Think of your body's metabolism as an engine. It burns calories to keep it chugging along. Metabolism is the rate at which your body burns the calories it gets from food. The faster your metabolism works, the more calories you burn. Now think about how much it would help if your metabolism could burn fuel at a faster rate. It would mean your body becomes a more efficient engine that could burn more calories – helping you to lose more weight.
Exercising is a great way to burn calories. You won't beat the belly fat without it. But there are some foods you can eat to increase your metabolism and burn those calories off – fast!
1. Pack in protein
All foods create a thermic effect, that is, the extra energy used by the body during digestion that gives a boost to your metabolism. Protein gives the body a bigger metabolic boost than carbohydrates or fats. Eating more protein in combination with exercise will also build and maintain muscle mass, which in turn increases metabolic rate. To increase your protein but not fat intake, opt for lean protein sources such as fish, lean red meat, chicken, eggs, tofu and beans.
2. Spice up the food
The powerful kick you get when you eat chillis comes from the capsaicin, the active component of chilli peppers, which also raises your body's internal temperature. Eating spicy food can cause your body to burn more calories, even for several hours after the meal. Studies have shown that on average, a meal containing spicy food can temporarily increase the body's metabolism rate by about 8% . Spicy food also makes you feel fuller faster, which means you eat less. Spice up your dishes by adding hot pepper, kimchi, ginger or chilli flakes – just don't overdo it, or you might be tempted to reach for some cooling, but fattening, ice cream!
3. Eat your fruit and veg
Vegetables are your best friends when it comes to boosting metabolism. All dark leafy vegetables will help, so you might like to try including more bok choy, kai lan and kang kong in your diet. For dessert, go for fruit such as blueberries and grapefruit. Don't forget powerful goji berries – you only need to eat 15g or drink 120ml of the fruit's juice a day to help boost your body's calorie burning properties. Add them to a shake or enjoy them as a snack.
4. Drink lots of water
Water may help you lose weight, as the body needs it to efficiently burn calories. While warm water aids digestion, if you're looking to increase the way your body burns calories, you should drink your water cold. As the body heats the water to the core body temperature it also burns a few calories. And every little helps.
Apart from plain water, kombucha tea, green tea and black tea have also been shown to cause metabolism-boosting effects. Studies have also indicated that caffeine helps burn those calories – but not if your next coffee break includes a cup of kopi C!
If you're keen to cook your way to health, click here for our 7-day food and fitness plan.