Spring is here and Summer is right around the corner. That means it’s time to start getting rid of that winter flab and ready for hot weather and hot bodies. If you’ve had trouble getting beach ready in the past, even with diet and exercise, maybe you need to consider giving your metabolism a little boost. There are plenty of safe, natural ways to get your body burning fat faster that you can easily incorporate into your diet.
The rootstock or rhizome of the turmeric plant is harvested for use in cooking and medicine, including its ability to increase metabolism. Traditionally, it has been used to treat indigestion, liver disease, and throat infections. Modern research has shown that it can also be effective for preventing cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Powdered turmeric is a common spice in many types of Asian cuisine.
Kelp is an umbrella term for approximately 30 different types of large seaweed. A fibrous material found in kelp called alginate is effective at stopping fat absorption making it a valuable weight loss product. Rich in iodine, kelp is also useful for maintaining thyroid health. Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cultures use kelp in cooking as flavoring, a side dish, and as wrapping on other foods such as sushi.
Cinnamon is a powdered spice made from the inner bark of Cinnamomum trees. In addition to its metabolism boosting effects, cinnamon helps regulate blood sugar, which is beneficial to people with diabetes and those at risk of developing diabetes. It is often used as a flavoring in desserts so be cautious about your cinnamon consumption. For weight loss, you’ll be better off using it in a more traditionally Middle Eastern way, in chicken and lamb dishes and soup.
Ginger is another rootstock spice used in Asian cooking. It can be found in powdered, fresh, and juiced options. It has long been use to soothe upset stomachs (think ginger ale) and for its metabolism boosting properties. Ginger is used in flavoring both sweet foods, like gingerbread, and savory dishes, such as curries, as well as for making tea.
In South America, the leaves and sticks of the yerba mate plant are used to make a variety of beverages referred to simply as mate. One can purchase mate tea bags, used for hot and iced tea varieties, or pre-made soft drinks, sometimes flavored with fruit juice. Mate contains polyphenols, which are the agent behind its metabolism boosting powers. It has also been shown to improve mental clarity and act as an anti-depressant.
Green tea is also full of polyphenols that slow fat absorption. Its antioxidant content is a powerful cancer fighting agent as well. Tea bags are readily available.
Cayenne pepper is a powdered spice made from the fruit of the Capsicum plant, a variety of hot chili pepper. Whole peppers are also used in cooking. Its active ingredient, capsaicin, speeds metabolism by dilating blood vessels and increasing the amount of oxygen delivered to major organs.
Bitter melon is the fruit of the Momordica charantia plant, a tropical vine species. It has long been used in Africa and Asia for a variety of ailments including stomach, skin, and respiratory problems. A study published in 2015 in the Journal of Lipids found that bitter melon increases fat metabolism and has the potential for use in the treatment of diabetes and obesity. Both the fruit and leaves can be eaten but, as the name suggests, have a bitter flavor.
Ginseng root is a commonly used herb for boosting metabolism, increasing energy, and improving mental clarity. Studies have also found the naturally occurring steroid, ginsenoside, found within ginseng to have antioxidant properties. It is often used to make tea or coffee but can also be added to soups and stir fries, boiled, or mashed.
Black pepper is one of the world’s most popular food additives, used as a flavoring. Made from the cooked and dried unripe fruit of the pepper plant, it contains a chemical called piperine, which is both responsible for its spicy taste and acts to impede fat cell formation.
Mustard plants are cultivated for their seeds, which are used alone as a spice, combined with liquid to make the condiment, or pressed for their oil. According to the Nutrition Almanac, mustard can increase metabolic rate by up to 25%.
Cardamom is a spice made from the seeds of the cardamom plant, native to Southern Asia. It is commonly used in the cuisine of the region but can also be found in Scandinavian baked goods. This metabolism booster is also used in making gin and herbal tea.
Cumin, either whole or ground, is used in cooking all over the world in items as varied as bread and cheese. It is also frequently used in chili powder and curries. In addition to increasing metabolism, cumin also aids with digestion, is believed to help with heart disease, and is a potential antioxidant.
Hibiscus is the genus name of hundreds of flowering plants commonly used in making tea. Some varieties are also eaten as vegetables. A study published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research in 2014 found that hibiscus improved metabolism, reduced blood pressure, and acted as an anti-inflammatory.
Often criticized for its high fat content, coconut oil contains medium chain fatty acids, which are metabolized in a way that boosts energy. This is because it is thermogenic or heat producing, which means it takes more energy to digest. Coconut oil is used in baking and sautéing.