Ten food changes to help boost your metabolism
Whittle down your waist by filling up on fibre and sipping green tea.
1. Cutting out fats is the cardinal sin
Boosting metabolism is the holy grail of weight watchers everywhere. This is the rate at which you burn calories to produce energy.
Each person has a different metabolic rate depending on many factors. Some people inherit a speedy metabolism. Men tend to burn more calories than women, even while resting. And for most people, metabolism slows steadily after age 40.
Although you cannot control your age, gender, or genetics, there are other ways to improve your metabolism. The cardinal sin is cutting out fats. There are good and bad fats. Good fats are essential - avocado, olive oil, nuts, fatty fish and seeds. Bad fats are to be avoided.
Trans-fats are found in processed foods and are also created by using reheated oils. They slow down your body's ability to burn fat. They interfere with the cell membrane and disrupt metabolism.
Eating trans-fat can also lead to insulin resistance and inflammation, both of which cripple metabolism and cause weight gain.
2. Fad diets don't work
Your metabolism is the result of all of the processes in the body working together to create the energy that keeps it going. Fundamental to metabolism is the fuel you provide the body with. Forget fad diets which are popular at this time of year.
Some 80% of dieters regain the weight they lost on fad diets. Similarly, counting calories is a fantastic failure. People can become fanatical about the calorific value of foods in their endeavours to achieve weight loss.
Crash diets are bad for anyone hoping to increase their metabolism. Although these diets may initially help you drop the pounds, that comes at the expense of good nutrition. Fast weight loss is not good since you can lose muscle, which in turn slows your metabolism.
The final result is your body burns fewer calories and gains weight faster than before the diet.
3 Focus on fibre
Aim to consume a diversity of foods from the plant kingdom. They are the fibre-rich foods. Wholegrains, nuts, seeds, beans and lentils, vegetables and fruit all contain both soluble and insoluble fibre.
Fibre-rich foods take longer to digest and keep the body busy for longer. The longer it takes to digest a meal, the fuller the body feels and the more energy is expended with the digestion process. Fibre-rich food create a feeling of satiety and this keeps the hunger pangs at bay.
Your body uses about 10% of its calorie intake for digestion, this is increased by increasing fibre. By consuming foods from the plant kingdom, you are also feeding the microflora in the gut.
Recent research has shown that fibre-rich foods which contain prebiotics affect the expression of certain genes in the gut associated with weight gain and fuel burning in the body.
With the ageing process, weight gain becomes more of an issue, and also, the bacteria in the gut alter with age.
4. Cold weather increases fat burning
The body is made up of two types of body fat. There is brown fat and white fat. Recent research has shown that both of these fat cells work very differently in the body. Brown fat cells have the ability to burn calories - they are metabolically active.
Extreme cold and extreme heat affects our metabolic rate. Fats are particularly active during the wintertime when we are exposed to cold temperatures. The cold activates the central nervous system which, in turn, activates brown fat to maintain the body temperature. Basically, brown fat produces heat to maintain the temperature of the body.
Brown fat is good as it rapidly burns calories. To really enhance your metabolic rate, you might consider taking a cold shower every day to get these brown cells working for you.
5. Pack in some punchy hot chillies
Apart from the cold, certain dietary substances have been shown to activate the fat-burning capabilities of brown fat. Chillies are the most researched as they contain an ingredient called capsicum and this gives chillies their heat.
Capsicum is highly concentrated in chillies which, in turn, gets the brown fat burning. The hotter the chilli, the more brown fat is activated.
Interesting research has shown that 10mg of chilli will burn approximately 50 calories. Red, green and yellow peppers also contain this fat-burning ingredient.
During the wintertime it is good to consume warming foods. By incorporating foods such as homemade curries or stir-fries with chillies, you may be jolting your metabolism and burning off extra calories.
Similarly, spices such as cloves, cinnamon and ginger all contain properties that enhance thermogenesis. To achieve the affect, you will need to incorporate frequently into the diet.
6. Use it or you lose it
Exercising is one of the most effective ways to increase your metabolism. Exercise works in many ways, but the main aim needs to be muscle gain.
Ageing causes the loss of muscle mass. Muscle cells are more metabolically active than fat cells. Your body constantly burns calories, even when you're doing nothing. This resting metabolic rate is much higher in people with more muscle. Every pound of muscle uses about six calories a day just to sustain itself, while each pound of fat burns only two calories daily.
Achieving lean body mass is the best fat-burner of all. However, when it comes to weight loss, exercise accounts for 20% of the battle, with food intake being 80% of the cure. Following a good workout, muscles are activated all over your body. This raises your daily metabolic rate.
7. The magic of plant protein
Ensure you consume protein with each meal. Your body digests protein more slowly than fat or carbohydrates, so you feel full longer.
Post exercise, it may also give your metabolism a kick-start. This is a process called thermogenesis, depending on the type of protein you eat. So, because it takes longer to digest protein than carbohydrates or fat, your body expends more energy absorbing the nutrients in a high-protein diet.
Don't purely rely on animal products for your protein sources. Irish people do not eat sufficient vegetable protein. Plant proteins have the added benefit as they contain the magic ingredient fibre.
So when choosing protein, remember there are many sources.
8. Sugar creates fat cells
It is no secret that sugar causes weight gain. Sugar uses very few calories for ingestion rendering glucose far too readily available to the cells. It is stored as fat in the liver and around the body's vital organs. Sugar forms white fat cells.
Recent research concluded that sugar was "metabolically harmful, not because of its calories", but because it places a particular strain on the body.
Frequently eating refined carbohydrate foods high in available sugars and starches such as bread, pasta, cakes, biscuits, chips and processed foods, wreak havoc on the body.
The body is designed to work for its calories, hence humans have teeth and a very sophisticated digestive system.
Switching to foods in their natural state and eliminating processed food will stimulate digestion and increase the rate at which foods are metabolised.
Many of our current lifestyle-related illnesses occur due to a faulty mechanism in the metabolic process as a result of the poor food choices that are being made.
9. Going green
Green tea has long-been heralded as a health elixir as it contains antioxidant-rich polyphenols. The active ingredient, catechin, may crank up metabolism.
Researchers followed dieters and found that those who drank green tea lost more weight than those who didn't, suggesting that catechins may improve fat oxidation and thermogenesis, your body's production of energy, or heat, from digestion.
Like all foods that enhance the body, to achieve weight loss, it is dose dependant.
According to one study, if you drink five eight-ounce cups of green tea a day, you can increase your energy expenditure by 90 calories a day.
Green tea is a rich source of caffeine, so be mindful that you are increasing your caffeine intake if you consume this amount of tea.
10. Fill up on nutrient-dense eggs
Eggs are a wonderful food. Next to mother's milk, they are probably the most nutrient-dense food on the planet. There is no association between eating eggs and heart disease.
That is old science and untrue. Eggs do contain cholesterol as does every cell in the body.
But cholesterol is a vital component in the body and eggs are a wonderful source of protein and good fats - they are packed full of vitamins and minerals and keep the body going for hours.
Eggs are hugely versatile and easy to prepare. Aim to include eggs daily as one of your protein sources. A vegetable omelette, or a frittata, is a perfect meal served with a salad.