Metabolism-boosting foods, such as those rich in protein, may help support overall health and help with weight loss as part of a balanced diet.

It’s true that certain foods may help slightly increase your metabolic rate. This is the number of calories your body burns.

Adding these foods to your routine may make it slightly easier to lose body fat or prevent excess weight gain if that’s your goal.

However, eating more of these foods doesn’t guarantee you’ll lose weight. Instead, they serve as a complement to a balanced, moderately calorie-restricted diet to promote weight loss along with regular exercise.

Here are 11 foods that may help rev up your metabolism.

1. Protein-rich foods

Protein-rich foods could help increase your metabolism for a few hours. This is because they require your body to use more energy to digest them. This is known as the thermic effect of food (TEF) or diet-induced thermogenesis.

The TEF refers to the number of calories your body needs to digest, absorb, and process the nutrients in your meals (1, 2).

Research shows that protein-rich foods increase TEF the most. For example, they increase your metabolic rate by 15–30%, compared with 5–10% for carbs and 0–3% for fats (1).

Foods high in protein include:

Protein-rich diets also reduce the drop in metabolism often seen during weight loss by helping your body hold on to its muscle mass (2).

What’s more, protein may also help keep you fuller for longer, which can prevent overeating (2).

2. Mineral-rich foods

The minerals iron and selenium each play different but equally important roles in the proper functioning of your body.

However, they do have one thing in common: They’re both required for your thyroid gland to function properly. This gland regulates your metabolism (3).

Research shows that a diet too low in iron or selenium may reduce your thyroid’s ability to produce sufficient amounts of hormones, which could slow down your metabolism.

To help your thyroid function to the best of its ability, include foods rich in selenium and iron, like meat, seafood, legumes, nuts, and seeds, in your daily menu.

3. Chili peppers

Capsaicin, a chemical found in chili peppers, may boost your metabolism by slightly increasing the rate at which your body burns calories.

In fact, a review of studies notes that capsaicin — from supplements or the peppers themselves — may help reduce body weight and benefit your overall health (4).

Some studies report similar benefits with doses as low as 6–10 milligrams (mg) per day. This is equivalent to one jalapeño pepper (4, 5).

Moreover, capsaicin may have appetite-reducing properties.

According to a 2014 review of studies including nearly 200 people, consuming at least 2 mg of capsaicin directly before each meal seems to reduce calorie consumption, especially from carbs (6).

Similarly, adding cayenne pepper to your meal may increase the amount of fat your body burns for energy, especially following a high fat meal. However, this fat-burning effect may only apply to people unaccustomed to consuming spicy foods (7).

That said, findings are mixed on capsaicin’s metabolism-boosting abilities (7).

4. Coffee

The caffeine found in coffee may help increase metabolic rate.

Research notes some compounds in coffee can help regulate the body’s metabolism of lipids, or fats (8).

Furthermore, caffeine may help your body burn fat for energy. It seems especially effective at boosting your workout performance, according to older research (9).

However, its effects may vary from person to person based on individual characteristics such as body weight and age (9).

5. Tea

Tea contains health-boosting compounds called catechins that may work with caffeine to boost metabolic rate.

Both oolong and matcha green tea may increase fat oxidation and may help you burn extra calories when part of an exercise plan (10, 11).

In addition, oolong and green teas may help your body use stored fat for energy more effectively, increasing your fat-burning ability (11).

Nevertheless, as with coffee, effects may vary from person to person.

6. Beans and legumes

Legumes and beans are particularly high in protein compared with other plant foods. Examples include:

Studies suggest their high protein content requires your body to burn more calories to digest them compared with lower protein foods. This is due to their TEF (1).

Legumes also contain dietary fiber, including resistant starch and soluble fiber, which your body can use as a prebiotic to feed the good bacteria in your large intestine (12).

In turn, these friendly bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids, which may help your body more effectively use stored fat as energy and maintain normal blood sugar levels (13).

7. Ginger

Ginger and related spices are thought to have particularly beneficial metabolism-boosting properties.

Ginger may help with weight management, obesity prevention, and energy metabolism (14).

For instance, older research shows that dissolving 2 grams of ginger powder in hot water and drinking it with a meal may help you burn up to 43 more calories than drinking hot water alone (15).

This hot ginger drink may also decrease hunger levels and enhance feelings of satiety, or fullness (15).

Grains of paradise, another spice in the ginger family, may have similar effects.

According to a review of research, consuming it may raise your body’s resting energy expenditure (16).

These effects may vary from one person to another, however. More research is still needed.

8. Cacao

Cacao and cocoa are tasty treats that may also benefit your metabolism.

Flavonoids in cacao and cacao byproducts may help support metabolic actions and help reduce hypertriglyceridemia (17).

Another research review suggests that cocoa and dark chocolate may help reduce body weight, a factor that can contribute to the risk of metabolic and cardiovascular disorders (18).

However, more human studies are needed before strong conclusions can be drawn.

If you’d like to give cacao a try, opt for raw versions. Processing tends to reduce the amounts of beneficial compounds and add extra sugar and calories (18).

9. Medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil

MCT oil is a unique type of fat that may offer some metabolic benefits. Most fats found in foods are long-chain triglycerides, but MCT oil comprises medium-chain triglycerides.

Some older studies have shown that MCT oil consumption can increase metabolic rate in humans. Additionally, unlike long-chain fats, once MCTs are absorbed, they go directly to the liver to be turned into energy. This makes them less likely to be stored as body fat (19, 20, 21).

MCT oil is typically taken as a supplement, although it can be added to foods like soups or smoothies. It’s not suitable for cooking, though.

10. Water

Drinking enough water is a great way to stay hydrated. Additionally, older studies show that drinking water may briefly boost metabolism by 24–30% (22).

Researchers note that about 40% of that increase is explained by the additional calories needed to heat the water to body temperature, known as water-induced thermogenesis.

However, the effects only appear to last for 40–90 minutes after drinking water. The strength of the effect may vary from person to person.

11. Seaweed

Seaweed is rich in iodine, a mineral required to produce thyroid hormones and for your thyroid gland to function properly (23).

Thyroid hormones have various functions, one of which is to regulate your metabolic rate (3).

Regularly consuming seaweed can help you meet your iodine needs and maintain your metabolic health.

What’s more, fucoxanthin is another seaweed-based compound — primarily found in brown seaweeds — that may increase your metabolism of lipids (24).

What are the 5 metabolic superfoods?

Five foods that can support your metabolism include those high in protein and minerals that benefit your thyroid function, such as:

  • lean meat
  • fish
  • legumes
  • nuts
  • seeds

How can I boost my metabolism fast or reset my metabolism?

Practices that support a healthy metabolism include:

  • regular physical activity
  • eating nutritious meals high in protein
  • drinking enough water
  • getting quality sleep

Which foods have the highest effect on metabolism?

Proteins can increase your metabolic rate by 15–30%, compared with 5–10% for carbs and 0–3% for fats (1).

The bottom line

Certain foods may help slightly increase your metabolic rate, or how many calories you burn. Consuming them regularly may help you lose weight and manage your weight in the long term.

However, these foods will not negate a poor quality diet. For effective, lasting weight loss and weight management, seek a gradual reduction in calories and choose mostly whole, minimally processed foods.