5 Underrated Foods To Boost Metabolism, From A World-Renowned MD
According to world-renowned physician and researcher William Li, M.D., author of Eat To Beat Your Diet, you are not born with a slow or fast metabolism. In fact, your metabolism remains stable from age 20 all the way to age 601, and you can control how it works during that time frame. What does this mean? "Your metabolism and your body fat isn't simply your fate," he shares on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast.
So, how do you optimize this process, you might ask? Well, says Li, eating more of the right foods can actually light up your metabolism and help you maintain a healthy weight. Below, find a few of his underrated fridge staples:
According to Li, your body fat actually has stem cells (the more you know, right?). "If we overeat, our bodies need to make more fuel tanks quickly, and so our fat stem cells can actually grow," he explains. "Well, it turns out that some foods can actually tame our fat stem cells so they are less likely to make more fat." Like carrots!
Perhaps that's why carrots have been associated with lower obesity2 and increased cardiovascular protection3. "They actually calm down the stem cells that are in our fat that might try to actually grow up," adds Li.
There's a good reason functional mushrooms are so superb for your health: They contain beta-glucans4, unique plant fibers that have been connected to better gut health, increased immunity, and improved cardiometabolic health parameters.
"But beta-glucan also lights up your metabolism5," says Li. "[It] helps shrink the visceral fat6 in your belly." So let's add metabolic health to the mushroom résumé.
And while each type of mushroom may boast a slightly different antioxidant profile, Li notes that they pretty much all contain those beneficial beta-glucans: "This is a bioactive naturally present in all kinds of species of mushrooms, whether you're talking about white button, shiitake, portobella, baby bella, it's all there," he says.
Did you know beans are also A+ for your metabolism? Specifically, Li praises canned navy beans for healthy body fat. "They can decrease visceral fat, that harmful fat that can develop even in [lean] people inside your body," he notes. "One cup [of beans] five days a week actually can shrink your waistline by about an inch over the course of a month."
But why do navy beans wield this metabolism-boosting power? According to Li, it's all thanks to fiber: "Beans have dietary fiber and other polyphenols that activate our metabolism and unleash our inner metabolism," he notes. "So your metabolism increases while your excess body fat shrinks." (See here for our favorite fiber supplements if you'd like to increase your intake.)
Apple cider vinegar
Li only recently fell in love with ACV: "About 10 years ago, I had friends that were telling me, 'I'm actually taking apple cider vinegar every day for weight loss.' And I [say], 'Are you kidding me? That's all bunk.' I eat my words now—or maybe I drink my words," he says.
It turns out, there's a bunch of data to show that apple cider vinegar does work to promote a healthy weight. See, the acetic acid in vinegar stimulates your fat cells and can prevent them from getting bigger, says Li. In fact, researchers have found that people who took two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar per day for 12 weeks had a decrease in waist circumference and body fat percentage7.
"I thought for sure it wasn't going to work, but my gosh, it actually does work," says Li. His only caveat is to make sure to mix the vinegar into a beverage so you don't dissolve your tooth enamel.
Coffee lovers, rejoice! "Coffee contains something called chlorogenic acid8 that also lights up your metabolism as well as your health defenses," says Li.
Perhaps that's why coffee and green coffee bean extract (which contains a high concentration of chlorogenic acid) have been associated with decreased weight and a healthy insulin response9. Caffeine itself has also been clinically shown to enhance energy utilization (calorie burn), thermogenic fat burn (lipolysis), and weight management10; that's why you can find sources of caffeine in some high-quality metabolism-boosting supplements.
These foods above are certainly not the only staples known for revving up metabolism, and there are plenty more lifestyle tips to follow when it comes to optimizing metabolic well-being (sleep, exercise, and supplements can all play a role, for example). However, if you're looking to add a few more healthy foods to your menu, consider Li's underrated favorites—perhaps a bean-mushroom-carrot stew with some black coffee and a vinegar tonic on the side?
We hope you enjoy this episode sponsored by NerdWallet! And don't forget to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or Amazon Music!
Jason Wachob is the Founder and Co-CEO of mindbodygreen and the author of Wellth. He has been featured in the New York Times, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, and Vogue, and has a B.A. in history from Columbia University, where he played varsity basketball for four years.