You can boost your metabolism

Paying attention to food and lifestyle can help!

By Leesa Putt

Special to The Knightly News


If you’ve done any reading about how your body works and how those processes make you feel, then you probably know that metabolism plays a significant role in weight management and energy levels.

The higher your metabolism is, the more calories your body burns, and the higher your energy rate will be.

While some people may genetically have slower metabolisms than others, health experts believe that can be changed through nutrition and lifestyle adjustments.

Oh – that Gene (or Gina)!

We all have that one friend who can eat whatever he or she wants, and never gain a pound.

As annoying as this is, boosting your own metabolism is not impossible.

Rachel Maser, a nutritionist and clean-eating author, claims that changing what you eat plays a large part in increasing a slow metabolism. Maser suggests along with hydration, exercise and managing stress, specific foods can be game-changers in metabolic rate.

Choosing wholesome foods that help your body work well leads to better health. Photo by Brooke Lark/Unsplash

Five powerhouse foods that can help speed up a sluggish metabolism follow.

  1. Protein-rich foods. Lean meat, fish, eggs, dairy, legumes, nuts and seeds can increase your metabolism because they require your body to use more energy to digest them. According to Healthline, an evidence-based health-journalism outlet, this is known as the thermic effect of food (TEF). TEF refers to the number of calories your body needs to digest, absorb and process nutrients in your meals. Meals rich in protein increase TEF.  Healthline suggests that protein-rich foods increase calorie burn by 15–30 percent more than foods higher in carbohydrates and fat.
  1. Chili peppers. This spicy little vegetable not only adds a ton of flavor but also contains capsaicin, a chemical that boosts your metabolism by increasing the rate at which your body burns calories. Experts say that capsaicin can help your body burn up to 50 extra calories a day.  This miracle ingredient also has appetite-reducing properties. If spicy foods are not for you, capsaicin is available in capsules.
  1. Ginger. Research conducted by the National Institutes of Health 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. Ginger tea is also a good alternative to the stronger-tasting powder form. Grains of paradise, another spice in the ginger family, has been suggested by health experts to have similar effects, with less of an earthy taste.
  1. Lentils. This food is a powerhouse of healthy carbohydrates. Lentils are high in fiber and protein, and contain an important metabolism-boosting ingredient known as selenium. Your body needs selenium to make thyroid hormones that help regulate your metabolism. If you have a sluggish thyroid or metabolism, nutritionists suggest adding lentils to your diet could be beneficial. With similar properties as pasta or rice, lentils make great alternatives to noodles in soups or pasta dishes.
  1. Coffee. The miracle bean that wakes you up in the morning also has amazing health benefits. The caffeine found in coffee can increase metabolic rate, according to a study published on Healthline’s website. Consuming 270 milligrams of caffeine daily, or the equivalent of about three cups of coffee, can speed up your metabolism and help you burn up to an extra 100 calories per day. Keep in mind, though, that coffee here means regular brewed coffee, and not specialty drinks loaded with sugar and fat.

Foods that slow your metabolism

With all the wholesome health-boosting alternatives available, knowing what foods will wreak havoc on your metabolism is also essential.

Beware of the following five foods when looking to manage weight and boost metabolic rate.

  1. White flour. White flour has little to no fiber, and that lack slows down digestion. When the body does not have to burn extra calories to break down foods, your metabolism naturally operates at a lower level. If you indulge in baked goods or pasta, nutritionists recommend trying whole wheat versions instead of white flour-based products. This small change could help boost your metabolism by making your digestive system work harder.
  1. Nonorganic fruit. This is a surprising food that health experts are finding can be a game-changer. Fruits that are not organic contain pesticides. According to a recent study published in ScienceDaily News, common pesticides slow metabolism and increase body fat, blood glucose levels and cholesterol. For fruits that you can peel, it’s okay to skip the organic section, but if you are planning on eating the outside of fruit, experts advise it is worth it to pay a few extra dollars for the organic version.
  1. Sea salt. This popular seasoning is in newer recipes, and is loved by foodies and chefs. However, iodine, a mineral your body needs to manage thyroid and metabolism, is missing from this form of salt. While tasty and more attractive on your plate than table salt, it may not be your best option if you’re watching your weight. All salt intake can increase inflammation and cause water retention, but a dash of iodized table salt in moderation is a healthier choice than sea salt.
  1. High-fat foods. With the low-carb, high-fat keto trend today, some health professionals do not denounce any fat intake. While cutting most carbohydrates does cause the body to burn only fat, nutrition experts warn that eating loads of fatty foods such as butter, bacon, burgers or heavy cream, is never a good idea. Nutritionists claim that a high fat intake will change how your body breaks down foods, nutrients and insulin. When your body absorbs only saturated fats, and not any natural sugars or complex carbohydrates, your body can go into insulin resistance, which is linked to obesity and type 2 diabetes. Saturated fats can also cause a harmful LDL cholesterol level, which can form blockages in the heart.
  1. Refined or processed sugar. Sugar in a natural form is not the enemy. According to Lauren Fleming, a registered dietitian at Savoured RD Wellness, the body metabolizes fructose, the sugar found in fruits and vegetables, differently from how it processes glucose, which is a sugar found in most sweets. If you are feeling sluggish, it may be because your body has slowed down due to an overabundance of processed sugar intake.

It’s not just what you eat

Metabolism is highly related to our ingestion of food but can also be altered by our environment and habits.

Here is a look at other factors that affect metabolism.

  • Sleep. That Netflix show can be hard to turn off at night, but it’s important to know that getting seven to nine hours of shut-eye helps your metabolism stay steady. Nourish, a division of health and wellness of WebMD, claims that a lack of sleep or even interrupted sleep cycles make it harder for your body to use energy well, leading to conditions like diabetes and obesity. It’s no wonder one of the first questions often asked by your family doctor, therapist or health coach is “How are you sleeping?”
  • Strict diets. Eating for weight loss is very different than eating for maintaining weight and health but restricting too many calories makes your metabolism switch to slow-mo. Severe diets and extreme calorie restriction will often have the opposite effect on metabolism. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, when you don’t eat enough, your body goes into survival mode, slowing down your metabolism and breaking down muscle to release the glucose stored inside.
  • When you eat. When you eat is as important as what you eat. Experts suggest eating every three to four hours to keep the metabolic fires burning and maintain steady blood sugar levels. Instead of eating two or three big meals a day, switching to six or seven small meals a day can increase your metabolism and improve overall health.

It’s important to understand that clean eating can be helpful, but slow metabolism can also be caused by medications, hormonal changes and other medical factors.

It’s best to talk to your doctor if you feel your metabolism or energy level has changed.

Changing your eating habits and patterns can be essential in creating a healthier lifestyle, but it is not a substitute for having a conversation with your doctor about your individual nutrition needs.

Leesa Putt writes about health. She recently earned her corporate-communications degree from Central Penn.

Comments or story ideas? Contact KnightlyEditors@CentralPenn.Edu.

Edited by media-club co-adviser and blog editor Professor Michael Lear-Olimpi.