“Boosting the metabolism” may very well be the “holy grail” of the health and wellness industry. Fortunately, there are several tried and true methods to accomplish this. Exercise, for instance, is arguably the most benefical tool in the metabolism-boosting toolbox. Indeed, certain types of exercise can boost metabolism for hours after exercise. Even better, they can lead to long-term increases in resting metabolic rate by building calorie-burning muscle.

Increasing the amount of non-exercise activity—such as walking, doing yard work, performing chores, dancing, taking the stairs, mowing the lawn and moving throughout the day—are effective ways to increase daily energy expenditure.

Believe it or not, the food you eat—and even more so what you don’t eat—can also have a significant impact on metabolism. For example, under-eating can lead to reduced metabolic rate and actually cause your body to store fat. Meanwhile, certain metabolism-boosting foods and drinks help boost metabolic rate and guess what they are all natural.

Remember diet is not everything but it might just be the most important thing when it comes to increasing metabolism, boosting energy and increasing burning fat. Here are five metabolism-boosting foods that are healthy and easy to find at the grocery store.

1. Protein Rich Foods

All foods you eat require calories to be burned to digest, absorb, and assimilate their nutrients. This is referred to as dietary induced thermogenesis (DIT), the thermic effect of feeding (TEF), or what we like to call thermogenic burn. There is a general thought that protein stimulates thermogenic burn to a significantly greater extent than other macronutrients (carbohydrates, fat). In fact, protein-rich foods are estimated to boost metabolism by as much as 30%, whereas as fats and carbs are typically estimated to be in the 5 – 10% range. This is what makes proteins one of the top metabolism-boosting foods. Protein-rich foods boost the metabolism 3-6 times more than carbs or fats. This means you burn more calories each day when you consume a high-protein diet. It also means that protein-rich foods provide less metabolizable energy than carbs or fats. That is, your body is less likely to store calories from protein as compared with carbs and fat. So, it should come as no surprise that high-protein diets increase metabolic rate and help preserve metabolic rate after weight loss. I recommend having a balanced approach to getting your protein throughout the day, wild caught salmon, pasteur raised chicken, and grass fed meats. Also what I have seen in some of my patients is that they are consuming massive amounts of proteins in the form of protein shakes and as a result they are having some serious digestive issues. Your body can only digest and breakdown so much plant or animal protein at one time even if the gut is healthy. When the gut is unhealthy, like is the case with so many American’s, it is even harder to break down and digest proteins. So if you are consuming high amounts of protein yet having major digestive issues there is something wrong, and your body is trying to tell you that. Digestive issues with proteins is a very common problem with my clients so we have some strategies to help our patient’s get their gut healthy and as a result significantly improve their overall health. What we commonly do for these patients is recommend digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid supplements and diet modification to help heal and repair the gut lining.

2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The omega-3 fatty acids are also known as essential fatty acids. That is, the body needs them and is not able to produce them on its own, so they must be obtained through diet or supplements. The American Heart Association recommends that adults consume at least 500mg/day of EPA and DHA. Yet, the average person consumes only about a quarter of that amount. EPA and DHA are well-known for their beneficial effects on heart health, brain health, cognitive function, mood, eye health, and immune function. The benefits of EPA and DHA are far reaching, as they are part of every cell membrane in our bodies. Research has shown their potential benefit as one of the key metabolism-boosting foods. Recent studies have found that supplementation with fish oils, for 6 weeks significantly increased fat-free mass and decreased fat mass. What’s more, the subjects also experienced increased metabolic rate and fat burning along with significantly decreased levels of cortisol, a stress hormone associated with increased abdominal fat storage. Imagine that, eating fat which helps you burn fat and helps support your adrenal glands, (cortisol), which almost every patient of mine is dealing with a tired or worn out adrenal glands. The best dietary sources of EPA and DHA are cold-water fatty fish such as:

  • Anchovies
  • Herring
  • Sardines
  • Salmon

There are some plant based forms of essential fatty acids but they don’t compare with the EPA and DHA levels of these fish.

3. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is principally made up of saturated fat (about 92%), with as much as 70% of that being a special type of fat called medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). This makes coconut oil unique among dietary fats. You see, unlike the more common long-chain fats (LCFs), MCTs are easily burned for energy and are far less likely to be stored as fat. You can actually buy MCT oil if you don’t like to eat or cook with coconut oil.

