Everyone’s digestive system works at a slightly different rate—that’s why you have that friend with the bacon cheeseburger obsession who still stays fit without working out (we’re just jealous). The trick to eating more of what you want is to seek out the best metabolism-boosting foods that kick your body into high gear. (Think of your metabolism as all of your digestive processes combined.) “You have a huge amount of control over your metabolic rate,” says John Berardi, Ph.D., CSCS, and author of The Metabolism Advantage. “You can’t affect how many calories it takes to keep your heart beating, but you can burn an extra 500 to 600 calories a day by exercising properly and eating right.”
There’s not just one reason something you eat tells your metabolism to crank up the pace. It can be because the food has a fat-burning compound because it contains protein, or because it puts your central nervous system into high gear (among other things). Never fear, as we did the leg work for you so you can spend more time incorporating these five best metabolism-boosting foods into your current diet. Scroll down to see our favorites, and then add them to your shopping list.
You can keep on eating that avocado toast because the berry has some serious calorie-burning properties. It all has to do with the monounsaturated fats in the fruit, which prompt your metabolism to go into overdrive. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that when participants cut out saturated fats (which are primarily found in butter, dairy, and other animal-based products) and instead ate monounsaturated fats, their metabolisms were 4.5% higher after meals. What’s more? Those who ate healthy fats reported having more energy to work out.
Green tea may just be the ultimate fat burner. When you sip on the tasty beverage, you’re ingesting a plant compound known as EGCG, which is responsible for burning fat. “It’s the closest thing to a metabolism potion,” says Tammy Lakatos Shames, RD, author of Fire Up Your Metabolism. But how much should you drink each day? One study suggests that four cups might be the optimal daily amount for metabolic purposes.
Red or Green Chili Peppers
If you happen to like foods containing red or green chili peppers, then you might be in luck. A study in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology says that eating about one tablespoon of either vegetable (chopped up) increases your body’s heat, which promotes the functions of your sympathetic nervous system. This results in a 23% boost to your metabolism. Plus, you can add a little bit of this spice to just about anything.
First of all, asparagus is a natural diuretic, which means it forces the water out of your body, beating bloat in the process. Although it’s super low-cal, it’s packed with nutrients like vitamins C and K. “Among many other things, vitamin C has been linked to boosting fat-burning, especially when combined with regular exercise,” says Lisa Moskovitz, RD, founder of New York Nutrition Group.
This leafy green is packed with calcium, which is believed to speed up the metabolic process. “It’s full of calcium—137 milligrams per cup—and not only does the fiber from kale increase metabolism by causing our body to work harder to digest it, but there is evidence suggesting that calcium may help your body metabolize fat more efficiently,” says Dana Hunnes, Ph.D., MPH, RD, a senior dietitian at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. So the next time you’re choosing a salad base at your favorite to-go spot, you know what to pick.
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