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Metabolism boosting foods

The 12 best foods to boost your metabolism

What you eat affects your metabolism, making it either easier or harder to lose weight. Here are the 12 best foods to boost your metabolism.

Evidence-based
This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts, and fact-checked by experts.
We look at both sides of the argument and strive to be objective, unbiased, and honest.
Last updated on September 2, 2022, and last reviewed by an expert on June 5, 2022.

If you’re trying to lose weight or maintain your weight, you might be looking for foods that can boost your metabolism.

Certain foods may indeed help slightly increase your metabolic rate. This is the number of calories that your body burns.

Adding these foods to your diet may make it slightly easier to lose body fat or prevent excess weight gain if that’s your goal.

However, eating more of these foods doesn’t guarantee you’ll lose weight. Instead, they serve as a complement to a balanced, moderately calorie-restricted diet to promote weight loss.

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Here are 12 foods that may rev up your metabolism.

1. Protein-rich foods

Protein-rich foods — such as meat, fish, eggs, dairy, legumes, nuts, and seeds — could help increase your metabolism for a few hours.

This is because they require your body to use more energy to digest them. This is known as the thermic effect of food (TEF).

The TEF refers to the number of calories your body needs to digest, absorb, and process the nutrients in your meals.

Research shows that protein-rich foods increase TEF the most. For example, they increase your metabolic rate by 15–30%, compared with 5–10% for carbs and 0–3% for fats.

Protein-rich diets also reduce the drop in metabolism often seen during weight loss by helping your body hold on to its muscle mass.

What’s more, protein may also help keep you fuller for longer, which can prevent overeating.

2. Mineral-rich foods

The minerals iron and selenium each play different but equally important roles in the proper functioning of your body.

However, they do have one thing in common. They’re both required for the proper functioning of your thyroid gland, which regulates your metabolism.

Research shows that a diet too low in iron or selenium may reduce your thyroid’s ability to produce sufficient amounts of hormones, which could slow down your metabolism.

To help your thyroid function to the best of its ability, include selenium- and iron-rich foods like meat, seafood, legumes, nuts, and seeds in your daily menu.

3. Chili peppers

Capsaicin, a chemical found in chili peppers, may boost your metabolism by slightly increasing the rate at which your body burns calories.

A review of 20 research studies notes that capsaicin — from supplements or the peppers themselves — may help your body burn around 50 extra calories per day.

Some studies report similar benefits with doses as low as 9–10 mg per day. This is equivalent to one jalapeño pepper.

Moreover, capsaicin may have appetite-reducing properties.

According to a review of studies on nearly 200 people, consuming at least 2 mg of capsaicin directly before each meal appears to reduce calorie consumption, especially from carbs.

Similarly, adding cayenne pepper to your meal may increase the amount of fat your body burns for energy, especially following a high-fat meal. However, this fat-burning effect may only apply to people unaccustomed to consuming spicy foods.

That said, findings are mixed on capsaicin’s metabolism-boosting abilities.

4. Coffee

The caffeine found in coffee may help increase metabolic rate.

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Several studies have noted that people who consume at least 270 mg of caffeine daily, or the equivalent of about 3 cups of coffee, burn up to an extra 100 calories per day.

Furthermore, caffeine may help your body burn fat for energy, and it seems especially effective at boosting your workout performance.

However, its effects vary from person to person, based on individual characteristics such as body weight and age.

5. Tea

Tea contains health-boosting compounds called catechins that may work in tandem with caffeine to boost metabolic rate.

In particular, both oolong and matcha green tea may increase fat oxidation and may help you burn extra calories when part of an exercise plan.

In addition, oolong and green teas may help your body use stored fat for energy more effectively, increasing your fat-burning ability by up to 17%.

Nevertheless, as is the case with coffee, effects may vary from person to person.

6. Beans and legumes

Legumes and beans — such as lentils, peas, chickpeas, black beans, and peanuts — are particularly high in protein compared to other plant foods.

Studies suggest that their high protein content requires your body to burn more calories to digest them, compared to lower-protein foods. This is due to their TEF.

