Thursday, May 31, 2007

What Every Dieter Should Know about Metabolism: Thermogenic Foods to Boost Your Metabolism

This is Part 4 and the last in the series, What Every Dieter Should Know about Metabolism. Part 1, Metabolism Basics, can be found here, Part 2, The Role of Muscle, can be found here, and Part 3, Eating Strategies for Increasing our Metabolism, can be found here.

Thermogenic Foods

As I mentioned in Part 3, all foods are thermogenic (metabolism enhancing and calorie-burning) so every time we eat, it turns our metabolism up but, there are some foods that are better at it than others. We should keep in mind that there is no magic bullet or “super fat-burning foods”, and that the differences between the metabolic acceleration of some foods pales in comparison to the effect of physical activity. But as an ongoing strategy it may be wise to include these foods in our regular menu. We may especially want to try it if, and when, we hit a weight-loss plateau. Here is a rundown of the major categories of thermogenic foods with examples of each.

Lean Proteins

The lean proteins are at the top of the thermogenic and metabolism-enhancing foods list; they have the highest thermal effect. Good choices are: chicken breast, turkey breast, the leaner game meats, lean red meat, bison, salmon and other types of fish and seafood, and egg whites.

Herbs and Spices

Spicy foods, especially the ones that contain capsaicin, are especially thermogenic and can raise your metabolic rate for up to three hours after eating. Hot peppers including, the more common cayenne peppers, all contain capsaicin. Other thermogenic herbs and spices are: cinnamon, fennel seed, garlic, ginger, ginseng, guarana, horseradish, kola nut, ma huang, mustard seed, parsley, and turmeric.

Vegetables and Fibrous Foods

Radishes, cabbage, celery asparagus, green beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, salad vegetables Whole grains and beans metabolize more slowly (and require more energy to digest) than highly processed foods. Good examples of these are sweet potatoes, oatmeal, whole grains, beans, brown rice, and even potatoes. Oats have been proven to lower cholesterol. Oatmeal has the added benefit of stabilizing blood sugar due to its slow release of glucose into the blood stream, and that gives you energy for a longer time.

Citrus Fruits

All citrus fruits are especially thermogenic because of their bioflavonoids and vitamin C. Both of these are known to boost the metabolism. The soluble fiber in citrus may also block the absorption of fat and also contribute to a feeling of fullness.


Green tea: After water, green tea is the champion of thermogenic beverages. It contains the polyphenol antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). EGCG is also found in both black tea but green tea contains five times as much. EGCG increases thermogenesis and studies have shown that the EGCG found in one cup of Green tea can increase metabolism by from 4-7.5%. The polyphenols in green tea have been demonstrated to promote scientifically significant antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, probiotic, and anti-microbial properties in addition to its thermogenic properties. I have replaced my jug of black tea in the refrigerator with green tea for iced tea and drink large quantities of it throughout the day. It couldn’t hurt.

Coffee: The caffeine in coffee accelerates the metabolism.

Water: Water is undoubtedly a major stimulus to accelerate the metabolism. According to a 2003 article, Water-Induced Thermogenesis, in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, “Drinking 500 ml of water increased metabolic rate by 30%....within 10 min and reached a maximum after 30–40 min. The total thermogenic response was about 100 kJ [that’s about 24 calories]. About 40% of the thermogenic effect originated from warming the water from 22 to 37 C. In men, lipids[fats]mainly fueled the increase in metabolic rate. In contrast, in women carbohydrates were mainly used as the energy source…thus, drinking 2 liters of water per day would augment energy expenditure by approximately 400 kJ [about 96 calories]. Therefore, the thermogenic effect of water should be considered when estimating energy expenditure, particularly during weight loss programs.” Well, this isn’t a lot compared to 30 minutes on the treadmill or bicycle, but as part of an overall program of weight loss, it could be significant.

Apple Cider Vinegar: Many health claims are made for apple cider vinegar, but it does have a positive effect on the metabolism and it makes a delicious vinaigrette dressing. I have started drinking 1 tablespoon of unpasteurized organic apple cider vinegar in 8 ounces of water with 1 teaspoon of honey a couple of times a day and while I can’t make any health claims for it, it can’t hurt.

Other Thermogenic Foods

Whole grains and beans metabolize more slowly (and require more energy to digest) than highly processed foods. Good examples of these are sweet potatoes, oatmeal, whole grains, beans, brown rice, and even potatoes.

Dieters armed with this information and an understanding of how the metabolism works will be in a much better position to manage their weight loss. With all the choices, it should be pretty easy to incorporate some of the highly thermogenic foods with each meal.

Here is my recap from yesterday.

Daily Dietary Recap-5/30/2007
Calories Protein Carbohydrates SodiumFat % Calories from Fat
1347.18 101.36 g 215.84 g965.4 mg 12.76 g 7.89%


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