Although it's quite easy to indulge in all kinds of food, we all know that all grub is not created equal. For instance, superfoods aren't dubbed "super" for no reason. They have the power to amp up our metabolism like no other. They pack maximum nutrients and minimal calories, making them the ultimate metabolism-boosting foods. Studies show that superfoods rich in antioxidants and flavonoids can prevent heart disease, cancer, decrease inflammation, and improve your body's immunity levels. Wondering how to differentiate superfoods from the pack? That's next.
We tapped certified raw-food chef and plant-based nutritionist Summer Sanders, who is the author of Raw + Radiant, to break them down. "Superfoods are powerful nutrient-dense foods that with just one serving pack a major punch," explains Sanders. "They typically have a high content of supportive antioxidants, protein, omegas, minerals, fiber, or other essential nutrients that are nurturing to your body. One serving size of a 'superfood' will give you more nutrients than you would ever get from one serving of other foods. This is their superpower: major nutrients in a small package. Different superfood foods have different superpowers; some are incredible for anti-aging while others heal the gut or support metabolism."
Integrative nutrition health coach Holly Harding, AADP, founder of superfood skincare line O'o Hawaii, is also an advocate of filling your body up with these nutrients, which will in turn keep your calorie intake in check. "Because they are nutrient-rich, they fill you up faster and actually reduce your overall caloric intake," explains Harding. "Many superfoods help increase blood circulation, energy, cell renewal, and repair as well as hormonal imbalance. When these basic functions are improved, metabolism can increase."
We also tapped certified holistic health coach and Raw Generation co-founder Jessica Rosen, along with nutritionist, certified registered dietitian, and 2B Mindset creator Ilana Muhlstein, to share the best superfoods to boost metabolism. Add these to your grocery list ASAP.
"Pineapple is high in manganese, which is an antioxidant-rich trace mineral that creates strong bones and increases collagen production," explains Harding. "It also contains vitamin C and thiamin (B1), which is crucial in healthy cell function and a healthy metabolism. But the most important health benefit of pineapple is its digestive enzyme known as bromelain. This enzyme breaks down protein molecules and has been determined to aid digestion and decrease inflammation. Healthy digestion is key to increasing metabolism."
"Touted as the most nutrient-rich spirulina in the world, it contains 60% protein and is an excellent source of vitamins A, K1, K2, and B12; iron; manganese; and chromium," says Harding. "It is also a rich source of phytonutrients such as carotenoids, GLA, SOD, and phycocyanin that reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, increase circulation, decrease inflammation and increase energy."
Astaxanthin (Red Algae)
"Astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant that naturally reduces free radicals, reduces cellular oxidation, and improves heart health through increased circulation, which ultimately aids in increased metabolism," says Harding. "In addition, astaxanthin has been shown to improve eye and skin health as well as boost the immune system."
Hawaiian Noni Fruit
"An energizing, antioxidant-rich, disease-fighting superfood that decreases inflammation, increases circulation, reduces cholesterol, and helps cellular repair," explains Harding, "noni is bursting with 17 amino acids and vitamins A, C, 3, B1, B2, B6, and B12. Noni is also immune boosting and rich in iron, zinc, copper, magnesium, and potassium. "
It's "a key adaptogenic herb that can help those with both an underactive and overactive thyroid as well as relieve adrenal fatigue, which can be a key in underactive metabolism," Harding says. "In addition, ashwagandha helps fight cancer, repairs cells, boosts immune function, increases stamina and endurance for exercise, helps increase muscle strength, balances blood sugar, and improves digestion."
Sanders is also an advocate of this antioxidant. "Ashwagandha was a really healing superfood (root) for me after experiencing adrenal fatigue," Sanders retells. "It is calming, balancing and potent. It helped me with my sleep, hormone production, and mood. It is another adaptogen, meaning it acts as a cleanup crew for your body, getting inside and making sure everything is balanced. If you need adrenal support, it will help with that; if you need more energy, it will help with that. It does what you need without being asked. It's always in my morning tonic. I think ashwagandha is a superfood that should be in everyone's cabinet. It's so incredibly healing and supportive for our overstressed bodies."
Chilies, Jalapeños, Cayenne, and Other Hot Peppers
"Cayenne peppers are a highly concentrated source of capsaicin, which increases the body's fat-burning rate," explains Rosen. "Another weight-loss benefit of cayenne peppers is that they reduce your appetite and unhealthy cravings."
Muhlstein continues: "These spicy peppers are superfoods for many reasons. Firstly, they are rich in vitamin C, which can help metabolize fat and is also a precursor for carnitine, a molecule that boosts metabolism. These peppers also contain capsaicin, which gives them their heat. The heat found in peppers can temporarily increase your heart rate and cause you to sweat, which as a result burns more calories and boosts your metabolism. And thankfully, the calorie-burning effects may last beyond your meal, so you can keep burning calories even after you leave the restaurant or go back to work."
