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What to Eat to Speed Up Metabolism and Burn Fat

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What to Eat to Speed Up Metabolism and Burn Fat

The internet is rife with advice about how you can speed up metabolism. As you get older, though, it’s quite natural for various body systems to begin slowing down, including your metabolism. Unfortunately, this can result in weight gain and excess fat, which none of us want!

There are also thousands of weight-loss supplements and formulas that claim to get your body burning fat faster. The truth is, there is no “magic pill” that can change your body’s ability to burn fat. Much of it comes down to your own efforts in terms of diet, exercise, and self-care.

What Is Metabolism?

Your metabolism is simply the process by which your body converts food into energy. This is a complex biochemical process in which the calories in food and beverages combine with oxygen to release the energy that you need to carry out various activities.

Your body requires energy all the time, even when you’re resting. Dozens of different functions are going on within you that you don’t even think about, such as breathing, circulating blood, modulating hormones, restoring, and repairing cells.

Similarly, your body requires a certain number of calories to carry out these basic functions. This is known as your basal metabolic rate or metabolism.

Several factors determine the speed of your metabolic rate, including:

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  • Your body size and composition – People with more muscle burn more calories, even at rest.
  • Your gender – Men generally have less body fat and more muscles than women, so they burn more calories.
  • Your age – As you get older, your body’s muscle content tends to decrease and fat begins to increase, which can slow down your metabolism.

Can you change your metabolic speed? Well, your metabolism is generally fairly stable, but there are ways to ramp it up a little. Read more about it here: 4 Ways to Boost Your Metabolism

What Happens If You Speed Up Metabolism?

When your metabolism is functioning at its best, you’ll experience lots of health benefits. It’s important to remember that many factors are involved in your metabolic rate, and weight is only one of them!

Having a fast metabolism will mean that your energy levels are much more stable, and you hardly feel tired. This is because your body will be efficiently converting the food you eat into fuel, providing you with a steady source of energy.

People with great metabolisms can also stay mentally focused. You are less likely to gain weight and can shed pounds quickly when you need to.

6 Foods That Can Speed Up Metabolism

It might seem counter-intuitive to think that certain foods could speed up metabolism, but it’s true. Your body needs some nutrients to kick-start your fat-burning processes; that’s why skipping meals may not actually help you lose weight in the long run.

The following foods have been shown to help boost your metabolism and get your weight-loss journey on track:

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1. Lean Meats

It takes a lot more work to digest protein than it does to digest carbohydrates or fat. Because of that, experts recommend eating fresh, lean meats such as poultry and fish.[1] The digestion process requires a lot of energy, so you’re burning calories in order to break them down. Studies have shown that protein can increase your post-meal calorie burn by as much as 35%.[2]

What’s more, protein is required for building muscle mass. The more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism. Hence, aim to include some protein in every meal and snack throughout the day.

2. Legumes

Beans and pulses are an excellent source of plant-based protein. They’re also rich in fiber, both soluble and insoluble. Your body uses up a lot of energy when it breaks down the fiber and protein, and that keeps your metabolism in good working order.

The high fiber content of beans also helps to keep your blood sugar levels steady and prevent those mid-afternoon sugar cravings.[3]

Furthermore, legumes provide iron, zinc, and selenium. These are minerals that your thyroid needs to produce sufficient amounts of hormones. Without them, your metabolism can slow down or become impaired.

3. Nuts

Nuts are another great source of protein and fiber. Research has shown that people who eat nuts regularly tend to have a lower risk of insulin resistance and smaller waist sizes than those who don’t eat them.[4] When you have lower insulin resistance, your body is less likely to store fat or develop type 2 diabetes. Again, nuts take longer to break down, which makes them more satisfying and better for your metabolism.

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Most importantly, research has even found that nuts can ramp up your metabolism. Several trials have noted that nuts provide increased energy expenditure that may help you burn an extra 10% of your overall energy yield.[5]

4. Whole Grains

Whole grains are a complex carbohydrate that consists of a longer series of sugars. It entails that your body takes longer to break them down, so your metabolism is burning steadily for a longer period. Researchers have found that consuming whole grains increases your post-meal energy expenditure by up to 50% more than eating processed foods.[6]

Foods with complex carbohydrates typically have more nutrients, particularly B vitamins. They play a major part in converting the food you eat into energy, which is the essence of your metabolic function. Specifically, vitamin B12 is often associated with weight loss because it boosts metabolism and provides long-lasting energy.

Be sure to choose whole grains over processed grains. Look for whole-wheat flour, quinoa, brown rice, barley, corn, and oats.

5. Probiotic Foods

Fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut help to increase the number of good bacteria in your gut. These bacteria are largely responsible for digesting food in your intestines and facilitating the uptake of nutrients.[7]

A 2012 study published in the Journal of Functional Foods reported that when adults ate about 1/2 cup of probiotic yogurt at dinner every night for six weeks, they lost 3-4% body fat. This compared with adults who ate plain yogurt and only lost 1% body fat.[8]

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It’s been suggested that probiotics change the way the body metabolizes bile acids. These acids are made by the liver and their primary function is to break down fats in the upper gut. If probiotics can influence how bile acids are metabolized, they may change how much fat your body can absorb from food.

