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Can You Really Eat Your Way to a Faster Metabolism? A Nutritionist Says Yes! Here’s How

Ever wondered why your adult friend (or sibling, coworker, etc.) can eat like a growing teenager and retain the same body composition? But another person’s single indulgence makes his or her jeans fit more snug? Chalk that up to a variety of factors—age, activity level, individual differences in muscle mass, and metabolism. Oh, and diet. Some of us are naturally born as “fast burners,” while others experience a slower metabolism. Either way, our metabolism is a spyglass into our overall health. Good news is, you can boost your metabolism, and it doesn’t require anything extreme. In fact, it’s as simple as incorporating more fruits and vegetables that boost metabolism. So, let’s get cooking.

What Does Your Metabolism Do?

Even as you skim this article, your body is expending energy. Said differently: your metabolism is hard at work. It’s creating energy from what—and how—we eat. Metabolism is the process by which our bodies convert the food we consume into energy to survive and function. Our metabolism powers everything from breathing and blinking to running and strength training. In many ways, it’s a reflection of how quickly (or slowly) we’re able to convert food into energy. While a fast metabolism is like a hot furnace (burning through calories quickly), a slow metabolism needs less fuel to keep the furnace warm.

4 Lifestyle Factors That Affect Your Metabolism

Our metabolism is in constant motion. It’s operating around the clock to keep us alive. But did you know that certain habits impact how quickly (or slowly) it’s operating? Even though we can’t typically increase the speed of our resting metabolic rate, our habits do affect other aspects of our metabolism. Consider these four factors to improve your metabolism.

  1. What you eat. When you load up on fruits and vegetables that boost metabolism, your body can more readily use that energy. When you load up on foods that cause inflammation, those energy sources are more likely to be stored as fat.
  2. Your blood sugar. Maintaining balanced blood sugar is key. When there is glucose remaining in the blood, insulin turns this glucose into saturated body fat. This, in turn, can impact your metabolism. To boost metabolism, create a balance plate by pairing carbs with protein and fat. Furthermore, I’m an advocate of listening to your body. Restricting or depriving yourself sends mixed messages to your metabolism by telling it to store calories as if there’s a shortage of food. Instead, aim to eat every 3-4 hours. 
  3. How often you exercise. When it comes to exercise and its impact on metabolism, consistency is more important than intensity. Walking for 25-30 minutes per day is more beneficial than an hour at the gym, two times per week. Any type of resistance training is very beneficial. After all, muscle tissue uses more energy than fat tissue does, even when you’re at rest.
  4. The amount of sleep you’re getting. We all know that quality sleep is fundamental to our wellbeing. Aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Sleep deprivation can cause your body to produce too much insulin, which can lead to increased fat storage.
Photo credit: Michelle Nash

How Digestion Impacts Metabolism

Along with our resting metabolism, we also have a digestive metabolism. This is also called the thermic effect of food (TEF). Simply digesting food—turning carbs into sugar and turning protein into amino acids—burns calories. When it comes to speeding up your digestive metabolism, there are a few foods that help. For example, fiber and probiotics. Fiber-rich foods, such as whole grains, leafy vegetables, seeds, and fresh fruit help stimulate the bowel to push food along. Yogurt, sauerkraut, and other probiotic-rich foods are helpful too. They contain live bacteria cultures which promote healthy digestion. Staying hydrated is key, as well!

Boost Your Metabolism Through Diet

Our bodies are primed to be fat-burning machines. When given the chance, they can rev at maximum efficiency. Along with daily movement, restful sleep, and decreasing stress, what you eat can make a significant difference. On a daily basis, opt for fruits and vegetables that boost metabolism. Like, broccoli and berries. Also, prioritize protein. Consuming enough protein is key. Your body needs adequate protein in order to build lean muscle mass. And muscle mass is necessary for fat-burning. Last but not least, drink green tea. Studies show that green tea contains a compound that may increase your calorie (and fat) burn. 

11 Fruits and Vegetables That Boost Metabolism

When it comes to keeping our engines running smoothly, we need the right balance of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Think color and variety. We need fiber, healthy fats, and whole-food carbohydrates to keep our metabolism humming along. Below are the best fruits and vegetables that boost metabolism.

Apricots

Although it’s not quite apricot season, consider stocking your fridge with these tart, golden beauties in the spring and summer. Apricots are packed with iron, both the dried and fresh varieties. Apricots also contain magnesium, potassium, and fiber. All of which support metabolic health. 

