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It can be tempting to blame your metabolism for weight gain and other health problems. Although your metabolism influences your body’s energy needs, your digestive fire and physical activity, the foods you eat actually determine your weight and overall health.
There are some foods that may increase your metabolism because they contain important elements that are vital to maintain a steady metabolism, they take more calories to break down in the digestive system, or they contain protein. But before we get to those foods, let’s take a step back and go over what metabolism is in detail.
Metabolism is a process that involves biochemical and hormone reactions by which your body converts everything you eat and drink into energy. During this complex process, calories in nutrients are combined with other elements like oxygen to release the energy that keeps the systems, organs, and cells working in optimal order.
Metabolism can be divided into two categories:
When someone says they have slow metabolism, what they actually mean is that they have a low basal metabolic rate (BMR). This term refers to the minimum energy it takes your body to burn the maximum calories. In other words, it’s the amount of energy your body uses to carry out its basic functions like heart beating, circulating blood, releasing hormones, breathing, growing and repairing cells, and all cell functions.
Your BMR accounts for about 70 percent of the calories you burn each day, according to the Mayo Clinic.
BMR depends on several factors:
In addition to BMR, other factors determine the way your body metabolizes food and burns calories:
Although there are some medical conditions that can slow BMR, like digestive syndromes or thyroid diseases, weight gain rarely depends solely on slow BMR.
The body needs essential nutrients—chemicals the body itself cannot synthesize—to maintain a steady metabolism. Major food groups like carbohydrates, fats, proteins, minerals, and vitamins supply these essential nutrients.
Carbohydrates supply glucose and are essential sources of energy. Body tissues depend on glucose for every activity.
Fats are concentrated sources of energy, producing twice the energy per gram of both carbohydrates and protein. Fats help the body absorb vitamins and give structure to cellular membranes.
Proteins are the tissue-builders in the body. They form enzymes and hormones, and are involved in almost all body functions. They also supply energy.
Although proteins are found in every tissue in your body, they are particularly dense in muscle. Eating more protein gives you more amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein, and increases muscle mass. Because muscle requires more energy than fat, increasing muscle increases your BMR. In addition, your body burns more calories metabolizing proteins than carbs or fat.
Minerals and vitamins do not contribute directly to the body’s metabolism, but they play an important role in metabolic pathways. A metabolic pathway is a process, or a group of chemical reactions the body uses to achieve specific results. For one example, calcium plays a role in bone function and density, but also in muscle contraction, thyroid function, and nutrient absorption,
A healthy eating plan that includes a good balance of organic, fresh foods from all food groups is key to having an adequate metabolism. Incorporate these nine foods into your metabolism-increasing diet:
Others habits that may increase metabolism are:
Be sure to consult a certified nutritionist before making any changes to your diet, as requirements vary on an individual basis. For best results, change in your eating habits should be accompanied by an adequate exercise routine.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.