6. Caffeine

Caffeine is a powerful stimulant known for helping you to “wake up” and boosting your metabolism. It works by blocking a neurotransmitter called adenosine, which causes other neurotransmitters to release more dopamine and norepinephrine.

This helps you feel more alert and energized, which in turn can allow you to exercise longer. Remember, however, that drinking too much caffeine can also trigger a chronic stress response and leave you feeling burnt out, so you should take it in small doses.[9]

Studies have shown that caffeine can increase your resting metabolic rate by around 3–11%, depending on the size of your dose.[10] It’s also shown that this can help burn fat faster. One study even showed that people who took caffeine-based supplements experienced increased fat burning by as much as 29%. Thus, it has led researchers to suggest that caffeine can significantly influence energy balance and speed up metabolism.

Bottom Line

Remember, whilte this article focuses on what to eat, to really speed up your metabolism and burn fat, you need to make efforts in terms of exercise and self-care too. Start eating healthy with the above foods that I suggested, and exercise regularly to keep yourself moving.

More On Metabolism

Featured photo credit: Jo. via unsplash.com

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Reference

More by this author

Lisa Richards

Nutritionist, Creator of The Candida Diet, Owner of TheCandidaDiet.com

6 Health Benefits of Turmeric (And How to Take It for Good) How to Take Probiotics for the Best Health Benefits 3 Steps to Get Rid of a Candida Overgrowth When to Take Probiotics for the Best Health Benefits? Best 7 Supplements to Boost Immune System

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Published on August 24, 2021

What Is a Whole Food Diet And Does It Really Work?

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What Is a Whole Food Diet And Does It Really Work?

I’ve been a dietitian now for a long time (more years than I care to mention), and if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that fad diets are best avoided. This is why I’m so pleased that whole food diets are being talked about more and more.

Rather than a “diet,” I prefer to think of a whole food diet as a way of life. Eating this way is balanced, and it is a great way to support your all-around body health and longevity. Plus, it’s delicious and—in my opinion—not limiting either, which is a massive bonus.

A well-balanced diet follows some fairly basic principles and, in essence, consists of plenty of the following:

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Lean protein
  • Nuts
  • Water

This is essentially all a whole food diet is. Unfortunately, there isn’t an accepted definition of the whole food diet, which means that there are some highly restrictive versions around and some involve principles to frame your diet around rather than strict rules.

Read on to learn more about the whole food diet as a framework for eating rather than a strict rule book of dos and don’ts that restricts your lifestyle.

What Is a Whole Food Diet?

By definition, a whole food diet consists of eating foods that are as close to their natural form as possible. It’s easy to get lost in a quagmire of organic, local, or pesticide-free, but a whole food diet is basically food in its most natural form. Obviously, spices can be ground and grains can be hulled, but you get the idea. You eat the whole food rather than what’s left after being refined or processed.

In other words, it involves a lot of cooking because whole foods do not involve anything processed. That means no premade sauces, dips, or convenience foods like chocolate bars, sweets, or ready-meals. It also includes things like tinned vegetables and white bread.

Why? Processed and convenience foods are often high in salt, saturated fat, and additives in comparison to anything homemade. Because of this, their toll on your overall health is higher.

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Can Other Diets Also Be Whole Food Diets?

Here’s where it gets confusing—yes, other diets can also be whole food diets. Eating a whole food diet is a lifestyle choice, but many other diets can exist within a whole foods construct. So, diets like the MIND Diet and Mediterranean Diet are also whole food diets.

For example, here are the foods involved in the MIND Diet:[1]

  • Green, leafy vegetables five times a week
  • Five or more different colored fruits and vegetables every day.
  • Berries five times a week
  • Five or more servings of nuts a week
  • Olive oil five times a week
  • Whole grains five times a week
  • Oily fish twice a week or take an algae-based omega-3 supplement
  • Legumes and pulses five times a week
  • White meat/mix of plant-based proteins twice a week
  • Vitamin D supplement
  • Minimally processed foods
  • No more than one glass of wine a day
  • One or two coffee or tea a day max
  • Two liters of water a day

That’s pretty much a whole food diet, right? As long as any meat or plant-based proteins are as unprocessed as possible, then it can be a whole food diet.

Other diets, like a vegan diet, for instance, could be whole food diets or not. It really depends if processed foods are included. Some food substitutes are really heavily processed, so it’s important to read labels really carefully. But it’s only some, not all.

And here’s where it gets woolly. If you don’t need to eliminate certain food groups for whatever reason—ethical, health, religion—then a whole food diet can be great. But if you do exclude certain foods, then it could be beneficial to include certain “processed” foods. This is to make sure that you don’t miss out on vital nutrients to keep you healthy.

Processed Foods That Are Okay on a Whole Food Diet

Many brands of cereals are fortified with B vitamins, which can be hard to come by on a plant-based diet.

