Certain foods can increase your metabolism.
The higher your metabolism, the more calories you burn and the easier it is to maintain your weight or get rid of unwanted body fat.
This article lists 12 foods that rev up your metabolism and help you lose weight.
1. Protein-Rich Foods
Protein-rich foods, such as meat, fish, eggs, dairy, legumes, nuts and seeds, could help increase your metabolism for a few hours.
They do so by requiring your body to use more energy to digest them.
This is known as the thermic effect of food (TEF). The TEF refers to the number of calories needed by your body to digest, absorb and process the nutrients in your meals.
Research shows that protein-rich foods increase TEF the most. For example, they increase your metabolic rate by 15–30%, compared to 5–10% for carbs and 0–3% for fats (1).
Protein-rich diets also reduce the drop in metabolism often seen during weight loss by helping your body hold on to its muscle mass (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7).
What’s more, protein may also help keep you fuller for longer, which can prevent overeating (8, 9, 10, 11).
Bottom Line: Protein-rich foods can help boost your metabolism, maintain muscle mass and prevent you from overeating.
2. Iron, Zinc and Selenium-Rich Foods
Iron, zinc and selenium each play different but equally important roles in the proper function of your body.
However, they do have one thing in common: all three are required for the proper function of your thyroid gland, which regulates your metabolism (12).
Research shows that a diet too low in iron, zinc or selenium may reduce the ability of your thyroid gland to produce sufficient amounts of hormones. This can slow down your metabolism (13, 14, 15).
To help your thyroid function to the best of its ability, include zinc, selenium and iron-rich foods like meat, seafood, legumes, nuts and seeds in your daily menu.
Bottom Line: Foods rich in iron, zinc and selenium promote the proper function of your thyroid, which helps maintain a healthy metabolism.
3. Chili Peppers
Capsaicin, a chemical found in chili peppers, may boost your metabolism by increasing the number of calories and fat you burn.
In fact, a review of 20 research studies reports that capsaicin can help your body burn around 50 extra calories per day (16).
This effect was initially observed after taking 135–150 mg of capsaicin per day, but some studies report similar benefits with doses as low as 9–10 mg per day (17, 18, 19, 20).
Moreover, capsaicin may have appetite-reducing properties.
According to a recent study, consuming 2 mg of capsaicin directly before each meal seems to reduce the number of calories consumed, especially from carbs (21).
That said, not all studies agree on capsaicin’s metabolism-boosting abilities (22, 23).
Bottom Line: Capsaicin, a compound found in chili peppers, may help slightly increase metabolism and fat oxidation.
Studies report that the caffeine found in coffee can help increase metabolic rate by up to 11% (24, 25).
In fact, six different studies found that people who consume at least 270 mg of caffeine daily, or the equivalent of about three cups of coffee, burn an extra 100 calories per day (26).
Furthermore, caffeine may also help your body burn fat for energy and seems especially effective at boosting your workout performance (27, 28, 29, 30).
However, its effects seem to vary from person to person, based on individual characteristics such as body weight and age (31, 32).
Bottom Line: The caffeine found in coffee may help boost the amount of calories and fat your body burns. However, its effects may vary by individual.
According to research, the combination of caffeine and catechins that’s found in tea may work to boost your metabolism.
In particular, both oolong and green tea may increase metabolism by 4–10%. This could add up to burning an extra 100 calories per day (26, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38).
In addition, oolong and green teas may help your body use stored fat for energy more effectively, increasing your fat-burning ability by up to 17% (35, 36, 37, 38, 39).
Nevertheless, as is the case with coffee, effects may vary from person to person.
Bottom Line: The combination of caffeine and catechins found in tea may help your body burn slightly more calories and fat each day.
6. Legumes and Pulses
Legumes and pulses, such as lentils, peas, chickpeas, beans and peanuts, are particularly high in protein compared to other plant foods.
Studies suggest that their high protein content requires your body to burn a greater number of calories to digest them, compared to lower-protein foods (40, 41).
Legumes also contain a good amount of dietary fiber, such as resistant starch and soluble fiber, which your body can use to feed the good bacteria living in your intestines (42, 43, 44).
In turn, these friendly bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids, which may help your body use stored fat as energy and maintain normal blood sugar levels (45, 46, 47).
In one study, humans consuming a legume-rich diet for eight weeks experienced beneficial changes in metabolism and lost 1.5 times more weight than the control group (48).
Legumes are also high in arginine, an amino acid that may increase the amount of carbs and fat your body can burn for energy (49).
In addition, peas, faba beans and lentils also contain substantial amounts of the amino acid glutamine, which may help increase the number of calories burned during digestion (50, 51).
Bottom Line: Legumes and pulses are high in protein, fiber and certain amino acids, which are thought to have metabolism-boosting properties.
7. Metabolism-Boosting Spices
Certain spices are thought to have particularly beneficial metabolism-boosting properties.
