If your New Year goal for 2018 was to lose some weight, then hopefully January and February have had you off to a good start. However, with March fast approaching and the New Year two months in, it can also be the time of year that New Year resolutions start to crumble and people start to fall off the wagon. Don’t let that be you!! If you are looking for some further motivation and struggling to know what foods are best to eat to support your weight loss goals then this article is here to help.
The science of weight loss can often be simplified back to the basic phrase of ‘eat less and move more’ and weight loss will happen. This of course is true, but there are also other things to consider if you want to lose some weight, especially if you are down to those last few pounds that just don’t seem to shift. One thing that plays a role in weight loss is a person’s metabolism. Some people can have a fast one and others can have a slower one, and if you fall into the latter category, weight loss can be a bit more of a struggle. The good news is there are things you can do and eat that helps give your metabolism a boost and give your body the best chance of losing any excess weight.
So what exactly is your metabolism and how does it impact weight?
The word metabolism is used to describe all the chemical process which occur constantly in the body and which keep us alive and our organs functioning as they should. Processes such as breathing, digestion and cell repair are all processes that are happening continuously, without us even being aware and these make up our metabolism. You may have heard of the phrase ‘resting metabolism’ and this term is used to describe how many calories our body burns when at rest. So in other words when you are doing nothing at all such as sitting in front of the TV vegetating, our body is still burning calories. Ideally we want our resting metabolism to be quite high, as this will ensure our body is burning maximum calories even when we are not trying very hard (sounds good right?). Unfortunately though when someone is quite overweight, their resting metabolism is often fairly slow, especially compared to someone who has more muscle mass, this is because fat in the body doesn’t burn calories at the same rate as muscle. So put simply, the more muscle mass you have and the less fat you have, the higher your resting metabolism will be and the more calories you will burn without even trying.
This principle explains why exercising should be a good combination of both cardiovascular exercise and weights/ lifting as both have different impacts on health and it is the weights and lifting that will help to increase and build muscle mass (we are not talking building muscle to epic body building proportions here, just improving it to the point of a little definition and to reduce fat cells and build muscle cells instead). The good news is that there are also other foods that have been shown to help give metabolism a boost and although research on this is limited, there have been some positive results.
Don’t forget to drink
Dehydration, slows down metabolism, so if you are not drinking enough, this will not help your weight loss mission. Water is essential for every biological function, so if water is lacking in the body your metabolism slows down, as your body cannot efficiently perform all these biological functions without sufficient water. Drinking water or green tea is best here. Green tea contains antioxidants called Catechins, which have been shown to speed up and improve metabolism. One study showed that by drinking five eight-ounce cups of green tea every day, you can increase your energy expenditure by 90 calories per day. Although more research is needed to confirm this, it’s certainly a good and healthy drink to add to your daily menu.
Fresh Red or Green Chilli’s
Capsaicin is the active component of chilli peppers and it is what is responsible for giving them their heat and hotness. It is also this component that has been shown in some studies to help give metabolism a boost, although the exact amount needed in order to elicit this effect is a little unknown. If you don’t mind a little heat though, it’s certainly an ingredient to add to your cooking wherever possible and can be easily added to soups, salads or casseroles. Even if it doesn’t have a huge effect on metabolism, capsaicin has other advantages when it comes to weight loss, in that it is also an appetite suppressant so can help beat those cravings when you get the munchies.
High Protein Foods
Foods high in protein take longer to break down and digest than many other food types. Due to this, the process of their digestion burns more calories so helps give metabolism a boost. Foods such as fish, pulses, lentils, cheese, milk, nuts and eggs are all good sources of protein and can be consumed as part of a healthy diet that can help support weight loss.
Iron, Zinc & Selenium
These three important minerals are very important when it comes to metabolism, as all three are required for a healthy functioning thyroid gland. Your thyroid gland, located in the front of your neck area, plays a massive part in controlling metabolic function and these three minerals are needed in order to ensure the thyroid gland functions correctly. Research shows that if any of these three minerals are deficient or imbalanced in anyway, it can have a negative impact on the thyroid gland and may reduce its ability to produce the hormones needed for correct and healthy metabolism.
Good sources of iron include red meat, legumes, nuts & seeds, fortified breakfast cereals and dark chocolate. Zinc is found in abundant amounts in oysters, red meat, spinach, pumpkin seeds and beans and selenium can be found in significant amounts in goats’ milk, Brazil nuts, sardines and yellow fin tuna.
Caffeine from coffee has been shown in several studies to boost metabolism with one showing that people who consume at least 270mg of caffeine daily (equivalent to approx. 3 cups) burn an extra 100 calories a day. This is likely to be dependent on age and body weight though, so will not necessarily be applicable to all people, although as the phrase goes, every little helps. We do know that caffeine gives a boost to energy so if you have taken up an exercise regime as part of your weight loss mission, drinking coffee will certainly give your work out and sports ability a little boost too.
High Fibre Foods
These types of foods include pulses, beans, wholegrains, oatmeal, bran flakes, quinoa, vegetables, nuts and brown rice. The great thing about fibre is that it is not actually digested, but the body tries to digest it none the less, which means calories are burned trying, giving a boost to metabolism. High fibre foods also keep you fuller for longer so research shows that if you fill up on high fibre foods you end up eating less of other foods, which are higher in calories. As if that wasn’t enough of the good news, when soluble fibre passes through your small intestine, it actually binds to bile (the substance that breaks down fats) and blocks the absorption of excess cholesterol as well as helping to maintain steady blood sugar levels. So eating fibre is definitely a win win for many reasons, especially when wanting to lose weight.
Although we can give metabolism a boost through both diet and exercise, there are things such as aging that we can’t change and which do result in a slowing down of the body’s metabolism. Gender also influences metabolism with men having a slightly faster metabolism than women. We can help ensure our metabolism functions at its best by ensuring we include some of the foods mentioned above as well, as maintaining a good exercise regime.