How to lose weight: 8 foods that will fire up your metabolism


I am sipping ginger tea in an attempt to rev up my BMR or basal metabolic rate. There are signs that I am slipping into slow metabolism territory. Haylie Pomroy, author of The Fast Metabolism Diet identifies some of the signs—an inability to lose weight despite diet control and exercise, afternoon sugar cravings, cellulite in new places and fat deposits where you have never seen them before. In laywoman’s terms, there are bits and pieces that just won’t budge. In the greater scheme of things, I have to create an energy deficit—burn more energy than I generate. Weight-bearing exercise could be one way as muscles burn more calories than fat even at resting state. NEAT (Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) is a recommended lifestyle change—basically building in constant movement into my sedentary lifestyle. By default, any of us who work at a desk are sedentary. Being a weekend runner or workout warrior won’t cut it to lose weight—I need to make everything a functional exercise to speed up things. Eating less is another way but eating differently, I discover, could be more effective.

What is metabolism

Simply put, metabolism is how the body converts food into energy. Most of this energy is used by the body itself to go about its daily business of staying alive—breaking down food, blood circulation and cell repair take a lot of energy. This is your BMR or basal metabolic rate, the energy needed for you to function. Testing one’s BMR is based on a complicated equation called the Harris Bendic equation. You can calculate this easily by entering your height, weight, gender and age on a BMR calculator online. Multiply this with your activity level (the site does it for you) and you get the total calories you need for your current lifestyle and weight.

So, if you want to lose weight, you need to reduce the number of calories. Right? Yes, but not drastically. If you eat only 500 calories a day, for example, versus 1500 you need, you will lose weight but that might start affecting your bodily functions. This is why people on diets find themselves dizzy or weak. Worse, you may go into fat storage mode as your cells, scared of starvation, hit a diet plateau. It may be much better to cheat your body to start burning calories faster.

Can eating certain foods help burn fat faster?

In Ayurveda, there is the concept of Agni or digestive fire, which explains metabolism through digestion—the first stage of food conversion. Ayurveda has a point; if you get the digestive enzymes and processes humming efficiently, metabolic efficiency will follow.

Can eating certain foods rev up your metabolism and make you lose weight? No, you’re not looking for foods that convert quickly into energy or else sugar would be king. You need foods that help burn more calories and prevent the metabolism from going into fat storage mode, use more energy but are still good for you. You don’t get a free pass to skip functional movement, or a diet that is low carb, low sugar and rich in greens and beta carotenes. But adding these foods to your daily diet may increase the good burn and aid weight loss.

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An apple a day

There is a reason apples never go off diet and nutrition charts even while other fruits get routinely knocked off. Apples have pectin which flushes toxins out of the system but also limits how much fat your cells absorb. Apple juice won’t do—chew down on apple slices, skin included.


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Go Brazilian

A thyroid out of whack is one of the underlying, often misdiagnosed reasons for women to have unexplained weight gain. Enter the Brazil nut, a known superfood. You need only one nut to get your shot of selenium which is useful for the functioning of the thyroid gland (and for great hair). Brazil nuts also have important amino acids that prevent belly fat. Warning: they are very large in size and very rich in fats themselves so don’t have more than one a day.

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An egg-y brekkie

By now you know that breakfast is essential and a boiled egg (just 78 calories) can work wonders in controlling insulin spikes and mid-morning cravings. But what you probably didn’t know is that egg yolks which are back in fashion, have choline. Someone called choline the world’s healthiest food and a little research shows that it is a fabulously healthy micronutrient essential for pregnant women, preventing fatty liver disease, muscle movement and for keeping metabolism in top shape.

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Get caffeinated

Just when you thought decaf was the way to go, new wisdom tells us that caffeine is actually good to wake up the lazy system. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, putting it into active wake up mode so it burns up more energy. Kenyan Blue Mountain, Monsoon Malabar, Sumatra—this is your pass to drink up. Drink it black, without sugar or milk for real benefits. Do limit yourself to three or four cups a day as you don’t want to get so wired that you don’t sleep. Sleep is a non-negotiable health essential.

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The Tao of teas

Coffee not your thing? There are loads of healthy tea alternatives to discover. Green tea we know has anti-oxidants that boost the liver as it converts foods to energy. But there are other teas and infusions to discover. South African Rooibos tea which is not technically a tea, is increasingly popular for being an appetite suppressant and for blocking fat build up. It has a very pleasant taste too.
Rosemary and Thyme infusions are also good for weight loss—rosemary reduces bloating and improves digestion while thyme is a diuretic and reduces water retention. Ginger tea made from an infusion of steeped fresh ginger is recommended for jumpstarting energy levels and is an anti-inflammatory.
Indian chai masala is a mix of healthy spices like cardamom, dried ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Spices are known to stoke the digestive fires so brew this with milk in your daily cuppa—it works well with almond milk and soy milk too.

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Move over Garcina cambogia; try Trikatu

Garcina cambogia, South Indian kodum pulli or tamarind is commonly used as a souring agent in cooking. Its extracts are supposed to burn fat and it is a key ingredient in herbal slimming pills. But too much concentrated in pills can accelerate heartbeats. Trikatu on the other hand is an Ayurvedic powder mix of ginger, black pepper and Indian long pepper called pipla. Its heat stimulates bile secretion and flow of digestive juices and can be easily ingested. If you are pregnant, please do check with a doctor for both.

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Scoville bound

The capsaicin in chillies makes for the good burn and leaves you sweating but it also sends out a fat burning signal to the brain. You don’t have to max the Scoville scale with bhoot jholakia or ghost chillies but experiment with the vast repertoire of milder chillies easily available. Bhavnagri chillies, bird’s eye chillies, jalapenos and habaneros, green chillies and yellow are just some available in the market. Incorporate them in interesting ways in your diet (vodka and chillies doesn’t count). Enjoy the sweat but don’t get too ambitious, you don’t want ulcers to go with.


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Garlic breath is good

Ayurveda prescribes garlic for fighting high cholesterol and controlling lipid levels in the blood. Adding garlic to fatty food like pasta, cheesy bakes and high carb foods will help cut the fat, but for best results, add to steamed foods or try eating a few cloves of raw garlic a day.

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