For instance, research shows that dissolving 2 grams of ginger powder in hot water and drinking it with a meal may help you burn up to 43 more calories than drinking hot water alone (52).
This hot ginger drink also seems to decrease levels of hunger and enhance feelings of satiety (53).
Grains of paradise, another spice in the ginger family, may have similar effects.
A recent study reported that participants given a 40-mg extract of grains of paradise burned 43 more calories in the following two hours than those given a placebo (54).
That said, researchers also noted that part of the participants were non-responders, so the effects may vary from one person to another.
Similarly, adding cayenne pepper to your meal may increase the amount of fat your body burns for energy, especially following a high-fat meal (55, 56).
However, this fat-burning effect may only apply to people unaccustomed to consuming spicy foods (56).
Bottom Line: Ginger, grains of paradise and cayenne pepper may help your body burn more calories or fat. However, effects can vary from one individual to another.
Cacao and cocoa are tasty treats that may also benefit your metabolism.
For instance, studies in mice found that cocoa and cocoa extracts may promote the expression of genes that stimulate the use of fat for energy. This seems especially true in mice fed high-fat or high-calorie diets (57, 58, 59).
Interestingly, one study suggests that cocoa may prevent the action of enzymes necessary to break down fat and carbs during digestion (60).
In doing so, cocoa could theoretically play a role in preventing weight gain by reducing the absorption of some calories (60).
However, human studies examining the effects of cocoa, cacao or cacao products such as dark chocolate are rare. More studies are needed before strong conclusions can be made (61).
If you’d like to give cacao a try, opt for raw versions, as processing tends to reduce the amounts of beneficial compounds (62).
Bottom Line: Cacao may have certain metabolism-boosting properties, especially for those consuming high-calorie, high-fat diets.
9. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar may increase your metabolism.
Several animal studies have shown vinegar to be particularly helpful in increasing the amount of fat burned for energy.
In one study, mice given vinegar experienced an increase in the AMPK enzyme, which prompts the body to decrease fat storage and increase fat burning (63).
In another study, obese rats treated with vinegar experienced an increase in the expression of certain genes, leading to reduced liver fat and belly fat storage (64, 65).
Apple cider vinegar is often claimed to boost metabolism in humans, but few studies have investigated the matter directly.
Nevertheless, apple cider vinegar may still help you lose weight in other ways, such as slowing stomach emptying and enhancing feelings of fullness (66, 67, 68, 69).
One study in humans even showed that participants given four teaspoons (20 ml) of apple cider vinegar ate up to 275 fewer calories over the rest of the day (70).
If you’d like to give apple cider vinegar a try, be careful to limit your daily consumption to two tablespoons (30 ml).
Also, make sure to read this article to reduce the risk of negative side effects.
Bottom Line: More studies are needed to confirm apple cider vinegar’s metabolism-boosting properties in humans. That being said, it may aid weight loss in other ways.
10. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is experiencing a surge in popularity.
That may be partly because coconut oil is high in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). This is contrary to most other types of fats, which usually contain higher amounts of long-chain fatty acids.
Unlike long-chain fats, once MCTs are absorbed, they go directly to the liver to be turned into energy. This makes them less likely to be stored as fat.
Interestingly, several studies show that MCTs can increase metabolic rate more than longer-chain fats (71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76).
In addition, researchers report that a daily intake of 30 ml of coconut oil may successfully reduce waist size in obese individuals (77, 78).
Bottom Line: Replacing other fats with a small amount of coconut oil may boost your metabolism and help your body get rid of belly fat.
Drinking enough water is a great way to stay hydrated.
Additionally, it seems that drinking water may also temporarily boost metabolism by 24–30% (79, 80, 81, 82).
Researchers note that about 40% of that increase may come from your body trying to match the water’s temperature to its own (82).
Yet, the effects only seem to last for 60–90 minutes after drinking it and may vary from one person to another (83).
Bottom Line: Drinking water may temporarily increase your metabolism. However, effects are temporary and may vary between individuals.
Seaweed is a great source of iodine, a mineral required for the production of thyroid hormones and proper function of your thyroid gland (84).
Thyroid hormones have various functions, one of which is to regulate your metabolic rate (12).
Regularly consuming seaweed can help you meet your iodine needs and keep your metabolism revving at a high rate.
The reference daily intake of iodine for adults is 150 mcg per day. This can be met by consuming several servings of seaweed per week.
Although, some types of seaweed such as kelp are extremely high in iodine and should not be consumed in large amounts.
Fucoxanthin is another compound found in some varieties of seaweed that may help with metabolism.
It’s primarily found in brown seaweed varieties and may have anti-obesity effects by increasing the amount of calories you burn (85).
Bottom Line: Certain compounds in seaweed may help prevent your metabolism from slowing down.
13. Anything Else?
Certain foods may help slightly increase your metabolism. Therefore, consuming them regularly may help you lose weight and keep it off in the long term.
However, foods are not the only way to boost your metabolism. Check out this article here for additional ways to help your body burn more calories each day.