If you spend any time perusing the fashion mags and tabloid rags in the supermarket checkout line, you’ll see a wide array of articles claiming to have discovered the latest "miracle food" that will burn off the pounds while you sit on your butt and eat. Well, sadly, the news isn’t quite that good. Without regular exercise, a decent night’s sleep, and a thought-out meal plan, your metabolic rate is going to be dragging. However, there are some things you can eat that will move the needle favorably into the fat-burning zone. And most of these foods are delicious and nutritious anyway, so why not? Here are eight of the best ones.
1. Fish. Most of us have read about the benefits of fish oil, which is full of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Found in many common oily fish like mackerel, trout, sardines, herring, tuna, and salmon, it can also be taken in capsules (at least 300 milligrams/day) by those who are averse to seafood. Fish consumption has been found to boost your calorie burn by as much as 400 calories a day. Fish is also full of great, low-fat, muscle-building protein (which requires your body to burn more calories to digest).
2. Dark green leafy vegetables. These include arugula, chard, chicory, collard greens, dandelion greens, kale, mustard greens, and spinach. They are full of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and lots of fiber. While the vitamins are great antioxidants and very healthy for you, the fiber is where the rubber really meets the road as far as metabolism goes. Your body expends a lot more calories digesting fiber and protein than it does simply digesting carbohydrates. This is called the thermic effect—the amount of calories required to digest the food can sometimes be almost as much as the number of calories in the food itself. Dark leafies also contain many B vitamins, which are necessary to produce the enzymes for metabolism. Most other vegetables are high in fiber and low in calories and can boost your burn, but the cream of the crop, nutritionally speaking, are the dark green leafy vegetables. So listen to Popeye, and eat your spinach!
3. Tomatoes. Tomatoes have gotten a lot of good press lately, as they contain high levels of the antioxidant lycopene, which has been proven to have several anti-carcinogenic properties. And like the dark green leafy vegetables, tomatoes are also a good source of fiber. But tomatoes can also work overtime to flush fat, as they also contain citric, malic, and oxalic acids, which support your body’s kidney functions, which helps your body eliminate more waste and fat from your system.
4. Blueberries and other whole fruits. Whole fruits contain lots of fiber, and many contain so much, they can be said to have "negative calories," meaning your body burns more calories digesting the food than it stores. One cup of blueberries only has about 80 calories, but 4 grams of fiber. Your body will expend much of those 80 calories digesting the 4 grams of fiber. Blueberries also contain lots of antioxidants, and are believed to lower cholesterol and regulate blood pressure. And they taste great! Try adding them to a high-fiber unsweetened cereal or oatmeal in the morning to get your metabolism up and running at the start of your day.
5. Whole grains. Well, if you’ve read this far, you’ve probably gotten that fiber is key to keeping the metabolic fires burning. Whole grains are one of the best sources of dietary fiber. This is where careful label reading comes in. Lots of items purporting to contain whole grains may only contain enough to make the claim truthful, and may in fact be full of insulin-spiking carbohydrates or sugars, which will take your metabolism in the wrong direction. Check the ingredient list of your breads and cereals carefully and make sure the preponderance of the ingredients is whole grain.
6. Chilies, curries, and other spices. Ever eaten a particularly spicy meal and felt your heart race a bit faster and your forehead start to perspire? The capsaicin found in many hot peppers and other spices can fire up your metabolism while it fires up your mouth. In fact, some studies have shown a 50 percent increase in metabolism for 3 hours after eating capsaicin. So it helps to keep a bottle of hot sauce on hand at mealtimes. You can use spices to add flavor to recipes instead of salty or fatty ingredients, which will also help kick your metabolism into a higher gear.
7. Green tea. Researchers have found that green tea consumption can increase calorie burning by up to four percent. It is believed to accomplish this by increasing metabolic rates as well as fat oxidation. Studies have also shown that green tea can reduce sugar cravings and can inhibit enzymes that slow digestion, thus raising metabolic rates. Its thermogenetic properties were convincing enough that Beachbody® includes it in its ActiVit® Metabolism Formula Multivitamins. Besides the metabolic properties, green tea is loaded with antioxidants and polyphenols, making it one of the most healthful beverage choices around.
8. Ice water. Almost every nutritionist will recommend drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day, but did you know that if you drink ice water versus room-temperature water, your body will burn an extra 9 calories per glass? Drinking room-temperature water can burn about 16 calories per glass—that’s 25 calories per glass for ice water. So, eight glasses of cool water a day can be responsible for burning 200 calories! Plus, water is necessary for all of your bodily processes, including the ones that control your metabolism. If you’re underhydrated, your body will underperform. Water also flushes out fat deposits and toxins, which can hamper your energy.
And remember, a good night’s sleep and smaller, evenly spaced meals can be your best metabolic friends. And the best thing to really get your metabolism going is exercise. You can burn almost 700 calories in one 45-minute Turbo Fire ® workout alone. Also, stress has been found to produce cortisol, a metabolism-inhibiting steroid, so try and relax—have a blueberry. Or a fish!