Metabolism-Boosting Foods and Nutrients: Nuts, Seeds, and Beans
Whether or not you’re vegetarian, nuts, seeds, and beans are nutrition powerhouses that help keep your metabolism moving efficiently. They all contain lean protein and fiber; nuts and seeds contain heart-healthy fats that keep you feeling satisfied and energized.
Almonds: These are rich in vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that protects heart health, and magnesium, a mineral that’s important to metabolism. The fiber content and unique texture of almonds improve satiety, and in 2012, the USDA discovered that almonds may provide 20 percent fewer calories than scientists previously believed.
Make your own trail mix including almonds, dried fruit, and even a sprinkle of dark chocolate chips for a sweet, satisfying snack. One serving (1 ounce) = 24 kernels.
Brazil nuts: These are a great source of selenium, a mineral that has been researched to improve fat metabolism. Nosh on them whole and mixed in with popcorn for a filling and energizing snack. But limit yourself to two kernels per day. Too much selenium can be toxic, and two per day is plenty.
Pistachios: Pistachios contain B vitamins, specifically B6, which help with energy metabolism. One ounce gives you 47 kernels, so your mouth stays busy longer. Eat them straight up (be even more satisfied by taking the time to de-shell) or mix in with salads or pasta dishes.
Walnuts: These are the best nut source of omega-3 fatty acids, which improve satiety and have been shown to help with cognitive function. Add chopped walnuts to your morning oatmeal to balance out the meal and help you stay full until lunchtime. One serving = 14 halves.
Chia seeds: Yes, these are the seeds you spread over your Chia Pet to make sprouted hair grow. Who knew they were nutrition powerhouses? Chia seeds contain omega-3 and a balance of soluble and insoluble fiber to help keep your blood sugar steady and make your digestion work more to keep your metabolism moving. Add a tablespoon to your yogurt or salad, blend with smoothies, and add to baked goods.
Flaxseeds contain heart-healthy fats, fiber, and lignans, which are powerful antioxidants that may protect against breast and other types of cancer. You need to grind them to release their nutrient power or purchase as flaxmeal. But beware, they go rancid quickly, so keep ground flax seed (or flaxmeal) in the freezer. Also, it’s best to eat in foods that aren’t cooked like cereals, such as sandwiches, salads, and dressings, or with smoothies.
Beans are high in protein, fiber, folate, and iron — all beneficial nutrients to promote digestion, lower cholesterol, optimize metabolic rate, keep you satisfied. You really can’t go wrong with the beans you choose to add to your meals. By adding a 1-cup serving to your day, you’ll meet about half your fiber and a quarter of your protein needs.
Beans are the best source of resistant starch, a type of starch that acts like fiber in your digestive tract. Resistant starch has a great effect on your blood sugar levels; research shows it improves insulin sensitivity. It also acts like a probiotic in a way by promoting healthy bacteria in the gut. Just another reason to make room for beans in your diet!
Beans are known for causing gas, so if that has prevented you from eating them in the past, try this: Wash uncooked beans and soak them overnight in water to soften the skin and release the gas-causing oligosaccharides. You can also boil them and replace the water a couple of times to speed this process up but either way, the beans should be double in size.
If you’re not eating them because you don’t know how to incorporate them, no more excuses:
Blend chickpeas (garbanzo beans) into hummus and pair with veggies or whole-wheat crackers.
Have edamame (soy beans) as a snack or as an appetizer when you go out to a Japanese restaurant.
Choose lentil soup for a filling snack or meal, and choose white beans to make a classic pasta e fagioli soup.
Toss kidney beans into your salad for an extra protein and fiber kick.
Use black beans in any Mexican recipe such as homemade tacos, burritos, or as a side paired with brown rice.
Although canned beans are more convenient than dried, they typically pack sodium, and the lining of the can probably contains the pesticide BPA, which might negatively affect your health. Choose dried beans when time allows for it and cook them in bulk. You can freeze cooked beans so that they stay fresh for months.