It can be tough sticking to healthy nutritional options, but making sure you take in some of these ‘super foods’ will ensure you’re healthy and that your weight is in check, all while helping you perform at your optimal level. – BY CHRISTINE PETERS, REGISTERED DIETICIAN
Certain foods have a very high thermogenic effect, so you literally burn calories as you chew, and others contain nutrients and compounds that stoke your metabolic fire, so following some simple advice can boost your metabolism and make feel lighter on the go.
1 Whole-grains: Your body burns twice as many calories breaking down whole foods than processed foods, especially those rich in fibre, such as oatmeal and brown rice.
2 Lean meat: Protein has a high thermogenic effect: You burn about 30% of the calories the food contains during digestion, so a 300-calorie chicken breast requires about 90 calories to break it down.
3 Low-fat dairy: Rich in calcium and vitamin D, these foods help preserve and build muscle mass, which is essential for maintaining a robust metabolism.
4 Green tea: Drinking four cups of green tea a day can help people shed up to 3kg in eight weeks. Credit EGCG, a compound in the brew that temporarily speeds metabolism. To up your intake, keep a jug of iced tea in the fridge in the hot summer months.
5 Hot peppers: Capsaicin, the compound that gives chili peppers their kick, heats up your body, which makes you burn additional calories. You can get it by eating raw, cooked, dried or powdered peppers, or add as much cayenne or hot sauce as possible to soups, eggs and meats.
While the foods listed above will give you more oomph in your daily diet, there are a few things to keep in mind when trying to keep your nutrition in check:
• Eat enough: You need to cut calories to lose weight, but going too low delivers a double whammy to your metabolism. When you eat less than you need for basic biological function, your body throws the brakes on your metabolism. It also begins to break down precious, calorie-burning muscle tissue for energy. Eat just enough so you're not hungry, such as a 150-calorie snack mid-morning and mid-afternoon between three meals of about 430 calories each.
• Rev up: Eating breakfast jump-starts your metabolism and keeps energy levels high all day. It's no accident that people who skip this meal are four times as likely to be obese. If nothing else, grab a yoghurt, or try oatmeal made with fat-free milk and topped with nuts for an essential protein boost.
• Put the kettle on: Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant, so your daily java jolts can rev your metabolism 5% to 8%, while a cup of tea can raise your metabolism by 12%. It is believed that the antioxidant catechins in tea provide this boost.
• Fibre on: Research shows that fibre can rev your fat-burn by as much as 30%, and studies have found that those who eat the most fibre in foods gain the least weight over time. So, aim for about 25g a day – the amount in three servings each of fruits and vegetables.
• Be water-wise: Drinking six cups of cold water a day can raise your resting metabolism by about 50 calories daily – enough to shed 2kg in a year. The increase may come from the work it takes to heat the water to body temperature.