To a certain extent, your metabolism runs at a preset speed based on your genetics. Great news if your mom and dad are still going for runs in their late 50s, something to think about if health problems are ripe in the family.
By no means does this mean that just because your great aunt died from a heart attack or your uncle is obese, these things will happen to you, but by filling up on certain foods, you can give your body's fat-burning skills a gentle nudge in the right direction.
While it's important to keep in mind that the relationship between weight and metabolic rate is complicated, eating the right foods to stoke your metabolic furnace can have an impact on your overall calorie burn and health, says Edwina Clark, R.D., head of nutrition and wellness at Yummly. As you fine-tune your overall strategy, here are nine metabolism-boosters to get you started.
1. Greek yogurt
"Cells containing calcium actually burn off more fat than those that lack it," says Caroline Apovian, M.D., director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Centre at the Boston Medical Centre. But since many calcium-rich foods are calorie-dense, be cautious of the grub you choose. Apovian recommends one cup of plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt, which provides about 18 percent of your daily calcium needs and contains only 100 calories.
"Probiotic-rich fermented foods, like kimchi, are beneficial for gut health, promoting healthy digestion and less bloating," says Rebecca Lewis, R.D., in-house dietitian at HelloFresh. This, in turn, can help your metabolism run more efficiently since there's not as much standing in the way of your body breaking down nutrients properly. And one small study of overweight and obese people, published in Nutrition Research, found that participants who ate fermented kimchi showed improvements in cholesterol and carbohydrate metabolism, along with increased weight loss.
This tasty green does your metabolism a solid by providing your body with a huge dose of iron. "Because iron helps carry the oxygen our muscles need to burn fat, our muscles are able to do so at a faster rate," says Lockwood. If you're not a big fan of spinach, don't fret: lentils, Swiss chard, and soybeans can also do the trick, she says.
"Even mild dehydration can slow your metabolism," says Lewis. For brownie points (literally, more brownies): Drink cold water, which forces your body to use more calories to warm it up, according to a study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. It's not a huge jump, but every little bit counts, right?
"Fish is an excellent source of both iodine and selenium, two minerals that support the function of the thyroid gland, which regulates metabolism," says Bowerman, so consider adding more salmon, tuna, mackerel, or trout to your repertoire.
6. Green tea
Green tea contains a compound called EGCG, which slightly increases the body's fat-burning process, says Apovian. Plus, the caffeine it contains can give your metabolism a (slight) boost. Opt for freshly brewed, unsweetened green tea for maximum impact, she suggests.
7. Whole eggs
Whole eggs are packed with vitamin D, which helps rebuild and repair hard-working muscles, says Lockwood. The more muscle mass you have, the easier it is for your body to burn calories. Wild salmon and tofu are also excellent sources of vitamin D, she adds.
8. Chilli peppers
Spices like cayenne, red or green chilli peppers, and sriracha are known as warming spices, which heat up the inside of our bodies to aid in fat breakdown, says Lewis. Research suggests that eating thermogenic foods like these can increase metabolism by up to five percent and increase fat burning by up to 16 percent. "The hotter the variety, the greater the affect, but the exact magnitude of the benefit may vary from person to person," says Clark.
Noshing on avocado is a great way to boost your metabolism, especially when eaten in the morning. "Breaking your fast with foods that contain healthy fats, like the omega-3's in avocado, gets your metabolism going while keeping blood sugar levels stable (since they're burned at a slower rate by the body). And that's super important for weight loss since it prevents energy crashes and cravings," says Baltimore-based registered dietitian Courtney Ferreira.
If you have any of these in your diet, you are well on your way. Otherwise, it's super easy to put any of these into your daily diet. Heck, you could even combine most of this list to make one Avengers-like metabolism boosting meal. Take that, belly fat.