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Wellness > Health

Burn Calories While You Eat! Boost Your Metabolism With These 8 Foods!

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Howard chapter.

We all want to look and feel our best, and I’m sure everyone knows that with the right diet and exercise, one can achieve their dream physic. But what if I told you, you could burn calories simply from eating certain foods? This is known as the thermic effect of food or TEF for short. Scientists define this phenomenon as “the increase in metabolic rate after ingestion of a meal.” It is estimated that the thermic effects last for over 5 to 6 hours after eating and about 10% of one’s daily caloric intake is burned through the process. So for example if you consume 2000 calories in a day 200 of those calories will be burned through the thermic effect. It takes energy to digest all that food! Of course certain food groups happen to require more energy to digest than others.

Protein-Rich Foods 

Protein is the most important macronutrient to pay attention to when it comes to looking at which foods produce the highest thermic effect. Consuming protein alone increases the metabolic rate by 20-35% compared to carbohydrates by 5-15% and fats by 0-5%. Protein also aids fat loss by helping to maintain and increase muscle mass. The more muscle you have the higher your resting energy expenditure (REE) is. So basically the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn doing nothing. Be sure to get enough protein in your diet!

Spicy Foods

Spicy foods containing capsaicinoids can slightly speed up the metabolism, especially in combination with foods high in fats. This is because the capsaicinoids aid in lipid oxidation. In short, capsaicin, an active chemical found in chili peppers such as jalapenos, cayenne peppers, and even bell peppers, has been found to speed up our metabolisms. So bring on the spice!


Studies have found that the caffeine found in coffee can also speed up your metabolism. According to a study done by the NIH, a single dose of 100mg of caffeine (equivalent to about 1 cup of coffee) can increase the resting metabolic rate by 3 to 4%. In addition to this, caffeine increases your energy levels therefore boosting workout performance. Be careful to watch the amount of sugar and creamer you add as those will raise the amount of calories in the drink.


Similarly to coffee, tea also contains caffeine, but it also contains antioxidants such as catechins that aid in burning fat. Studies have shown that catechins in tea have properties that help burn stored fat and prevent obesity. Some popular tea flavors include green tea, Oolong, and my personal favorite, matcha!


Among the benefits ginger has: anti-inflammatory properties, helps with indigestion, lowers cholesterol…etc, it has also been found to help with weight management. Not only has it been found to enhance thermogenesis but curbs appetite as well. There is still much research to be done regarding this topic.


If you’ve ever ordered an acai or pitaya bowl you are probably already familiar with flax seeds as they are a common topping. They are fairly high in protein (1.3g per tablespoon). We have already discussed how protein rich foods have a high thermic effect (see above). But another benefit of flaxseeds is their high fiber content. It takes the body a little bit longer to digest foods high in fiber, therefore requiring the body to use more energy aka burn more calories. So next time you make that morning acai bowl don’t skip out on those flaxseeds!

Leafy Greens

Our parents were right when they told us to eat our veggies! Like flaxseeds, leafy greens such as spinach and kale are also rich in fiber. Again, the body is going to require more energy to digest these foods thus causing you to burn extra calories.



Last but not least, the cure-all for almost everything, water. The benefits of water are endless. It’s good for your skin, keeps you hydrated, flushes the toxins out of your body,…etc. Water overall just does wonders for the body, not to mention its thermic effect on the body. Studies have shown that drinking 500ml of water before meals can increase energy expenditure by 24%. Drinking cold water specifically helps to boost this effect as the body now has to work harder to warm it up.

To sum everything up, all foods have a thermic effect on our bodies, some more than others. By incorporating specific foods into your diet regularly, you can maximize the amount of calories you burn and soon enough, achieve that dream body of yours.

Nia Parks

Howard '23

Nia Parks is a Sophomore, Sports Medicine Major, Chemistry minor from sunny southern California. If not studying for her upcoming exams, one may find her filming videos for her youtube channel (Subscribe @Nia Parks!), hanging out at the beach with her friends and family, or outside doing something to keep her active! She has a passion for all things beauty and fashion as well as health and fitness related and aspires to build a career that encompasses all of her interests. Follow her life! Instagram: @niaparx Youtube: Nia Parks
Jamiya Kirkland is a senior Biology major, Sociology and Afro-American studies minor from PG County, MD