Foods that boost metabolism
When we speak of metabolism, we are most likely thinking and talking about weight loss. However, this complex process is more than that! It is a method by which, chemical processes occur within any living being, that is essential to maintaining life. Metabolism is often characterised by how quickly and easily calories and fat are absorbed and burnt in the body. Human beings are all heterotrophs, which means, we rely on external sources for our nutrition and nourishment. This comes in the form of food and drink. Metabolism converts the food you eat into energy, by combining with oxygen and releasing the energy that your body requires for day-to-day activities and life.
What happens if the body’s metabolism doesn’t function to its optimum?
So if you think back to when you were a child or an adolescent, you’d probably remember that your body’s ability to burn calories was far more than as an adult. As you grow older, your metabolism decreases, and that is a fact common to most human beings. Along with weight loss, metabolism influences other body functions like blood circulation, maintaining digestive organs, nerve function and so on. So it is advisable to make sure that your lifestyle combats this decreased metabolic rate, not just to look good, but also to feel fit and healthy. The easiest way to do this is through the foods you eat.
What foods to eat to boost metabolism?
It’s all in the diet! Eating right can give your body a push in the right direction by fulfilling its metabolic needs and optimising metabolic rate. Let’s take a look at what you should be eating and drinking:
Protein-rich foods: This includes all healthy proteins found naturally (no shakes or powders please!), which encompasses milk, cheese and other dairy products, eggs, chicken, turkey, fish, seafood and other sources of lean meat, all kinds of beans and so on. Protein is one of the easiest ways to increase your body’s metabolism because it has a manifold impact. To begin with, let’s understand the TEF or Thermic Effect of Food, which is caused when you eat. This is because the body uses its extra calories to process and digest this food. Of all the food groups, protein contains the highest TEF, potentially bringing it up to a whopping 30 per cent, which is ten times more than the maximum of 3 per cent that fats offer. Protein is also a filling option, particularly animal sources of protein, so this prevents binge fests on unhealthy offerings, and makes sure your tummy feels satisfied in a good way. Protein is also a key nutrient in muscle-building, so when you take in a protein-rich diet, it helps convert fat to muscle, which in turn increases metabolism. So you’ll eat less, burn more, and stay strong – a win-win situation from every angle.
Leafy green vegetables: Iron is an essential component in maintaining your body’s balance. Along with zinc and selenium, it contributes to the wellbeing of the thyroid gland. If the thyroid gland stops functioning properly, slower metabolism and its ensuing problems are the outcomes. Leafy green vegetables are the best way to address this problem since they keep your iron levels in check. Spinach, kale, all kinds of lettuce, and even nuts and seeds offer solutions to combat this problem. These don’t just help your metabolism, they also come packed with added nutrients, vitamins and minerals that contribute to overall health and well-being.
Vitamin C-rich fruits: Vitamin C-rich fruits include oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes and the whole gamut of citrus fruit. Some berries are also rich in vitamin C, making them ideal for consumption. Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron better, and detoxes the digestive system, metabolising bile in the liver, causing oxidisation within the body. It is also used to heal tissues and muscles in the body. It metabolises free radicals, eliminating them from the body, and keeps weight gain at bay.
Cacao: Not to be confused with bingeing on that bar of milk chocolate, cacao is the pure extract of the cacao bean, without any sugary additives. In this form, just a spoonful of cacao can reduce the absorption of calories in the body, and prevent weight gain. It also stimulates the use of enzymes which help stimulate fat usage for energy release. What’s more, this is definitely a tasty alternative when compared to other metabolism boosters – even without the sugar!
Green tea: This is one of the best and more effective ways to speed up your metabolism. Just sip on a cup of green tea thrice a day! Green tea is rich in antioxidants called catechins and polyphenols, which are natural metabolism boosters. You could burn as many as a hundred calories a day, or more, with this easy-to-make drink. However, make sure you don’t consume it on an empty stomach; it is best had after a meal, leaving a gap of 45-60 minutes. If green tea isn’t on hand, drink up room temperature or warm water. This helps burn fat, and also fills you up so that you’re not munching on the wrong kinds of food.
Legumes: Legumes and lentils, especially if you’re vegan or vegetarian, are a fabulous source of plant protein, and offer the same benefits as animal protein. In addition, these have the benefit of being rich in fibre, which is vital to digestion, keeping the digestive organs in good working condition and thereby enabling the efficient breakdown of food. Legumes contain an amino acid called arginine, which helps the body burn more carbs and fat than otherwise.
Apple cider vinegar: There is some debate on this! While apple cider vinegar is not thought to increase metabolism by itself, it is known to aid weight loss because of its acetic acid content. The vinegar in the drink decreases the speed at which sugar enters the blood, allowing for lower blood sugar levels. Just add a teaspoon or two to your diet each day is effective enough to help lower your body’s fat percentage.
Spices: Spices have got a bad rep, but contrary to popular belief, they can have health benefits too! Top of the list is ginger. When included in your food, or boiled in your tea and water and consumed, ginger has metabolism-boosting properties can also help decrease levels of hunger. Ginseng is another magical herb, often used in Chinese medicine, used to boost weight loss and aid metabolism. Cayenne pepper can help fight weight gain because it contains capsaicin, which prevents fat buildup within the body. This substance is also found in chilli peppers, making them ideal for consumption as well. Cinnamon is another spice with metabolic benefits, and it also regulates blood sugar. Black pepper blocks formation of fat cells as well, thanks to piperine. Dandelions, mustard, turmeric, cardamom and cumin are other spices that you absolutely must include in your diet in various ways, to keep your metabolism and waistline in check!
