Scientists typically refer to your "metabolism" as the billions of chemical reactions that occur in your cells every day, but you probably think of your metabolism as the energy -- in the form of calories -- that you burn each day during your day-to-day activities. Your metabolism is partly determined by your genetics, but you can boost your daily calorie burn by increasing your activity levels. Diet can also play a small role in raising your metabolic rate, but eating fruits and vegetables won't make you lose weight unless you're pairing your fruit and veggie intake with a well-rounded, calorie-controlled diet and exercise program.
Fiber-Rich Fruits and Vegetables
Your body burns calories when breaking down and digesting your food. Eating fruits and veggies rich in fiber, which is an indigestible carbohydrate, might increase slightly the number of calories you burn digesting your food. This means you'll get a small metabolic boost from eating high-fiber fruits and veggies.
The fiber you get through your diet may actually lower the number of calories you absorb from the foods you eat. A study published in 2009 in the “Journal of Nutrition” tracked the diets of 252 women for 20 months. The results showed that for every extra gram of fiber eaten, women lost an additional half pound and 0.25 percent body fat. Although you may think a half pound isn't much, those half pounds can add up over time; this also means you're not gaining any weight.
Men and women need 38 and 25 grams of fiber per day, respectively. Meet your needs by stocking your fridge with high-fiber fruits and veggies, which include artichoke hearts, spinach, Brussels sprouts, squash, prunes, guava, Asian pears, raspberries and blackberries. Blend artichoke hearts in a food processor with lemon, olive oil and toasted walnuts for an easy, tasty pesto for whole-grain pasta, or add chunks of roasted squash to your salads. Add chopped spinach to sauces, soups, stews and omelets. Roast Brussels sprouts or squash in the oven for a side dish. Add dried prunes to oatmeal or trail mix, top your morning cereal with berries or blend them into a smoothie and add pears to your salad.
Spicy and Mild Peppers for Metabolism
If you've ever felt sweaty after eating chili peppers, it's because your body is actually producing more heat, which means you're also burning a slightly greater number of calories. Chili peppers contain the chemical capsaicin, which attaches itself to a protein on your muscles, causing you to burn more energy and release it as heat. This process increases your metabolism and body temperature, upping the calories you burn by 4 to 5 percent, according to a review study published in 2010 in the International Journal of Obesity. The study also states capsaicin increases the amount of fat you burn by 10 to 16 percent.
If you can’t handle the heat, the non-spicy compound dihydrocapsiate that's found in milder peppers may also increase energy expenditure and fat burn. According to a 2010 study published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition," subjects increased their daily burn by 50 calories after taking dihydrocapsiate in supplement form.
Hot peppers give chili and Mexican foods added flavors whereas mild peppers can be added to marinara sauce, stir-fry and soups. Alternatively, enjoy them chopped up raw and eaten with a dip or on top of a salad.
Citrus Fruits to Boost Metabolism
Citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C. Your body needs vitamin C to break down fat into energy. A 2005 review article published in the “Journal of the American College of Nutrition” states that people who get their daily dose of vitamin C weigh less than people who don’t get enough of this vitamin. Healthy levels of vitamin C can help you burn 30 percent more fat during moderate-intensity exercise, so you can burn fat more effectively.
Adult men and women need 90 and 75 milligrams of vitamin C per day, respectively. One kiwi fruit contains 91 milligrams; an orange has 70 milligrams; strawberries contain 85 and half of a medium-sized grapefruit 38 milligrams. Fruit juices will get you all the vitamin C you need for the day, but they also give you a lot more calories and sugar than fresh fruit. Enjoy fresh-cut fruit on top of salads or cereal, or enjoy it on its own as a snack.
Broccoli and Your Metabolism
Broccoli might also have fat-burning benefits, according to a study published in 2013 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The researchers found that people who ate broccoli high in glucoraphanin -- a beneficial phytonutrient -- burned more fat than study subjects who didn't eat broccoli. You'll also get other nutrients from broccoli, including calcium and fiber, along with vitamins A and C. Eat broccoli raw with homemade Greek yogurt dip, roast it in the oven for a side dish or saute it and then toss it in with omelets and stir-fry.
- Kidshealth.org: Metabolism
- Nutrients: Effects of Dietary Fiber and Its Components on Metabolic Health
- The Journal of Nutrition: Increasing Total Fiber Intake Reduces Risk of Weight and Fat Gains in Women
- Linus Pauling Institute: Fiber
- International Journal of Obesity: Thermogenic Ingredients and Body Weight Regulation
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Effect of Dihydrocapsiate on Resting Metabolic Rate in Humans
- Journal of the American College of Nutrition: Strategies for Healthy Weight Loss: From Vitamin C to the Glycemic Response
- Linus Pauling Institute: Vitamin C
- BBSRC: Eating Broccoli Retunes Metabolism
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: A Diet Rich in High-Glucoraphanin Broccoli Interacts With Genotype to Reduce Discordance in Plasma Metabolite Profiles by Modulating Mitochondrial Function