Metabolism is largely controlled by genetics, which is why some lucky people can eat whatever they want and not gain a pound while others have to be careful about what they put in their salads to avoid gaining weight. Luckily for the latter group, genetics aren’t the only factor. There are certain foods that could lead to temporary increases in your resting metabolism. (Don’t worry: They’re all pretty tasty.)
1. LEAN PROTEIN
Eating food can temporarily increase your metabolism for a few hours, which is why skipping meals is such a big weight loss no-no. This temporary spike is called the thermic effect of food, or TEF. A study from the journal Nutrition & Metabolism found that protein causes the largest rise in TEF, meaning you should load up on foods like chicken, beef and turkey (or non-meat sources like beans, chickpeas and lentils) if you’re looking to boost your resting metabolic rate.
They’re not just delicious—berries like strawberries and blackberries are also high in dietary fiber. A study in the journal Nutrients found that high-fiber diets are inversely related to obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and might improve carbohydrate metabolism (aka the way you digest and process foods like sugar and grains). That’s largely because fiber is hard to digest. The body tries to digest it anyway, though, and burns more calories in the process. This calls for a trip to the farmers’ market.
Not necessarily a food, but still. A study published in the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism found that caffeine can temporarily increase resting metabolic rates by three to 11 percent. One caveat: Coffee’s fat-burning effects are dependent on your weight. A study in the American Journal of Physiology found that coffee increased fat-burning by 29 percent for lean women, but only 10 percent for obese women.
Per Maria Marlowe, a nutritionist and author of the forthcoming book The Real Food Grocery Guide, our daily scramble is doing our waistline a world of good. “Research indicates that regularly including eggs in the diet, particularly in place of refined grains, results in more fat loss and increased metabolism,” she says, citing a controlled trial in which overweight or obese people who consumed two eggs a day for eight weeks (at least five days per week) lost more weight and body fat than those who did not.
5. CHILI PEPPERS
Spicy foods like hot peppers contain capsaicin, a chemical compound that studies (like this one from Manchester Metropolitan University’s Food Research Centre) have found kick metabolism into higher gear, helping your body burn around 50 extra calories per day. Hey, every little bit helps, people.
6. COCONUT OIL
In addition to its many beauty uses, coconut oil is an excellent addition to a healthy diet. That’s because it contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), a type of fat. According to a study at McGill University’s School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition, diets high in MCTs result in greater loss of fat. So start cooking veggies in coconut oil instead of butter or olive oil. There, that was easy.
This sea veggie is an excellent source of iodine, a mineral required for the proper function of your thyroid gland. According to a study by researchers at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, one of the various functions of the thyroid gland and thyroid hormones is to regulate your metabolic rate. Sushi, anyone?