What foods should I avoid?
Most of this is common sense! Foods you should avoid obviously include low-nutrient and high-fat foods – sugar-rich desserts and sugary sweets, deep-fried foods, alcohol, packaged foods, foods rich in trans fats, refined grains, excessive red meat intake, excessive salt intake and so on.
What else can I do to maintain the body’s metabolism?
Exercise is paramount to maintain the body’s metabolic rate. Cardio burns off excess fat, while muscle development is as important – since muscle aids metabolism more than fat does. So a mix of weight training, yoga and Pilates are some of the measures you could take to remain metabolically active. Sleeping for eight hours a day is another key component in optimizing metabolism. When you don’t get enough sleep, the metabolism slows down because it needs to conserve excess energy for when you’re awake! This also triggers the release of cortisol, a hormone that increases stress, and potential levels of fat within the body too. Get enough sunlight, as Vitamin D could be a contributory factor too. If you find that your metabolism is excessively slow, you might want to get your thyroid levels checked, since this hormonal imbalance also automatically impacts metabolic levels.
7 AM DRINK
1 tbsp butter
2 cups finely-chopped spinach leaves
1 cup almond milk
½ cup fruit of your choice (banana or pineapple works well)
1 tsp flaxseeds
1 tsp chopped almonds
Mix the butter, spinach, almond milk, fruit and flaxseeds in a blender, and then slowly blend at low speed for a few minutes until all the ingredients are combined.
Pour into a glass and garnish with chopped almonds.
½ cup raspberries
½ cup blueberries
1 cup full-fat yoghurt
½ cup almonds, slivered
a pinch of ground cinnamon
a pinch of ground cardamom
2ml vanilla extract
Take a large bowl and pour the yoghurt into it.
Mix the spices and vanilla extract into the yoghurt.
Then add the raspberries and blueberries and gently stir twice or thrice.
Sprinkle the almonds generously on the berry-yoghurt mix, and stir once again.
Dig in while fresh.
Chef’s Garden Salad
40 gm rocket lettuce
1 micro green
5 tbsp olive oil
10 basil leaves
4 mint sprigs (medium-sized)
4 coriander sprigs
Salt, to taste
6 g crushed pepper
20 g parmesan cheese
40 g iceberg lettuce
40 g romaine lettuce
10 g walnut
10 g red peppers
Take a salad mixing bowl and place all the ingredients except the walnut and parmesan cheese.
Gently toss till mixed well, and then place in a serving plate.
Garnish with walnut and parmesan cheese.
Recipe Courtesy: Sheraton Grand Chennai Resort & Spa
Quinoa, Beetroot & Orange Salad
1 small beetroot
1 fresh orange
100 g assorted lettuce
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 g roasted almond
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cook quinoa in two times the amount of water till done. Strain any leftover water and allow to cool.
Transfer to a fresh bowl and add seasoning like olive oil, balsamic vinegar and toss with lettuce before transferring it on to a fresh plate.
Cut the boiled beetroot into small cubes and marinate with salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Place on the plate of quinoa and top with peeled orange slices and roasted almonds.
Recipe Courtesy: Ciclo Café, Bangalore
½ medium carrot, grated
1 small green capsicum, de-seeded and chopped
50 g cheese, grated
60 g (4 tbsp) olive oil mayonnaise
1 tbsp vegetable oil
100 g gram flour
100 g yoghurt
60 ml water
½ tsp turmeric powder
5-6 coriander leaves, chopped
In a bowl add carrot, capsicum, cheese and 2 tbsp mayonnaise. Mix well and keep aside for stuffing.
In another bowl add gram flour, yoghurt, water, 2 tbsp mayonnaise, salt and turmeric. Mix well and ensure no lumps remain.
Pour this mixture into a deep non-stick pan and cook on low flame for 6-7 minutes or until mixture is thick and smooth in consistency. Stir.
Grease the reverse side of a serving tray with oil. Using a spatula quickly spread above mixture over serving tray as thinly as possible. Once the mixture cools, spread the stuffing evenly.
Cut it into strips, two inches wide, and roll each strip gently. Garnish with coriander and serve.
Recipe courtesy: Chef Ranveer Brar, Dr OetkerFunFoods, Creative Kitchen
Pan-grilled Achari Paneer
400 g fresh paneer
3 tsp Kashmiri red chilli paste
Coriander powder, a pinch
Cumin powder, a pinch
Turmeric powder, a pinch
Garam masala, a pinch
1 tsp ginger-garlic paste
1 tsp chickpea flour
1 tbsp blended mango pickle
1 cup yoghurt
Cut the paneer into tikka sizes.
Whisk the yoghurt and add all the above ingredients.
Marinate the paneer and set aside for 30 minutes.
Heat the non-stick pan, and then lightly grease it with oil or butter.
Place the marinated paneer gently in the pan and let it cook till it turns light brown.
Flip the paneer and let it cook on the other side.
Serve hot with mint chutney and sliced onions.