15 Foods to Boost Your Metabolism This Winter

Olivia deGregory

Written by Olivia deGregory | Edited by Aditi Khandelwal

As winter approaches, the chilly weather keeps us inside, and the holidays keep us full – and eventually, we all put on a few pounds. Now, there is nothing wrong with that! Putting on extra weight is a natural way to keep us warm during the winter, and it’s not something we should be ashamed of. If you are trying to be weight-conscious this winter, one way to get started is to give your metabolism a wake-up call. We’ve got a list of healthy foods that will give you the boost you need!

At some point in our lives, we have heard someone complain that they have a slow metabolism, or we may have even said it ourselves – but what does that really mean? Is our metabolism to blame for not being about to shed those last five pounds? While it can be nice to have something to blame after you have tried everything it is important for us to understand what our metabolism really is and what it is doing, so that we can maybe help it out! 

 

Metabolism vs Metabolic Rate

Metabolism refers to the chemical processes that occur within living organisms in order to keep them alive – basically, it is the rate at which our body burns calories. Calories are simply a unit of measurement for energy, no need to fear them. All the billions of actions our cells are constantly performing count towards our metabolism. This is not what most people think of when we complain about having a “slow” metabolism. Our metabolism is linked to our weight, but perhaps not in the way we think it is. What most people mean by metabolism is the process in which our body burns fat, but it is really the rate at which we burn calories. This also includes non-food items, such as medications.

Basal Metabolic Rate

Our body constantly needs energy for breathing, blood circulation, and even for digesting. Even when we might spend all day on a Netflix binge, our cells are hard at work, repairing, building, and sustaining our body. All these functions require energy, and the quantity of energy these basic life functions require is known as our basal metabolic rate. This refers to the amount of energy our body uses at rest – sometimes also called our “resting metabolic rate”. Even while we sleep, we burn between 300-500 calories!

Contrary to popular belief, improving our metabolism doesn’t guarantee weight loss . There are many other factors, such as diet, age, exercise, and sex, which all affect our body’s ability to lose or gain weight. Of course, this doesn’t have to stop us from trying! There are several natural ways to jump-start your metabolism, and below we give a list of foods which may rev it up. While this alone will not help you lose a lot of weight, it can be combined with diet and exercise to help you stay fit . 

 

Here are some foods that will naturally give you a little boost: 

1: Green Tea

It’s no secret that green tea has a myriad of health benefits. It has been used in China and India for centuries as a form of medicine to treat a wide range of ailments. Being a relatively low-processed tea, it retains many of its natural antioxidants. This tea also contains a small amount of caffeine, which can help burn calories. The secret weapon of green tea is epigallocatechin gallate (try to say that five times fast) – a plant compound that can aid in weight loss, especially when paired with caffeine as it is in green tea. This is because epigallocatechin gallate can help increase levels of norepinephrine, a hormone that promotes fat breakdown.

Green tea being pouring into a clear tea cup

2: Oolong Tea

This tea comes from the same species as green tea and black tea, Camellia sinensis. The primary difference is just in how the tea is processed. Therefore, oolong tea has the same benefits of caffeine and epigallocatechin gallate as green tea. One study of oolong tea’s effects on energy expenditure found that it increased energy expenditure by 10% for the next two hours after it was consumed.

oolong tea leaves along with pot of tea and two cups of tea

3: Chili Pepper

Boost your metabolism with a kick! Chili peppers contain a chemical compound called capsaicin, which gives chilis their irritating and spicy properties, this chemical is known to help reduce pain (once you can get past the heat!). While a study found that the capsaicin in chili peppers had beneficial effects on weight management, other studies have indicated that as we become accustomed to the heat of the peppers their beneficial effects decrease. 

Bonus: a new study found that eating chili peppers may help you live longer!

three chili peppers laying on top of chili pepper flakes

4: Eggs

Eggs are a low-calorie, protein packed food. Many studies have found that protein has an important role in weight loss and appetite control. Proteins help satiate your appetite by keeping you fuller for a longer period of time, preventing frequent snacking. Moreover, protein requires more energy to break down than fats and carbohydrates do, this means that your body has to burn more calories to use it! Eggs are a great way to get protein without the level of fat and calories that some meats may have.

eggs in a basket, one egg is cracked open, exposing the yolk

5: Whole Grains

We have all heard before that whole grains are better for you than refined grains, but it can be difficult to curb our appetite for white breads. Some examples of whole grains are oatmeal and brown rice, whereas refined grains are white rice and white flour/breads. The process of milling grains (making them “refined”) can remove beneficial nutrients such as dietary fiber and iron from the grains. In a study between a group of subjects who ate only whole grains versus a group who only ate refined grains, the former had an increased resting metabolic rate than the refined grain group. 

