Your body gets the energy it needs from food through a process called metabolism. Our metabolism converts the food we eat into fuel that powers everything we do. In other words—it burns calories.
But as we get older, our metabolism slows down. Our bodies don’t burn calories as quickly, which makes it harder to lose weight. In fact, our metabolism starts slowing by as much as 2 to 4 percent around age 25.
Here are some foods you can eat to increase your metabolism and keep your calorie-burning in high gear.
A recent study by Tufts University researchers found eating whole grains reduces calories retained during digestion and speeds up metabolism. The lead author says the extra calories lost by those who ate whole grains was equivalent to a brisk 30-minute walk.
The recommended daily allowance of whole grains is a minimum of 3 ounces of whole grains for women and 4 ounces for men. That’s 1½ to 2 cups of brown rice or oatmeal each day.
Other foods that will get more whole grains into your diet:
- 100% whole wheat bread
- Whole rye bread
- Organic popcorn kernels (not microwave popcorn)
- Whole wheat couscous
According to the Whole Grains Council, look for foods marked “100% whole grain.” The 100% stamp assures you that a food contains a full serving or more of whole grain in each labeled serving and that all the grain is whole grain.
A study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially in walnuts, may enhance the activity of certain genes that control fat burning. A small handful of walnuts each day will do the trick, but if walnuts aren’t your thing, how about some…
- Almonds—rich in the amino acid L-arginine, they actually can help you burn more fat and carbs during workouts.
- Brazil nuts—a good source of selenium, which keeps your thyroid gland healthy. This is important because your thyroid gland keeps your metabolism moving.
- Pistachios—low in calories and high in protein, potassium and fiber.
- Cashews—they’re high in magnesium, which helps digestion.
- Peanuts—technically a legume, they are packed with fiber and protein and will make you feel fuller longer.
Studies show caffeine can increase your metabolic rate by 3 to 11 percent. How? Caffeine stimulates your nervous system, which sends direct signals to your fat cells that say, “Break down fat!”
But you can get too much of a good thing. Other studies discovered your body can build a tolerance to the fat-burning effects of caffeine. The FDA and most doctors recommend no more than 100 to 200 milligrams of caffeine per day, or about one to two cups of coffee.
How about putting a little spice in your life? Some studies link eating hot peppers to an increase in metabolism. Researches says the credit actually goes to the capsaicin (kap-sey-uh-sin) in the peppers. Capsaicin increases blood circulation and metabolic rate, making your body burn fat faster. It’s found in chili peppers, jalapenos and cayenne peppers, among others.
The fiber in berries makes them a good metabolism booster because fiber speeds up the digestive process.
As you can see, you can eat lots of foods each day to increase your metabolism, but keep this in mind: Regardless of how you alter your diet, regular exercise also will be needed to help keep your metabolism moving.