For example, vitamin B12 (needed for maintaining a healthy nervous system, energy, and mood-regulation), is largely found in animal sources. It is something that those on a plant-based diet need to keep an eye on, as studies show that around 20% of us are deficient. And we also know that 65% of vegans and vegetarians don’t take a B vitamin supplement.[2]

So in that case, choosing a cereal fortified with B vitamins would be a good option, if done wisely. By that I mean use your discretion and check the labels, as many brands of cereals are packed with sugar and additives. But you can strategically choose minimally processed foods using a whole foods mentality.

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As a rule of thumb, if there are any ingredients that you can’t pronounce, don’t understand, or sound artificial, they probably are best avoided.

Benefits of a Whole Food Diet

In a 2014 analysis by Yale University, they concluded that “a diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention.”[3]

A diet rich in fruit and vegetables or other high-fiber foods like whole grains and nuts is really important in maintaining good long-term health and preventing health problems like diabetes and cancers. These kinds of foods also help our bodies to cope and control the effects of inflammation.

In fact, one review from 2019 stated that “diets high in plant foods could potentially prevent several million premature deaths each year if adopted globally.”[4] This is a big endorsement for a whole food diet.

Whole Foods and the Gut

Whole foods are loaded with fibers that are sometimes lost during processing or refinement. Fiber is essential for a healthy gut because aside from its traditional “roughage” reputation, it also feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut, providing a whole host of other benefits.

They also provide a lot of variety, which the gut loves. The more variety, the better. So, even though you might fall in love with certain recipes, it’s important to mix up the kinds of whole foods you eat to maintain a healthy gut. Aim for 30 different whole foods each week. It’s easier than you think!

Whole Foods and the Brain

The brain is a really hungry organ, and it uses 25% of the total energy you consume from your food. Everything it needs to function at its best is—you guessed it—a whole, unprocessed food.

In fact, the best diet recommended for brain health is the MIND Diet. In one study, it was shown that people who follow the MIND diet closely had a 53% reduced rate of developing Alzheimer’s.[5]

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Some of the best whole foods for the brain are:[6]

  • Oily fish
  • Nuts
  • Eggs
  • Berries
  • Broccoli
  • Whole grains

Is It Easy to Follow a Whole Food Diet?

Once you’ve got your head around having “ingredients” rather than “ready-to-eat” things in your kitchen cupboards, it’s actually very easy. The only issue is the lifestyle and habit changes that come along with it.

It is very likely that for many people, following a totally, religiously whole food diet may be unattainable at least some of the time. For example, there are days where you don’t get time to make your lunch or if you want to enjoy social eating. Similarly, people who have young children or who are working more than one job are unlikely to be able to follow a whole food diet all of the time.

Sometimes, we put ourselves under pressure to be as perfect as we can with diets like this, which can lead to an eating disorder called Orthorexia, which is a preoccupation with healthy eating.

This means that following a whole food diet, in principle, can be healthy and accessible for some people but not for everyone. It also means that those with previous disordered eating, as always, need to avoid any form of dietary restriction or rules around their diet.

Is a Whole Food Diet Boring?

Absolutely not! The beauty of this way of eating is that there are barely any recipes that are off-limits. If you can make it yourself using natural ingredients, then it counts. So, dig out your recipe books and get familiar with your spice cupboard.

Here’s my advice if you’re just starting: stock up on coconut milk and canned tomatoes. You’ll use them all the time in sauces.

Best Hacks for Sticking With a Whole Food Diet

Here are some tips to help you stick with a whole food diet and develop this lifestyle.

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1. Practice Batch Cooking

Especially in the beginning, if you’ve been used to eating more convenience-based or packaged foods, you’re likely to feel like you spend the majority of your life in the kitchen. So, I’d suggest getting your cookbooks out and planning around five things to make per week. If you make double, or even triple portions depending on your household, you’ll have enough quantity to last several meals.

For example, his could be homemade granola. Make it once, and that’s breakfast sorted for a week. Whole food diet ingredients like oats, quinoa, buckwheat, nuts, and seeds are all delicious, and great nutritional resources to keep you feeling full until lunchtime.

I also love to make big stews, sauces, and curries that can happily be reheated and added throughout the course of a few days.

2. Make Your Own Convenience Foods

Sticking to a new way of eating can be really difficult, especially for your willpower. So, it’s very important to make it as easy as possible for yourself.

Pre-chop. Pre-chop. Pre-chop.

If you’ve got a container of carrot sticks on hand or can happily munch on a few pieces of melon from the fridge, use those—it’s almost easier than grabbing something from a package. This can extend to your other vegetables, too. If you get your veg delivered or buy it from a market, choose a few things to slice after you wash them. That way, if you need a speedy lunch or a lazy dinner, it’ll be ready in minutes.

Ready to Try a Whole Food Diet?

If you’re looking to maximize your overall health, well-being, and vitality, I’d absolutely suggest a whole food diet. But, as with everything, it’s important to do what works for you and your own lifestyle.

Featured photo credit: Louis Hansel – Restaurant Photographer via unsplash.com

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Reference

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