Sports Nutrition

8 Metabolism-Boosting Super Foods

Launch your body into fat-meltdown mode with these 8 metabolism-boosting foods

By Jacqui Hartley

1. Sardines


Boosting Ingredients: Omega-3s, calcium, protein

In the canned foods aisle at the supermarket, these tiny fish often get left on the shelf while can after can of salmon and tuna find their way into your grocery cart. Sardines, however, offer triple metabolic ammo by way of omega-3 fatty acids, calcium and protein. First, by lowering levels of a powerful hormone in your body called leptin, the omega-3s in sardines positively influence your metabolism and promote increased calorie burning. Second, with 214 milligrams of calcium (a mineral with proven links to weight loss and decreased bodyfat) in a one-cup serving, sardines can accelerate your metabolism via improved fat burning. Third, the ratio of protein to carbs (18.5:0.5 grams), creates an environment in which the body burns more energy to digest the protein and blood sugars remain steady to further augment metabolic functioning. So swap your can opener and tuna for the metal can with the peel-off top — there’s a whole lot of metabolic fuel packed in there.

Nutrient Breakdown:

Per 1 cup, packed in tomato sauce, drained solids (Pacific variety)

  • Calories: 165
  • Protein: 18.5 g
  • Carbs: 0.5 g
  • Fats: 9.5 g
  • Fiber: 0 g

2. Low-Fat Probiotic Yogurt

Boosting Ingredients: Protein and probiotics

Yogurt contains a high amount of protein and therefore demands a great deal of energy to be processed and utilized by the body. Yogurt with probiotics is even better for revving up your metabolism because these varieties help to regulate your digestive tract. A recent study published in Molecular Systems Biology suggested that probiotic yogurt can positively alter metabolic trends through biochemical effects. Using two sample groups, one receiving probiotics and one receiving a placebo, investigators found that the bacteria in probiotic yogurt communicates biochemically with the bacterial microbes that live naturally in your digestive tract. Subjects who consumed probiotics experienced improved function of gut microbes, which are responsible for a good portion of your metabolic makeup, intensifying their effects. Put simply, the probiotics sent a message to the microbes to work harder, thus speeding up overall metabolism.

Nutrient Breakdown: Per 1 cup

    • Calories: 154
    • Protein: 13 g
    • Carbs: 17 g
    • Fats: 3 g
    • Fiber: 0 g

    3. Turkey Breast


    Boosting Ingredient: Protein

    This bodybuilder favorite has been highlighted in many studies for its capacity to help boost metabolism, augment fat burning and build lean muscle tissue to burn more calories. Your body has to work harder to digest the protein in meat than it does to digest fat and carbohydrates, so you end up burning more calories in the process. Turkey breast is rich in protein and low in fat, making it a powerhouse for building lean muscle tissue (and the more lean muscle you have, the faster your metabolic system functions). Many people label turkey as the “sleepy” protein because of its tryptophan content and worry that eating it may actually inhibit energy and metabolism. Nutritionists and other experts, however, argue that the amount of tryptophan in a serving of turkey isn’t enough to trigger the body to produce more serotonin. The tryptophan has to compete with all the other amino acids in the bloodstream, so very little actually reaches the brain. So, grab a fork and gobble up!

    Nutrient Breakdown: Per 4-oz. breast

        • Calories: 152
        • Protein: 27 g
        • Carbs: 0 g
        • Fats: 3 g
        • Fiber: 0 g

        4. Oatmeal

        Boosting Ingredients: Complex carbohydrates and fiber

        One serving of oatmeal contains a high amount of complex carbohydrates and about 13% of your daily fiber needs. Together the complex carbs and fiber boost metabolism because they take longer to digest and keep insulin levels low after you eat. When insulin gets spiked (such as when you eat simple carbs) your body receives a signal to store bodyfat. To accomplish this task, it slows your metabolic rate, causing you to burn fewer overall calories. Oatmeal, however, breaks down slowly in the stomach so you get less of a jump in insulin than if you were to eat, say, a bagel. Because of its ability to steady insulin levels, having a serving of oatmeal at breakfast can lay the groundwork to jack up metabolism for the entire day. A study conducted by the U.S. Navy found that subjects who consumed oatmeal as part of their daily breakfasts experienced increases in metabolic rates by as much as 10%. Tip: Go for steel-cut or rolled oats over instant oatmeal because processing and refinement techniques used for the instant varieties remove some of the vitamin, mineral and fiber contents.

