10 Best Foods That Boost Metabolism For Weight Loss 2023

Sevginur Akdas

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Kathy Shattler, MS, RDN

foods that increase metabolism

When you are following a diet or trying to lose weight with physical activity, it would be disappointing to expect a magic wand effect from nutrition or exercise. There are some beneficial foods for weight loss, of course, but they won’t change everything all of a sudden. 

For healthy and sustained weight loss, dietary habits should be mapped out with a specialist, and changes made to your bad habits, substituting them with healthy ones. One of these healthy habits can include adding foods that can speed up your metabolism thanks to their nutrient content. Let’s explore more.

10 Best Foods That Increase Metabolism

  1. Eggs
  2. Animal protein; poultry, meat, and fish
  3. Pulses
  4. Whole grains
  5. Leafy greens
  6. Flaxseed
  7. Ginger
  8. Spices
  9. Coffee
  10. Green tea

10 Best Metabolism-Boosting Foods

The foods which may help you to lose weight are not magical. They may contain a high protein or high fiber content that increases energy expenditure during digestion and, thus, increases metabolic rate. Or they may have specific compounds that can slightly increase heat production in the body called thermogenesis. 

Some of these foods are rich in anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, which can help to reduce obesity-related inflammation. These beneficial foods for weight loss generally include foods that increase metabolism. There are many, but the following foods are good examples of metabolism-boosting foods.

Eggs

foods that increase metabolism

Eggs are commonly used in healthy diets as protein-rich foods for appetite control and weight management. Eggs have a high-quality protein content with low calories (1 large egg contains nearly 70 kilocalories[1]).

A comprehensive review in 2022 has reported[2] on the health functions of eggs, such as muscle mass, strength enhancement, and body fat reduction. 

Also, eggs have important anabolic or muscle-building compounds such as healthy fats, microRNAs, vitamins, minerals, and several phospholipids besides protein. 

Animal Protein; Poultry, Meat, And Fish

foods that increase metabolism

High-protein foods that increase metabolism and burn fat are essential for weight loss diets. 

Protein-rich foods[3] such as meat and fish are foods difficult to digest compared to other foods and may require more energy to digest them; therefore, they can increase energy expenditure. 

However, they are very nutritious and can be rich in calories, and contain significant amounts of saturated fats, a common risk factor for heart disease. You need to control your portions to avoid excessive calorie intake that exceeds your daily energy expenditure. 

In a meta-analysis[4], increasing dietary protein leads to significant body weight reduction compared to regular control diets. A high protein intake can also help you feel more satiety, thus, reducing your calorie intake. 

Among animal protein sources, fish is a special one. It is lower in saturated fat than other animal protein sources and contains unsaturated fatty acids and omega-3. Omega-3 fatty acids[5] support weight loss and suppress the liver’s synthesis of fat and cholesterol.

Pulses

foods that increase metabolism

Pulses[6] are a good food choice for weight management diets and have a low energy density (approximately 1.3 kcal/gram of cooked servings). This food group includes beans, lentils, and peas. They are high carbohydrate sources but have a low glycaemic index. It is a fact that pulses provide high dietary fiber, up to nearly 30 g per 100 g dry weight. This composition is essential for slow digestion, which affects energy expenditure and satiety. 

The results of twenty publications[7] reported that 150 grams of daily consumption of dietary pulses such as beans and legumes help to reduce body fat correlated with diet fiber content. It also improves body composition, blood fat profile, blood sugar, blood pressure, and inflammation.

Whole Grains

foods that increase metabolism

A diet should contain fiber, at least for healthy gastrointestinal movements. It is about 21-25 grams for women and 30-38 grams for men[8]

Consuming whole grains such as whole wheat, barley, buckwheat, bulgur, oats and etc., helps to get high fibers like pulses. The body weight and low-grade systemic inflammation of people who consumed a whole grain-rich diet[9] were lower than that of a refined grain diet. 

A plant-based diet[10], including whole grains, helps to reduce the risk of many metabolic problems thanks to its anti-oxidant, vitamin, mineral, and fiber content. The increased caloric need for digesting the fiber in whole grains leads to an increase in metabolism.

Leafy Greens

foods that increase metabolism

Green smoothies are famous everywhere because people want to get benefit from the rich nutrients of leafy greens while they keep their calorie intake low and their satiety high. It helps to get their body to a healthy weight.

As we mentioned many times in this article, the body burns calories when it has a lot to digest. 

Vegetable consumption is one of the most frequently reported strategies for sustainable weight loss[11] and maintenance because of its high fiber and vitamin content. The nutrients most responsible for the metabolism boost are iron and magnesium.  

Foods that boost metabolism for a flat stomach are closely related to fiber content because, for a flat stomach, your digestion should work properly, which dietary fibers help.

Flaxseed

foods that increase metabolism

This oilseed is very popular for speeding up metabolism. It provides[12] omega-3 fatty acids, soluble fiber, and phenolic compounds. Phenolic compounds support a healthy gut microbiome[13], which, in turn, helps boost metabolism and regulate blood sugar metabolism. Omega-3 fatty acids[14] are responsible for shifting metabolism in the direction of energy expenditure, increasing the oxidation of fatty acids, and reducing the storage of fat.

The digestive system needs to perform its functions for a healthy metabolism, and weight loss and the presence of soluble fiber helps it do just that. 

Flaxseed and flaxseed oil[15] are thought to benefit various health problems, including constipation, diarrhea, and stomach and intestinal complaints, such as irritable bowel syndrome. Flaxseed is also promoted for metabolic disorders such as cardiovascular disorders[16], diabetes[17], and metabolic syndrome[18].

Also, flaxseed consumption[19] as a snack helps to lower hunger and increase satiety. 

