The answer is YES THEY CAN!
Thermogenic foods contain components in their structure that cause your body to use more energy (calories) to breakdown and digest the three macronutrients you intake on a daily basis; protein, carbohydrate and fat, and as a result, your body burns extra calories when these foods are consumed.
When ingested, thermogenic foods aid to stimulate body fat to be released and used as energy. All foods require energy to be broken down but some foods require more energy than others. Protein is a perfect example of a macronutrient that utilizes the most energy, almost 30% more than carbohydrates and fat. Examples of high protein choices would be chicken, turkey, fish, seafood, lean beef, and eggs.
In simpler terms, increasing the amount of protein in your diet will not only increase your metabolism but it will keep you feeling full longer because protein, unlike carbohydrates, gets broken down in the stomach and takes roughly 3-4 hours before it moves into the intestines where the absorption process begins.
What does this mean? Well, if you consume 100 calories of lean protein (chicken and turkey breast, white fish, egg whites, etc), this means that 30 of those calories (30% of 100) are being used as an energy source for digestion alone!
Protein is known to have 4 calories per gram, therefore you could even go as far as presuming that since 30% of those calories are being used in digestion, a protein in actuality only has 2.8 calories (30% of 4 grams) by the time your body has worked its magic and digested the protein for assimilation. Why wouldn’t you incorporate more healthy proteins in your diet!
Cruciferous vegetables such as arugula, broccoli, spinach, Brussel sprouts and cabbage can increase your metabolism when consumed in larger quantities and on a regular basis as they are loaded with nutrients necessary to get your cells and liver to do their job and burn fuel efficiently.
A diet poor in vitamins and minerals does not result in the same energy expenditure.
Low glycemic index fruits such as berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries) as well as grapefruits and apples also have thermogenic properties and do not affect a rise in blood sugar levels as do other fruits, especially dried or tropical fruits which can increase your insulin levels and may cause carbohydrates to be converted to fat.
Condiments such as apple cider vinegar, hot sauces, hot peppers, spicy mustards and chili’s are a definite must and add fuel to the fire increasing your metabolism even more. Try adding some to your next meal!
I know you have heard this a thousand times but… drink your water! Water, yes plain water, can also increase your metabolism; especially if you drink it cold since your body has to expend so much energy to warm it up before it passes through the digestive system.
All of the above mentioned foods can be readily found during your next visit to the grocery store if you don’t already have them hiding in your pantry, fridge and freezer. So be sure to include as many of the above mentioned thermogenic foods as possible and get your metabolism in gear!
By Laura Discepola, RNCP and ROHP
Can-Fit-Pro PRO-Trainer, NWS & CPR Instructor
Personal Trainer (PTS) & Chef