Uncooked whole spelt grain in a bowl with a wooden spoon and spelt ears on the table

6: Legumes

Beans, chickpeas, and lentils all have relatively high amounts of protein in relation to their calories. As mentioned earlier, protein-rich foods take more energy to digest than other foods, meaning your body has to put in more work to break them down – which burns calories. Additionally, legumes are abundant in dietary fiber which makes you feel full for longer and also helps regulate blood-sugar levels, which in turn should curb your appetite for an extended period of time. 

Legumes, lentils, chikpea and beans assortment in different bowls on stone table. Top view on dark background.

7: Broccoli

Sulporaphane, a phytochemical in cruciferous vegetables (e.g. broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and cabbage) may help boost your metabolism. Studies have shown that this compound can help prevent cancer, and scientists are starting to look into its effects on the metabolism of humans. A 2017 study found promising results of sulforaphane’s effect on reducing  weight gain in mice. Another study done in 2013 found that this compound can help “retune” our metabolisms as it can fall out of balance as we age. 

two heads of broccoli on a cutting board

8: Seaweed

Seaweed is a great natural source of iodine. Iodine is a vital component to healthy thyroid gland functioning – and your thyroid is the center for regulating your metabolism. The thyroid gland extracts iodine from blood and incorporates it into the hormones it produces that regulate our metabolism, so it is important to make sure you are getting the recommended amount of iodine (about 150mcg daily). On the other hand, it is also possible to have too much iodine so moderation is key to a healthy thyroid! Some of the most common forms of edible seaweed are: nori, kombu, wakame, and ogonori. 

Crispy Nori Seaweed  in a bowl with sesame and sea salt and a pair of chopsticks

9: Salmon

Salmon and other fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids have an important role in energy conversion in the body. Fish oils containing omega-3 can help reduce elevated blood fat levels. A study found that individuals taking omega-3 fish oil supplements had a reduction in abdominal fat and waist size. 

Three raw salmon steaks on a cutting board

10: Coffee

One study found that coffee increased the resting metabolic rate of normal weight and obese individuals, and also helped with the oxidation of fat in normal weight individuals. While this may seem to validate starting your morning with a run to your local coffee shop, studies also show that making coffee your second drink of the day is the best route. Water, of course, should come first! When you do go for your coffee run, just avoid loading it up with sugary flavor shots and whipped cream! For an even better alternative, try out this recipe to make your own vegan pumpkin spice latte!

A cup of coffee on a saucer along with a spoon holding two cubes of brown sugar sitting. There are coffee beans on beside the plate.

11: Avocado

It is no secret that avocados are powerhouse fruits packed with healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. It’s no surprise then that a Penn State study found that swapping to high-oleic oils (such as avocado oil) reduced belly fat by 1.6% over four weeks! Avocados can also help you feel full for longer, thus reducing your appetite. So go ahead and get that avocado toast!

three avocados slices in half

12: Mustard

Similar to chili peppers, mustard contains capsaicin, which can help increase your metabolic rate. This is a good alternative for those who may not want the spice of chili peppers! Next time you make a sandwich, swap the high-calorie mayo out for mustard!

Tip: the darker the mustard the more beneficial it is (typically the spicier too)!

Various bowls of different mustard seeds

13: Apples

They didn’t make the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” for no reason! Apples contain vitamin B, which can help turn fat, protein, and carbs into energy. They also have dietary fiber and pectin, which can slow down the digestion of food, allowing you to feel fuller for longer. 

Fresh red apples in a basket on a black background. Top view.

14: Apple Cider Vinegar

This study found that people who consumed 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar lost more weight than the control groups that did not consume it over the same period of time. It was also shown to help reduce appetite. If you decide to incorporate apple cider vinegar into your diet try it in a vinaigrette or diluting it with water first or adding it to tea! Due to its acidity level, it can be damaging to your enamel to drink it straight. 

Small glass bottle of apple cider vinegar, a few apples lay in the background.

15: Water

Okay, so this isn’t a food, but it is the most important item on this list! Water can help your metabolism out in a few ways. Water is a natural appetite suppressant that can signal fullness of stomach to the brain, and it is not uncommon to mistake thirst for hunger. Studies have also shown that drinking cold water can stimulate your metabolism because your body uses up energy in order to heat up the water inside of you. This study found that an hour after drinking water, energy expenditure went up by 30% in both men and women!

 

Water glass on wooden table with blurred background.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, none of these foods will magically shed the pounds off of you – but they are an easy place to start if you would like to give your metabolism a push in the right direction! Additionally, boosting your metabolic rate can improve your body’s ability to perform the processes that it needs to survive. Remember to always consult your doctor or dietitian before making any major changes to your diet. If you have any health conditions, we recommend looking into how these foods may impact your health further. We hope you incorporate these foods with good intentions, and remember to show your body love through all the seasons!

 

 

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