The Best Foods That Boost Metabolism, from Certified Nutritionists

Updated: Aug. 29, 2023

We bet you already love most of these bites that boost metabolism! Plus, how they can help reset your gut health and circadian rhythm to improve your metabolism.

You often hear that a speedy “metabolism” is a major key to making you leaner…but what exactly is your metabolism? The Cleveland Clinic defines “metabolism” as the chemical processes that take place as your body converts foods and drinks into energy. Even when you’re at rest, your metabolism is always working by helping you digest food, manage hormone levels, and regulate body temperature, among other important functions. To make sure this process is in healthy working order, there are certain foods you can eat to boost your metabolism.

When thinking about boosting your metabolism, it’s often the basal metabolic rate, or the number of calories you burn at rest, that we’re referring to. The more you support your metabolic rate, the more calories you burn. Some licensed trainers recommend you turn to strength training, especially as you get older, since people with more muscle mass tend to have a higher metabolism. But unfortunately as we age, we often lose muscle mass. In turn this slows down metabolism, but including those key foods can make a big difference.

Erika Jacobson, MS, RD, CDN, a registered dietitian, spoke to The Healthy @Reader’s Digest about specific foods and drinks that can help boost your metabolism.

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Which foods boost metabolism and burn fat?

There are many different foods you can eat that help boost metabolism and burn fat, but according to Jacobson protein should be your first priority. “Eating enough protein (think fish, eggs, poultry, beef, beans, legumes, soy and dairy) can be an excellent way to boost your metabolism. This is due to the increased thermic effect of food, which is when your body uses calories to digest, absorb, and metabolize what you eat. It also helps to maintain muscle mass while in a calorie-deficit diet and helps you stay full longer.”

When planning out your meals, be sure to focus on including protein at every meal and snack.

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Supporting your gut health can also be a great way to boost metabolism. Jacobson also recommends eating fermented foods as a way to support gut health. “Eating fermented foods like kimchi may boost metabolism by increasing insulin sensitivity which is essential because insulin resistance leads to elevated insulin levels, which promote fat storage. In addition, capsaicin in kimchi may help to increase energy expenditure and boost metabolism.”

Jacobson also says Akkermansia muciniphila, which is a beneficial gut bacteria, helps to reduce inflammation and improve fat and glucose metabolism. “A great way to promote the growth of this bacteria in the gut is by adding prebiotics called fructooligosaccharides to your diet, which are found in foods like kiwis, pears, raspberries, onions, garlic and asparagus. In addition, cranberry polyphenols are especially helpful in boosting Akkermansia muciniphila.”

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What drink speeds up metabolism?

If you’re looking for other ways to speed up your metabolism you can also add in specific drinks. Jacobson says green, oolong, or black tea have prebiotic properties, which can benefit metabolism by supporting the growth of healthy gut bacteria and anti-inflammatory short-chain fatty acids.

“The combination of caffeine and catechins in green tea may benefit metabolism by stimulating fat oxidation, which helps the body use fat as energy,” Jacobson says.

Another way you can boost your metabolism and burn fat is by including cinnamon into your diet, she adds. “Adding cinnamon to your coffee or tea can support your metabolism. This delicious spice can help reduce insulin resistance and inflammation, which are critical elements that aid in healthy metabolism.”

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How do I kick-start my metabolism?

The first step to take to help kick-start your metabolism is to focus on eating meals. “Skipping breakfast may reduce insulin sensitivity, which can increase the storage of body fat. Eating a breakfast focusing on proteins, healthy fats, and fiber in the morning will keep you full longer, help to support all-day blood sugar, and kick-start metabolism,” Jacobson says.

Jacobson also says mindfulness practices such as meditation can help support your metabolism. “Taking time to relax and reduce stress levels helps lower inflammation and cortisol levels in the body—which is not only beneficial for our overall well-being, but also vital in regulating blood sugar levels and preventing excess belly fat storage.”

If you need another reason to get to bed on time, think about how rest helps support your metabolism. “Getting enough quality sleep and supporting the body’s circadian rhythm is essential for a healthy metabolism, as it helps to regulate hormones like leptin (which controls appetite) and ghrelin (which stores energy),” Jacobson says.

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Jacobson also advises that good sleep hygiene is key to a healthy metabolism. “Incorporating a few simple steps into your routine, such as aiming for eight hours of sleep per night with consistent sleep and wake times, getting 15 minutes of sunshine first thing in the morning, and limiting blue light exposure a couple of hours before bedtime can help to balance your circadian rhythm,” says Jacobson.

Remember to take a holistic approach when thinking about the best foods to boost metabolism. Colleen Tewksbury, PhD, RD who is also a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says to focus on behaviors that will maintain or build lean body mass: “Eat a balanced diet with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins and stay active. This includes both lifestyle movement and structured exercise,” says Tewksbury.

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