Recipe: Apricot Salad with Rocket and Feta by Salads with Anastasia

Artichokes

As mentioned, fiber is key for a well-running metabolism. Artichokes are a wonderful pick. These versatile spring veggies are an incredible source of fiber, which helps regulate digestion, blood sugars, and more. Artichokes have been studied for their ability to improve metabolic health. Plus, they’re an integral part of the Mediterranean diet, which is known for its health-boosting abilities. 

Recipe: Artichoke and Pea Crostini

Avocados

A rich source of healthy fats, avocados are high in metabolism-boosting nutrients. Containing a hearty dose of antioxidants, vitamin E, potassium, iron, and magnesium, avocados are as well-rounded as produce can get. Magnesium, in particular, supports healthy blood sugar and insulin levels, while promoting regular bowel movements (important for metabolism). All together, magnesium-rich foods promote a healthy metabolism.

Recipe: Creamy Avocado Salad Dressing by Simply Scratch

Recipe: Asian Noodle Bowls with Avocado and Tofu by The Vegan Atlas

Blueberries

Here at CS, we love our antioxidant-rich berries. More than a naturally sweet snack, blueberries are packed with health benefits. This includes keeping blood sugar balanced and slowing down digestion (which keeps you fuller, longer!). Containing high levels of fiber, blueberries aid in keeping insulin stable. And when insulin is stable, metabolism can function optimally. When possible, opt for organic blueberries (fresh or frozen). Wild blueberries are particularly nutrient-dense! I love them in this vegan chia seed jam.

Recipe: Healthy Blueberry Muffins by Cookie + Kate

Broccoli

Of all cruciferous veg, broccoli may benefit metabolism the most. The reason being it contains a substance called glucoraphanin. This substance has the ability to “re-tune” our metabolism, lower blood fat levels, and reduce the risk of various age-related diseases. When possible, opt for organic broccoli

Recipe: Salmon Tacos With Cashew-Broccoli Slaw by Camille Styles

Recipe: Healthy Baked Broccoli Tots by Gimme Delicious

Chili Peppers

Can cayenne pepper help you lose weight and speed up your metabolism? Possibly. In fact, research shows that chili peppers may curb your appetite and speed up your metabolism. The main active ingredient in cayenne pepper is capsaicin—and capsaicin is a thermogenic chemical. A thermogenic chemical may help speed up your metabolism and decrease your appetite.

Recipe: The Best Chili Recipe by Craving Home Cooked

Dark, Leafy Greens

Leafy greens are packed with many essential nutrients, like iron and magnesium. Both of these, specifically, are integral for efficient metabolism. In essence, spinach, kale, and other leafy green vegetables may boost your metabolism, thanks to their iron content. Research indicates that low iron levels can lead to a slowdown in your metabolism.

Recipe: Kale Salad With Cranberries

Recipe: Strawberry Spinach Smoothie by Well Plated by Erin

Kidney Beans

Beans have a number of health benefits, including kidney beans. They’re versatile, economical, and loaded with nutrients. Along with fiber, beans are also a great source of plant-based protein, helping reduce blood sugar levels, help control cholesterol, and increase good gut bacteria. Additionally, beans are excellent for boosting metabolism. An incredible source of fermentable, soluble fiber, beans have a direct impact on overall metabolic rate. Kidney beans, in particular, are rich in folate—an important nutrient during pregnancy.

Recipe: Kidney Bean and Cilantro Salad by The Mediterranean Dish

Lentils

Like beans, legumes are another metabolism-boosting powerhouse. Interestingly, a 2016 review (of 41 animal studies), showed that eating lentils and other legumes, such as beans and peas, can play a central role in preventing and treating metabolic syndrome. Lentils may also increase metabolism because they are rich in protein. 

Recipe: Lentil Salad by Two Peas and Their Pod

Recipe: Vegan Lentil Soup by Veggie Desserts

Strawberries

Like blueberries, strawberries are another metabolism-boosting berry. A whole cup of raw strawberries has just under 50 calories and provides 150% of daily recommendations for vitamin C—which is a powerful antioxidant that also fights fat. Furthermore, studies suggest that strawberries promote the production of two important hormones: adiponectin and leptin. Both of these hormones help to burn fat and enhance metabolism.

Recipe: Strawberries and Cream Oatmeal by In My Bowl

Tempeh

A go-to food for vegans and vegetarians, tempeh is high in protein and healthy fat. Made from fermented soybeans, tempeh contains probiotics that are extremely beneficial for gut health and optimal digestion. And, a healthy gut is key for boosting the metabolism as it ensures you’re able to rid the toxic waste from the body (liver) to allow for efficient fat metabolism.

Recipe: Marinated Peanut Butter Tempeh by Minimalist Baker

Recipe: Tempeh Stir Fry by Jessica In The Kitchen




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