Fact or Fiction: Do Certain Foods Boost Your Metabolism?

Fact or Fiction: Do Certain Foods Boost Your Metabolism?

There are so many food rules that circulate when it comes to healthy eating, it can feel overwhelming to seek out the truth in them all. You might have heard things like:

“Never eat past 8 PM!”

“Eat six small meals per day.”

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

“Avoid carbs for weight loss.”

“Eat [this food] for fat burning.”

There are so many more that we could list off, the rules are endless. And they can change all the time! It can be challenging to determine which ones are worth sticking to, and which ones to leave in the dust. Which is why we want to help you weed through all the fact and fiction of certain health practices.

In this blog, we will be shedding light on one claim in particular – that certain foods can increase your metabolism and promote fat burning. Is there truth in this statement? Keep reading to learn more!

So, is it fact or fiction?

While this is technically fact, there is a bit of exaggeration in this claim. Let’s dig deeper into what we mean by that. 

The fact.

Before we talk about foods and their effect on our metabolic functioning, we first have to understand the thermic effect of food. The thermic effect of food is the impact that certain foods have on our metabolism as they are digested and absorbed. Our body puts in energy (and therefore, burns calories) to digest all the food we eat, to some extent. And certain foods place a higher demand on our metabolism than others, meaning that they have a higher thermic effect. When foods have a higher thermic effect, they cause your body to expend more energy and burn more calories. [1]

It’s also important to note that our thyroid health is a large part of our metabolism. So, by eating foods that are rich in iron, zinc, selenium, and iodine (nutrients that are essential for our thyroid function), you can help maintain a healthy metabolism. The foods most well known for their metabolism-boosting properties include:

  • – Coffee
  • – Green Tea 
  • – Cacao
  • – Poultry
  • – Seafood
  • – Low-fat dairy products
  • – Nuts
  • – Legumes [2]

Along with their effect on metabolism, these foods are all part of a generally healthy diet! Now, let’s explain why it’s important to take this health claim with a grain of salt…

The fiction.

So, while it’s true that some foods have more of an impact on our metabolism than others, it’s important to remember that there is some exaggeration to these effects. Even if you eat all the metabolism-boosting foods out there, it does not mean that you will lose weight and burn fat unassisted. The thermic effect of food is small, and might result in your burning a couple dozen extra calories a day, at most. 

Additionally, there are factors that influence our metabolism that are much more significant. For example:

  • Age: Metabolism slows as you get older!
  • Activity level: Exercise can play a significant role in your metabolism. Muscle has a higher metabolic activity than other body tissues, which means it can burn more calories! Therefore, building muscle can boost your metabolism.
  • Genetics: Some individuals are born with a faster metabolism. This is why some people can eat and eat and eat without gaining a pound, and why others may struggle to lose weight despite their efforts. There are also other genetic conditions, such as hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, which may impact metabolic function and output. 
  • Sleep: Poor sleep can affect the hormones that influence our metabolism, causing it to slow down, or become impaired. Learn more about the impact of sleep on weight status in our most recent blog! [3]

It’s important to know that our metabolic function is quite complex, with many factors that may influence its functioning day-to-day. So, while certain foods can definitely affect our metabolism differently, it’s not going to make or break your health goals, and they will not help you burn fat overnight. Be skeptical of health claims that sound too good to be true, they probably are!


  1. Calcagno, Manuel et al. “The Thermic Effect of Food: A Review.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition vol. 38,6 (2019): 547-551. doi:10.1080/07315724.2018.1552544
  2. Petre, Alina. “The 12 Best Foods to Boost Your Metabolism.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 19 May 2021, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/metabolism-boosting-foods#:~:text=Protein%2Drich%20foods%20%E2%80%94%20such%20as,effect%20of%20food%20(TEF).
  3. Spritzler, Franziska. “6 Mistakes That Slow down Your Metabolism.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 24 Apr. 2019, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/6-mistakes-that-slow-metabolism.