Boosting Your Metabolism For Dummies
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Adding herbs and spices to your meals can not only add a pleasure factor to a dish, they may also help increase your metabolic rate. That’s not to say these are miracle seeds to sprinkle on your dish and negate the need to make nutritious choices.

But if you’re choosing foods that are jam-packed with nutrition, staying within your calorie needs, and incorporating these flavors, research has shown herbs and spices can help up your burn rate and improve your health.

Chili pepper and capsaicin help boost metabolism

Do you tend to shy away from spicy foods? Maybe this will change your tune — capsaicin, the component of chili peppers that causes the burning sensation in your mouth, also stokes your metabolic fire.

A study published in Obesity found that capsaicin increases thermogenesis, which releases heat and increases your body temperature, which is why you might break a sweat with a spicy meal. That means it’s increasing your metabolic rate — by up to 50 percent for 3 hours after the meal, according to one study. Research out of Thailand also found that capsaicin has the potential to lower blood sugar levels.

Try experimenting and incorporating more heat into your meals. It’s an acquired taste; you’ll be able to tolerate more and more heat, and then might need more of it to achieve the same metabolic shift.

Common chili peppers include bell peppers, cayenne peppers, pepperoncini, jalapenos, and habaneros (warning: not for beginners):

  • Slice peppers over salads; add to soups, stews, or side dishes.

  • Grind them into dips, such as guacamole and salsas, spreads, and salad dressings.

  • Dried chilis are ground into powders, which you can add as a dry rub for meats, fish, tofu, and vegetables.

  • Use chipotle hot sauce over anything like eggs, in sandwiches, on rice dishes, with desserts — basically anything you like!

Boost your metabolism with ginger

Ginger is a spice found in many forms — pickled with your sushi, in some brands of ginger ale, in the form of candy, dried for addition to dishes, and added to tea and smoothies. It’s been used for centuries in many cultures to help calm digestion and for numerous other ailments.

Recently, animal studies have found that ginger can increase metabolism by up to 20 percent, but its main benefit to you is its antioxidant content and ability to increase gastric juices to promote good digestion. Ginger has also been extensively studied for reducing nausea during pregnancy morning sickness and during chemotherapy.

Turmeric helps boost metabolism

Turmeric is the plant material that you might recognize in curries when it’s ground into a deep orange-yellow powder. Curcumin, the active component of turmeric, has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits. Animal studies have also noted a reduction in fat storage with curcumin, but as with many spices and herbs, more research is needed to really understand the effects.

That said, it certainly can’t hurt to include turmeric into your repertoire if you like the flavor. Look for curry powders and check for turmeric in the ingredient to add as flavoring to main dishes like tofu, chicken, fish, and sides like vegetables.

Cinnamon helps blood glucose levels

Cinnamon has been in the spotlight lately for people with diabetes. It’s been shown to help diabetics reduce their hemoglobin A1C level — a reflection of blood glucose levels over the past few months — as well as reduce cholesterol and blood pressure. It’s possible that cinnamon works by helping insulin work more effectively.

The most consistent effect cinnamon has had across the board is improving fasting blood glucose levels and, subsequently, spikes in your hunger levels. Its benefits are controversial. By no means should cinnamon replace any other diabetes treatment, but there are certainly some promising studies.

Cinnamon is also delicious: Add it to oatmeal, skim lattes, and apple slices. You can also add it to curries for a double dose of power spices.

Boost your metabolism with green tea

Although not exactly a spice, green tea is worth mentioning for its researched ability to increase fat oxidation and boost thermogenesis up to 4 percent. The studies are limited. But because green tea contains antioxidants (called polyphenols) and flavonoids (called catechins), which fight disease and decrease inflammation, it’s definitely a crowd pleaser when it comes to health.

Drink green tea hot or iced, but remember, it does contain caffeine, although only about 1/2 as much as black tea and 1/4 as much as coffee, you still want to limit your intake close to bedtime.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Rachel Berman, RD is the Director of Nutrition for, a free Web site and mobile app which provides tools to help people lead healthier lives. A nationally recognized nutrition expert, she has appeared on The Today Show, several local television and radio health segments, and is frequently quoted in print and online publications.

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