Ginger

foods that increase metabolism

People know and use ginger as a spice that benefits insulin and carbohydrate metabolism. It has been revealed that it also has a regulator effect on fat metabolism.  

A meta-analysis study[20] mentioned the main effects of ginger as reducing obesity, increasing thermogenesis, increasing fat burn, inhibiting body fat gain, inhibiting fat absorption in the intestine, and appetite control.  

Also, in another meta-analysis in 2022, ginger consumption[21] was shown to lower total lipid, cholesterol, and elevated liver enzyme levels in the blood.

Spices

foods that increase metabolism

Eating spicy foods like chili peppers may speed up metabolism due to their thermic effect. 

Capsaicin is the primary compound of chili peppers, and it was shown in a meta-analysis study[22] to have anti-obesity effects by boosting metabolic rate. Capsaicin increases lipid oxidation while preventing its storage, it activates brown adipose tissue, which contains cellular powerhouses called mitochondria, suppresses appetite, and increases satiety, and it plays a role in the healthy function of the gut microbiome.

Coffee

foods that increase metabolism

Coffee intake[23] may modestly reduce fat tissue, body mass index, and waist circumferences. It can be protective against major chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases and promote overall health.

According to a meta-analysis study[24] conducted in 2020, coffee showed a fat utilization effect with moderate consumption before aerobic exercise. 

But you can only get these benefits of coffee by consuming it as simply as possible, without extra cream, sauces, and flavors included. 

Green Tea

foods that increase metabolism

Green tea has a functional chemical content called cathepsin. It shows anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects, which are beneficial against[25] obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. 

While green tea promotes weight loss, it may also reduce total cholesterol and fat[25]

Catechins[26], present in green tea, have a suppressive effect on the enzyme that breaks down norepinephrine, a neurochemical that regulates the burning of fat, thus, boosting metabolism. Flavonoids and antioxidants add to the metabolism-boosting effects. Combining green tea with exercise jumpstarts your metabolism more than green tea taken alone.

How Do These Foods Affect Your Metabolism? 

Your daily calorie need is the cumulation of 4 different energy expenditures[27], which are;

  • basal metabolic rate.
  • thermic effect of foods.
  • physical activities.
  • thermoregulation and maintenance of body heat.

Foods can change energy expenditure via the thermic effect only. 

Thermic Effect Of Food

You can modify daily energy expenditure through dietary changes. After the meal, your energy expenditure increases while you digest the food. 

The meal volume (larger meal size) and dietary carbohydrate and protein content, but not fat, increase the thermic effect of foods[28]. Therefore, low-fat, plant-based high-protein diets are perfect for increasing energy expenditure. 

A mixed diet may induce 5 to 15% of daily energy expenditure[29]. A high protein diet can increase this rate, while fat and alcohol consumption lowers it. 

Foods To Avoid

High-Glycemic Index Foods

High-Glycemic Index Foods

The glycemic index[30] is the value of the foods showing the increment level in the rise in blood glucose compared to sugar, with the glycemic index of sugar being 100. Other food glycemic effects are calculated compared with sugar. 

If a food’s glycemic index is high, it leads to an increase in insulin secretion. When insulin level is consistently increased, this poses a risk for obesity and diabetes. 

Also, high glycemic index foods are generally dense and include more calories in small amounts. It leads to a lower thermic effect of foods and can adversely affect hunger cues. 

High Fat 

High Fat foods

Saturated and trans fats show a high risk for obesity and cardiovascular diseases. They are excessive and unhealthy calorie sources that a diet may include.  

According to the Cochrane group[31], saturated fat is one of the main risk factors for cardiovascular disease by increasing blood cholesterol levels.

Alcohol

Alcohol

Alcohol by itself is a high-calorie beverage and negatively affects body weight. In addition, alcohol consumption reduces fat burn due to its adverse effects on energy metabolism. It also elevates the inflammatory biomarkers[32] in the blood. 

Other Healthy Tips To Boost Metabolism

Water

Tips To Boost Metabolism

Water is a vital factor in many chemical reactions in the body.

Researchers[33] indicated that consuming 500 milliliters of water for each meal in a calorie-restricted diet showed more significant weight loss than a hypocaloric diet alone in adults.  

Sleep

Tips To Boost Metabolism

Healthy sleep habits[34] were found to be associated with greater weight and fat loss in overweight and obese individuals. 

You can promote the effects of foods that increase metabolism with regular and proper sleep, especially if you are older than 50 because it is well-established[35] that sleeping enough has significant importance on the aging effect of the body.

Exercise

Tips To Boost Metabolism

Physical activity can increase energy expenditure in two ways; 

  • Direct increase in energy expenditure for exercise
  • Increasing your body muscle composition increases basal metabolic rate[36].

Therefore, it is beneficial to add cardio and strength training together to your exercise plan to lose weight. 

The Bottom Line

Foods with thermic effects may increase the energy expenditure of the body. These effects are closely related to the amounts of protein, complex carbohydrates (fiber), and nutrient contents of the food you eat. Essentially, you can promote energy expenditure by drinking enough water, getting good sleep, and doing moderate exercise. However, even if you do each of them, if there isn’t any calorie deficit, you cannot achieve the benefit of sustainable weight loss.


+ 36 sources

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Sevginur Akdas

Written by:

Sevginur Akdas, RD

Medically reviewed by:

Kathy Shattler

Sevginur Akdas is a researcher, medical writer, and clinical dietitian, who is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in metabolism, chronic diseases, and clinical nutrition fields. She has many scientific articles, meta-analyses, systematic reviews, and book chapters on nutrition, chronic diseases, dietary supplements, maternal and child nutrition, molecular nutrition & functional foods topics as a part of a research team currently. Besides her academic background, she is also a professional health&medical writer since 2017.

Medically reviewed by:

Kathy Shattler

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