Legumes also contain dietary fiber, including resistant starch and soluble fiber, which your body can use as a prebiotic to feed the good bacteria living in your large intestine.

In turn, these friendly bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids, which may help your body more effectively use stored fat as energy and maintain normal blood sugar levels.

7. Ginger

Ginger and related spices are thought to have particularly beneficial metabolism-boosting properties.

For instance, research shows that dissolving 2 grams of ginger powder in hot water and drinking it with a meal may help you burn up to 43 more calories than drinking hot water alone.

This hot ginger drink also may decrease levels of hunger and enhance feelings of satiety (fullness).

Grains of paradise, another spice in the ginger family, may have similar effects.

A study in 19 healthy males reported that participants given a 40 mg extract of grains of paradise burned 43 more calories in the following 2 hours than those given a placebo.

That said, researchers also noted that some of the participants were non-responders, so the effects may vary from one person to another.

8. Cacao

Cacao and cocoa are tasty treats that may also benefit your metabolism.

For instance, studies in mice have noted that cocoa and cocoa extracts may promote the expression of genes that stimulate fat burning. This appears to be especially true in mice fed high fat or high calorie diets.

Interestingly, one study suggests that cocoa may prevent the action of enzymes necessary to break down fat and carbs during digestion, which could prevent the body from absorbing them and the calories they provide.

However, human studies examining the effects of cocoa, cacao, or cacao products like dark chocolate are rare. More studies are needed before strong conclusions can be drawn.

If you’d like to give cacao a try, opt for raw versions. Processing tends to reduce the amounts of beneficial compounds and add extra sugar and calories.

9. Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar may increase your metabolism.

Suggested read: Can apple cider vinegar help you lose weight?

Animal studies have shown vinegar to be particularly helpful in increasing the amount of fat burned for energy.

Likewise, apple cider vinegar is often claimed to boost metabolism in humans, but few studies have investigated this directly.

It may help you lose weight by slowing stomach emptying and enhancing feelings of fullness.

If you decide to take it, make sure to limit yourself to 1–2 tablespoons per day and dilute it in at least 1 cup of water per tablespoon of vinegar to limit the risk of tooth erosion, damage to the lining of your digestive tract, or other potential side effects.

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10. Medium chain triglyceride (MCT) oil

MCT oil is a unique type of fat that may offer some metabolic benefits. Most fats found in foods are long-chain triglycerides, but MCT oil is comprised of medium-chain triglycerides.

Some studies have shown that MCT oil consumption can increase metabolic rate in humans. Additionally, unlike long-chain fats, once MCTs are absorbed, they go directly to the liver to be turned into energy. This makes them less likely to be stored as body fat.

MCT oil is typically taken as a supplement, although it can be added to foods like soups or smoothies. It’s not suitable for cooking, though.

11. Water

Drinking enough water is a great way to stay hydrated. Additionally, some studies show that drinking water may also briefly boost metabolism by 24–30%.

Suggested read: How much water should you drink per day?

Researchers note that about 40% of that increase is explained by the additional calories needed to heat the water to body temperature — known as water induced thermogenesis.

However, the effects only appear to last for 40–90 minutes after drinking water, and the strength of the effect may vary from person to person.

12. Seaweed

Seaweed is rich in iodine, a mineral required for the production of thyroid hormones and the proper functioning of your thyroid gland.

Thyroid hormones have various functions, one of which is to regulate your metabolic rate.

Regularly consuming seaweed can help you meet your iodine needs and maintain your metabolic health.

What’s more, fucoxanthin is another seaweed-based compound — primarily found in brown seaweeds — that may increase your metabolic rate.

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Summary

Certain foods may help slightly increase your metabolic rate, or how many calories you burn. So, consuming them regularly may help you lose weight and keep it off in the long term.

However, these foods will not negate a high-calorie or poor-quality diet. For effective, lasting weight loss and weight loss maintenance, seek a gradual reduction in calories and choose mostly whole, minimally processed foods.

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