Metabolism refers to all of your body's processes that use or convert energy. While certain foods do not alter metabolism, says the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, eating too little can slow it down. Aim for a balanced diet that's rich in nutritious foods and limited in foods that are easy to overeat. Paired with routine exercise, which does increase metabolism, such a lifestyle can help keep your weight and wellness in-check.
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Starchy foods, such as breads and pasta, have a place in a weight control-friendly lifestyle -- if you choose nutritious varieties. The diets and body fat levels of 521 children were studied in a study published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in April 2008. Researchers found a strong link between a high-fat, low-fiber, calorie-dense diet and high body fat. (See References 4) Replace low-fiber starches, such as white bread, instant rice and pretzels, with fiber-rich foods, such as sweet potatoes, popcorn and other whole grains. Because fiber increases fullness, you'll be more likely to eat appropriate amounts. (See References 5)
Sugary Foods and Drinks
Added sugars, such as high-fructose corn syrup, add calories and sweet flavor, but zero nutrients to many foods and beverages. Many people consume more added sugar than they realize, according to the American Heart Association, which can lead to weight gain and obesity. (See References 6) To avoid these risks, keep sugary fare to a minimum. Significant sources of added sugars include regular soft drinks, fruit punch, candy, cookies, cakes, pies, sweetened yogurt and sweetened grain products, such as flavored waffles. (See References 6) The AHA recommends that women consume no more than 100 calories-worth, or 6 teaspoons, of sugar per day and that men stick to a maximum of 150 calories-worth, or 9 teaspoons. (See References 6)
Fast food can appeal when you're short on time or particularly hungry, but frequent intake may cost you when it comes to weight control. In a study published in "The Lancet" in Jan. 2005, researchers analyzed the eating habits of 3,031 young adults over 15 years and found a direct link between increased fast food frequency and an increased risk for weight gain, obesity and type 2 diabetes. When you do eat fast food, registered dietitian Roberta Duyff recommends choosing the healthiest available options, such as grilled chicken, salads and fruit smoothies, and sharing orders of less healthy items, such as fries, with a friend. (See References 8)
Trans-Fatty Prepared Foods
Also called hydrogenated vegetable oil, trans-fats are made through a process in which hydrogen is added to vegetable oil to make it more solid. (See References 9) Research published in "Obesity" in April 2007 involving 41,518 women showed that while healthy unsaturated fats, such as those found in nuts and seeds, did not raise women's risk for weight gain and insulin resistance, but saturated and trans-fats did. Within 8 years, overweight participants gained an additional 2.3 pounds for every percentage of calories from trans-fat. (See Resources 1) While modest amounts of saturated fat, prevalent in fatty meats and cheeses, is acceptable, according to the American Heart Association, a healthy diet leaves virtually no room at all for trans-fats from processed foods. (See References 9 & 10) Common examples include commercially made doughnuts, pastries, pie crusts, pizza dough and crackers, stick margarine and shortening. (See References 9)