"Berries are a powerful, health-boosting superfood," says Rosen. "They are rich in metabolism-boosting fiber as well as free radical–fighting antioxidants like vitamin C, which can beautify your skin and fight signs of aging."
Matcha Green Tea
"Matcha green tea is a superfood that is packed with 137 times the antioxidants of ordinary green tea," says Rosen. "Matcha provides an abundance of antioxidant polyphenols called catechins, most notably, EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate). EGCG increases thermogenesis in the body, the process of burning calories in order to create heat. An increase in thermogenesis boosts metabolism, speeding up the rate at which the body burns off fat. EGCG defends against the free radical damage that ages your body's cells. By preventing oxidative stress and inflammation, you get powerful protection against disease and visible signs of aging."
Sanders is also a fan. "Green tea in the form of matcha is an incredible superfood and energy boost," she says. "I love it for its soft feminine energy and its ability to lift without dropping me down. It has a cozy and comforting flavor that mixes really well with smoothies or in tonics and is known for its high antioxidant content and anti-aging properties as well as its ability to fuel you mentally and stimulate your metabolism. I love the calm clear mental state that it always puts me in."
"Maca is a superfood that's been in my life since 2005," says Sanders. "I used it to help balance my hormones after getting off of birth control pills. It's known as an adaptogen, delivering amazing energy, a clear mental state, hormone balancing, and good sex. Seriously. It's great for libido. I love the malted flavor; it reminds me of a malted milkshake. I add this to many of my smoothies and tonics; the flavor works really well with cacao, vanilla. and cozy turmeric lattes."
"Whey protein, found in protein shake powders like Shakeology, can be a powerful superfood for boosting metabolism," explains Muhlstein. "Protein requires extra energy to break down, causing your body to burn excess calories and jolt your fat burning potential. The lean protein can also stimulate our satiety hormones and contribute to feeling full and satisfied which can prevent overeating. Whey protein also contains leucine, an amino acid, that can help build muscle, which can improve our metabolic rate, aka speed in which we burn calories."
"Cruciferous veggies include a powerful list of vegetables in the cabbage family," says Muhlstein. "This includes Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, bok choy, and of course cabbage. These vegetables are very high in fiber, which can help absorb excess fat and calories and promote elimination. These vegetables also contain iron and calcium, and both minerals are essential for a healthy working metabolism."
Flaxseeds and Chia Seeds
"Not only do these super seeds contain fat-burning protein, but they are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids," describes Muhlstein. "These healthy fats have been shown to raise our fat-burning enzymes and promote a greater weight loss."
"Beans and legumes, like lentils, are amazing for boosting metabolism," says Muhlstein. "They are very rich in plant-based protein and iron, both essential for maintaining a healthy metabolism. Additionally, beans and legumes are rich sources of resistant starch. This starch is harder for the body to break down, meaning that it helps keep us fuller longer, can lower our blood sugar response, and encourage our body to burn more calories to break it down. The high fiber content can also help reduce fat storage in the body and improve elimination, which is very helpful for enhancing a positive metabolic system."
Rosen loves this simple metabolism-boosting recipe:
Matcha Berry Smoothie
1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries
1 1/2 cups water or non-dairy milk
1 tsp. matcha green tea powder
A few dashes of ginger
Agave, stevia, or a couple of dates, to sweeten (optional)
Pour ingredients into a blender, blend until smooth, and enjoy.
Sanders suggests the below superfood recipes:
Matcha Mint Milkshake
14 oz. almond milk
1 frozen banana
1 large handful spinach or kale
1 tbsp. almond butter
2 tsp. matcha powder
1 date, pitted
5 drops of mint oil
1/8 tsp. vanilla bean
1/4 tsp. pink salt
Blend and enjoy.
Energy Adaptogen Tonic
12 oz. hot water
1 tsp. mucuna purians
1 tsp. maca powder
1 tbsp. raw cacao powder
1 tsp. ashwagandha
1 tsp. cordyceps
Pinch of pink salt
8 drops stevia
Directions: Blend and enjoy.
The Superfood Smoothie
14 oz. almond milk
1/2 frozen banana
2 ice cubes
2 tbsp. almond butter
1 large tbsp. raw cacao
2 tbsp. Moon Juice vanilla mushroom protein
1/4 tsp. pearl powder
1/2 tsp. ashwagandha
1/4 tsp. mucuna purians
1/4 tsp. pink salt
6 to 8 drops stevia or maple syrup, to taste
Blend and enjoy.
Now, go stock up on your superfoods so your body can thank you later.
This article has been updated by Sarah Yang