In fact, MCTs are considered functional fats that provide a wide variety of benefits. They’ve been shown to lower body weight, improve markers of metabolic health, reduce abdominal fat, and improve insulin sensitivity. Coconut oil is a very rich source of this unique, health-promoting saturated fat. You might think to yourself, but doc I am a diabetic so I have to avoid fats, now you know that consuming MCT oils helps with insulin sensitivity which is a huge part of type 2 diabetes. Always consult your doctor before starting a new diet, you want to tell your doctor that you are trying a new diet. Remember that the brain is made up of over 60% fat; so if you are on a low fat or no fat diet you may want to think about how that is affecting your health.

4. Resistant Starch

Resistant starch is so named because it is a non-digestible carbohydrate (i.e., fiber). The reason resistant starch have been long-considered one of the top metabolism-boosting foods is in its ability to curb your appetite, it keeps you full. Research has also shown consumption of resistant starch increases fat burning, decreases fat storage, and improves insulin sensitivity. Researchers speculate that resistant starch may also increase total calorie burn in the body. In addition, it may also promote weight loss and preserve calorie-burning muscle. Not surprisingly, the resistant starch has been hyped by the popular press as a weight loss wonder food. You really don’t hear many fitness programs or guru’s saying to eat a bunch of resistant starches do you? While resistant starch is not digestible by us, it is considered a prebiotic fiber that provides food or the fuel for our beneficial gut bacteria which are called probiotics. In other words, gut bacteria feed off resistant starch through the process of fermentation. This results in the production of key chemicals that fuel our immune cells and cause the release of key hunger-suppressing hormones. Keep in my if you are just bombarding your gut with probiotics and not eating resistant starches you probably are getting enough benefit. Taking probiotic supplements causes a seed to be planted in the gut and intestines so that future good bacteria will grow; if your gut is not healthy enough than the seeds cannot grow. I have often seen this in patients who have continual gut issues and immune issues, there are taking ridiculous amounts of probiotics daily and not really feeling any better.

Several other health benefits have been associated with resistant starch in the GI tract, including enhanced laxation (that is, relaxing so it’s easier to “go”), increased uptake of minerals such as calcium, and reduced symptoms of diarrhea. As a prebiotic, resistant starch has been shown to positively influence the gut bacterial ecosystem, increasing levels of beneficial Bifidobacteria and reducing levels of pathogenic bacteria. When resistant starches are fermented by healthy gut bacteria, a byproduct is the production of short-chain fatty acids (SFCA), which may help suppress appetite. The content of resistant starch in food is highly influenced by preparation and processing techniques. Generally speaking, the following are good sources of resistant starches:

  • Turnip, Green unripe bananas
  • Sweet Potatoes, Rutabaga
  • Green papaya
  • Green plantains
  • Green mangoes
  • Yams

5. Coffee and Tea

Coffee is one of the world’s most consumed drinks, trailing only water and tea. Of course, coffee is synonymous with caffeine and is considered on of the top metabolism-boosting foods. So how does it work?, well coffee consumption significantly increases metabolic rate. In fact, consuming as little as 100mg of caffeine, the amount in a single cup of coffee, is enough to boost metabolic rate. It appears repeated ingestion of coffee leads to an even more pronounced effect. What’s particularly interesting is that this increase in resting metabolic rate is accompanied by greater oxidation of fat. Simply put, coffee and caffeine can help boost metabolic rate and increase fat burning. This is probably why bulletproof coffee has been such a hit; I think of it as giving me super fatty brain energy; I use bulletproof coffee as part of intermittent fasting sometimes which I love. Keep in mind that some people are very sensitive to caffeine so you have to be careful how much you drink; the newest recommendation on coffee and caffeine is to not drink it in any form 10 hours before you go to bed. Caffeine causes the body to release adrenaline which can certainly affect your sleep if you drink it too late; we all want good, quality sleep so best to avoid the caffeine 10 hours before bed.

If you are not a coffee drinker, researchers suggest consumption of 2 – 4 cups of green tea per day to reap these fat-burning and health-promoting benefits.

So now you have some good ideas of what you can eat in order to boost your metabolism and have the body that you want to have. Please take this information and implement it; these foods really do work as metabolic boosters and they have worked for years. Give this a 30 day trial run, change your diet for 30 days and see what kind of benefits you see; most commonly our patients see improved energy, weight loss, better sleep, better digestion, more brain clarity, less aches and pain and a better mood.

If you are a bit like me; and you need a structured program, feedback, monitoring and coaching, then you may be a good candidate for our patient specific health restoration programs, meaning a tailor made program specifically for your health needs and health history. This is a 6 month or longer program where we monitor changes in your health and your symptoms and measure that. Let’s be clear that we do not offer any type of “quick fix” programs; all of our health restoration programs are 6 months or longer; it takes time for the body to break down so expect time to get the body fixed or corrected.

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