Depending on what you eat, certain foods are likely to slow your metabolism. Food choices can make us feel energetic or sluggish. In late summer and early fall, many of us begin preparing for winter by storing fat in our body. And so this seems a good time to discuss the slowing down of our metabolism. (Read my earlier blog post: Aging and Metabolic Decline for additional information.) Because with autumn approaching, you may feel that your metabolism is indeed slowing down as you race to the finish of 2019.
However, your metabolism isn’t something you can control like a muscle or an organ. You can find it in every cell in your body.
Technically, metabolism is the word used to describe all the biochemical reactions in your body. It’s how you take in nutrients and oxygen and use them to fuel everything you do.
And so, metabolism refers to how the cells in your body:
- Allow activities you can control (like physical activity)
- Enable activities you can’t control (such as heartbeat, wound healing, processing of nutrients and toxins and more)
- Permit storage of excess energy for later
Hence, when your metabolism puts all these processes together, you can imagine that they can work too quickly, too slowly or just right.
Which brings us to the “metabolic rate.”
What is your metabolic rate?
Your metabolic rate is how fast your metabolism works and is measured in calories.
And the calories you eat can go to one of three places:
- Work (such as exercise and other activity)
- Heat (from all those biochemical reactions)
- Storage (for example, extra leftover “unburned” calories stored as fat)
As you might expect, the more calories you burn as work or creating heat, the easier it is to lose weight and keep it off because there will be fewer “leftover” calories to store for later.
Are foods slowing down your metabolism?
If your metabolism is healthy and running as it should, it burns off your calories and keeps you feeling excellent. Also, exercise and plenty of sleep help your metabolism function optimally, but did you know that certain foods you eat could be sabotaging your efforts?
You may notice a slowing down of your metabolism, especially in the fall and winter. But you may not be aware that the foods listed below could be slowing down that burn you count on your metabolism for (to keep things running optimally), all year long.
There’s a difference between whole grains that fuel your body and refined grains. Refined grains are stripped of the necessary fiber and nutrients your body needs. These grains are refined in the interest of taste and texture, but they leave your metabolism running slower. You can bypass this issue by choosing whole grains that haven’t gone through the refining process.
Sugar is dangerous, especially in liquid form. Sodas, energy drinks or even sports drinks can all drag your metabolism down. Therefore, if you want to make sure your efforts at the gym aren’t wasted, stop drinking your calories. Save having sugar for a rare treat, like a little slice of birthday cake on your big day. It’s a much better tradeoff.
Processed vegetable oils
They might sound healthy with names like sunflower oil or soybean oil. But these processed vegetable oils, which include canola oil, have a higher risk for heart disease. Choose coconut oil instead, which can speed up your metabolism.
Perhaps the only thing worse than sugar itself is artificial sweeteners. You may think you’re making a healthier choice, but choosing sucralose, aspartame and saccharin are all linked to health issues you certainly want to avoid.
These artificial sweeteners can also mess with the good bacteria in your gut, which could hinder your weight loss efforts. So, it’s best to avoid artificial sweeteners — if you need to use a sweetener, use something natural such as stevia, pure maple syrup or raw honey.
Organic produce might cost more, but in the end, you may wind up spending less on healthcare by staying healthier. And when you buy non-organic, you’re getting more pesticides which can slow down the metabolism and cause high insulin levels and glucose intolerance.
Organic produce is so readily available now that it isn’t much more expensive than conventional items. Check out the EWG 2019 Clean Fifteen/Dirty Dozen List to see the items you should always buy organic and the ones you can opt to buy conventionally.
It seems like a healthy choice, but the granola you find in your supermarket often contains hidden sugars and added ingredients that don’t do you any favors. When you take in more sugar than you think, you cause an overload known as leptin resistance.
This makes you hungrier while slowing your metabolism to a crawl. If you love granola, you can make your own by selecting fresh seeds, nuts and oats to enjoy the taste and get true health benefits.
What to do?
If you feel that foods are slowing down your metabolism, my suggestion is to eliminate the food choices listed above, from your diet. If it’s hard to rid soda from your life, start drinking more water (soon you’ll find you no longer crave the soda). You can even add in water flavored with fresh fruits, and you’ll be on your way to looking and feeling better from the inside out!
Instead of choosing foods that slow down your metabolism, keep reading to the bottom to check out my recipe for a lean (metabolism-boosting) protein.
Have you noticed any of the foods I’ve mentioned keeping you from feeling less energetic and healthy? Let our community know if you’ve ditched them and/or switched to healthier substitutions? Please comment below. As always, we love to hear from you.
Recipe (Lean Protein): Lemon Herb Roasted Chicken Breasts
2 lemons, sliced
1 tablespoon rosemary
1 tablespoon thyme
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)
dash salt and pepper
1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Preheat oven to 425F. Layer ½ of the lemon slices on the bottom of a baking dish. Sprinkle with ½ of the herbs and ½ of the sliced garlic.
Place the chicken breasts on top, and sprinkle salt and pepper. Place remaining lemon, herbs and garlic on top of the chicken. Drizzle with olive oil. Cover with a lid or foil.
Bake for 45 minutes until chicken is cooked through. If you want the chicken to be a bit more “roast-like” then remove the lid/foil and broil for another few minutes (watching carefully not to burn it).
Serve and enjoy!
P.S. You can add a leftover sliced chicken breast to your salad for lunch the next day!