function at its peak,” Moskovitz explains. “Magnesium, in particular, supports healthy blood sugar and insulin levels, while promoting a calm mood and bowel movement regularity. All together, magnesium-rich foods are certainly a healthy addition to your diet to promote a healthy metabolism.”
Related: 10 Health Benefits of Avocados
19. Coconut oil
The oil you use to cook your food is just as important as the food itself. “While cooking, swap out vegetable oil for a quality coconut oil to optimize the body’s fat burning capability. Coconut is packed full of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) which aid in the breakdown of excess fat stores to boost fat burning and increase energy,” says Bowman.
A go-to for vegans and vegetarians, tempeh is high in protein and healthy fat. “Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans and contains probiotics which are extremely beneficial for gut health and optimal digestion,” Bowman explains. “A healthy gut is key for boosting the metabolism as it ensures we’re able to rid toxic waste from the body (liver) to allow for efficient fat metabolism.”
Next, read about 3 rules to reboot your metabolism.
- PLOS One: “Omega 3 Fatty Acid Supplementation for 12 Weeks Increases Resting and Exercise Metabolic Rate in Healthy Community—Dwelling Older Females”
- Lisa Moskovitz, RD, CDN, CEO of NY Nutrition Group
- Nutrients: “Evaluation of the Influence of Raw Almonds on Appetite Control: Satiation, Satiety, Hedonics and Consumer Perceptions”
- Serena Poon, CN, CHC, CHN
- Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology: “Peppers May Increase Energy Expenditure in People Trying to Lose Weight”
- Stacie Stephenson, Certified Nutrition Specialist and CEO of VibrantDoc
- Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research: “Effect of Water-Induced Thermogenesis’ on Body Weight, Body Mass Index and Body Composition of Overweight Subjects”
- Metabolism: “The Health Benefits of Dietary Fiber: Beyond the Usual Suspects of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, Cardiovascular Disease and Colon Cancer”
- Plant Foods for Human Nutrition: “Pharmacological Studies of Artichoke Leaf Extract and Their Health Benefits”
- Advances in Food and Nutrition Research: “Capsaicin and Related Food Ingredients Reducing Body Fat Through the Activation of TRP and Brown Fat Thermogenesis”
- Human Kinetics Journals: “Exercise, Protein Metabolism and Muscle Growth”
- Journal of Medicinal Food: “Apple Cider Vinegar Attenuates Oxidative Stress and Reduces the Risk of Obesity in High Fat Fed Male Wistar Rats”
- The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry: “Nutritional Implications of Ginger: Chemistry, Biological Activities and Signaling Pathways”
- Kimberly Bowman, Sports Nutritionist at F45 Training