        Nutrient Breakdown: Per ½ cup, dry measurement

            • Calories: 154
            • Protein: 5 g
            • Carbs: 27 g
            • Fats: 2.5 g
            • Fiber: 4 g

            5. Jalapeno Peppers


            Boosting Ingredient: Capsaicin

            Capsaicin is the chemical in peppers that gives them their hotness and bite. When you eat jalapenos the capsaicin causes an increase in your heart rate, which in turn raises your metabolism. Capsaicin also temporarily stimulates a higher release of stress hormones in your body, resulting in an elevated metabolic rate and increased calorie burning. Research has shown that eating one spicy meal can cause a 25% increase to your metabolic rate and can augment calorie burning for up to three hours after the meal. Furthermore, studies conducted at Laval University (Quebec, Canada) demonstrated that men who regularly consumed hot peppers (red, jalapeno, habanero and cayenne) in snacks and meals burned approximately 1,000 more calories per day (you read that right!) than the control group.

            Nutrient Breakdown: Per 1 cup, sliced

                • Calories: 27
                • Protein: 1 g
                • Carbs: 5 g
                • Fats: 0.5 g
                • Fiber: 2.5 g

                6. Grapefruit

                Boosting Ingredient: Vitamin C

                Grapefruit is by far the most common vitamin-C fruit to amplify the function of your metabolic system. Research has demonstrated that vitamin C has some fat-burning capabilities; half a grapefruit contains 38.4 milligrams of this powerful vitamin, which is more than one-third of your daily requirements. Studies have also noted that chemicals in grapefruit may reduce levels of insulin, thus helping to regulate fat metabolism. When insulin is steady, the body processes energy more efficiently. In a 12-week study conducted at The Scripps Research Institute (Jupiter, Florida), scientists discovered that subjects who consumed a half grapefruit before each meal, three times a day, lost an average of 3.5 pounds, while those who consumed the same meals but no grapefruit lost only 0.5 pounds. Editor’s note: If you take any medications, check with your doctor before adding this fruit to your diet because grapefruit can interact adversely with certain prescription drugs.

                Nutrient Breakdown: Per ½ fruit

                    • Calories: 52
                    • Protein: 1 g
                    • Carbs: 13 g
                    • Fats: 0 g
                    • Fiber: 2 g

                    7. Hemp Milk


                    Boosting Ingredients: Calcium and protein

                    Hemp seed protein is composed of roughly 65% globulin, which is a protein found abundantly in your body, and hemp seed also contains a high content of albumin. Both are important globular proteins that act as precursors to specific chemicals responsible for vital bodily processes. These proteins contribute to improved metabolism because when ingested, your body exerts more effort to digest, absorb and utilize them for enzymatic, hormonal and molecular blood cell functions. The calcium in hemp milk is another valuable metabolic trigger. Research has shown that individuals who consumed 1,200–1,300 milligrams of calcium per day while on a regular exercise program burned fat almost twice as fast as those on a low-calcium diet. Some varieties of hemp milk contain 46% of the daily requirement for this mineral in one cup (based on the dietary reference intake of 1,000 milligrams for men aged 19–50).

                    Nutrient Breakdown: Per 1 cup

                        • Calories: 110
                        • Protein: 5 g
                        • Carbohydrates: 6 g
                        • Fats: 7 g
                        • Fiber: 1 g

                        8. Cinnamon

                        Boosting Ingredient: Methylhydroxy chalcone polymer (a polyphenol)

                        This metabolism-boosting source is ideal because the spice can be added to so many different foods. Sprinkle some cinnamon on your oatmeal, mix a teaspoon in with your yogurt, shake a bit overtop your toast or use a dash in your cup of tea. Cinnamon is rich in antioxidant polyphenols, and the methylhydroxy chalcone polymer has been shown to exhibit markedly strong activity to support healthy blood sugar levels. In other words, this key ingredient in cinnamon helps your body metabolize sugars more effectively and maintains steadier blood sugar levels, therefore benefiting metabolic functions within the body. The high fiber content in such a small amount also helps to regulate insulin levels for a higher metabolic output.

                        Nutrient Breakdown: Per 1 tbsp. ground spice

                          • Calories: 19
                          • Protein: 0 g
                          • Carbs: 6 g
                          • Fats: 0 g
                          • Fiber: 4 g