Rumors abound about foods that boost your metabolic rate to make weight loss easier. Although vegetables are key foods for weight management and good health, the vast majority won't provide you with any kind of metabolic uptick. No vegetable is a replacement for cardio exercise, strength training and an overall healthy eating plan.
The Sum of Your Metabolism
Your metabolism is a complicated system that's influenced by your genes and environment. It's a sum of all the processes your body accomplishes to give you energy from the calories in food. A high metabolism allows you to eat more without gaining weight.
Approximately 60 percent of your metabolic rate consists of your resting metabolism, or RMR, the energy you use to simply exist. If you laid in bed all day, you'd still burn these calories to breathe, pump blood and perform other bodily functions that keep you alive.
Up to another 30 percent of your metabolism comes from physical activity, such as walking to your car in the parking lot, washing dishes and running on the treadmill. The final 10 percent of your metabolism comes from the thermic effect of food -- the calories burned digesting and absorbing nutrients from the foods you eat.
How Vegetables Can Affect Your Metabolism
Vegetables are a valuable part of any weight-loss program, partly because you can eat large servings without overshooting your calorie needs. Their high fiber content helps slow digestion so you feel full for longer, and they provide vitamins and minerals that play essential roles in your normal metabolic processes.
Other substances have proven thermogenic, or metabolic boosting, properties -- including green tea and caffeine -- when consumed in adequate amounts and under optimal conditions. However, only one kind of vegetable -- hot peppers -- have a proven calorie-boosting effect on your metabolism. Hot peppers containing a large amount of capsaicin may have an effect on your metabolic rate, reports a review of the research published in a 2010 issue of the International Journal of Obesity.
Capsaicin, which naturally occurs in chili peppers, provides the quality that makes your mouth burn when you eat them. This compound may slightly elevate your resting metabolic rate and fat-burning ability, but only for a short period of time. How much of the peppers you need to consume to get an effect that notably affects calorie-burn rate is unclear, however.
Capsaicin May Give a Small Metabolic Boost
When you cut calories to lose weight, your resting metabolic rate naturally slows down to conserve energy because your body senses that it may be facing a food shortage. This is especially true if you don't exercise. However, people who consumed capsaicin at every meal while on a low-calorie diet did not experience a metabolic slowdown, showed a study published in PLOS One in 2013. The researchers concluded that the capsaicin offset the natural tendency of the body to compensate for fewer calories, enabling weight loss.
If you've cut calories to lose weight, consider adding chili peppers to salads, stews, braises, soups and salsas. The peppers add almost no calories, but they could help keep your metabolism stoked so weight loss comes a little quicker.
Most Effective Metabolic Boosts
If you're not a hot pepper fan, or prefer not to eat them often, you can boost your metabolism by exercising. Add muscle through strength training, for example. Muscle is a more metabolically-active tissue and requires a greater number of calories to support all day long. When you regularly strength train and change the ratio of lean mass to fat on your body, you naturally boost your metabolic rate.
Simply moving more during the day also revs the physical activity portion of your metabolism. Add 10 minutes to your exercise session, take the stairs instead of the elevator, or pace while talking on the phone. If you weigh 150 pounds, for example, just get up and dance to your favorite song for 15 minutes, and you'll burn about 100 calories. These small additions of movement add up and can help you burn a few hundred extra calories throughout your day.
- University of New Mexico: Metabolism Makeover: Fact or Fiction?
- International Journal of Obesity: Thermogenic Ingredients and Body Weight Regulation
- Plos One: Acute Effects of Capsaicin on Energy Expenditure and Fat Oxidation in Negative Energy Balance
- University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; McKinley Health Center: Breaking Down Your Metabolism
- Harvard Health Publications: Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights