High Thermic Foods That Boost Metabolism – 27 Of The Best

high thermic foods

High Thermic Foods

Are you looking for effective ways to boost your metabolism and support your weight management goals? Eating high thermic foods can help. 

This post is all about exploring the concept of the thermic effect of food (TEF), its impact on our bodies’ calorie-burning potential, and the top thermogenic foods to include in your diet to maximize your weight loss results.

Going on a weight loss journey can bring so many challenges. You experience some ups and downs but learn so much throughout the process. 

I know firsthand how challenging it all can be, but I learned a ton along the way through research and trial and error. For me, learning about the thermic effect of foods was extremely helpful. 

It’s important to note that eating these foods won’t magically make you lose weight. You still have to put in the work and make sure you are maintaining a calorie deficit for weight loss, but eating more of these foods can help make the process easier. 

It’s all about working smarter, not harder. So, if you are ready to learn about these top 27 high-thermic foods and how incorporating them into your diet can maximize your body’s ability to burn calories, keep reading.

Understanding The Thermic Effect Of Food

breakfast foods with high thermic effect

TEF refers to the energy expenditure our bodies require to digest, absorb, and process the nutrients from the foods we consume. 

When you understand TEF, you can make informed dietary choices to support your weight management goals more effectively. Let’s dive in and look at the science behind the thermic effect of food!

Thermic effect of food definition

The thermic effect of food is also known as diet-induced thermogenesis. It refers to the increase in energy expenditure that occurs during the digestion, absorption, and processing of nutrients from the foods we eat. 

When we consume food, our bodies undergo a series of metabolic processes to break down macronutrients into usable forms for energy production and storage.

During this process, our bodies expend energy to convert carbohydrates, proteins, and fats into smaller molecules. These molecules include glucose, amino acids, and fatty acids. 

This energy expenditure accounts for a portion of our daily calorie burn, with TEF typically representing around 5-10% of total energy expenditure.

It’s important to note that the thermic effect of food varies depending on the macronutrient composition of the meal. Proteins have the highest thermic effect, requiring around 20-30% of the calories consumed for digestion and absorption. 

Carbohydrates have a moderate thermic effect, accounting for approximately 5-10% of calories, while fats have the lowest thermic effect, utilizing only about 0-3% of calories.

Factors Influencing TEF

Several factors influence the thermic effect of food, and understanding these factors can help you optimize your diet for maximum calorie burn. 

Let’s take a look at five key factors of TEF:

1. Macronutrient Composition

The composition of macronutrients in a meal significantly affects TEF. As mentioned earlier, proteins have the highest thermic effect, followed by carbohydrates and fats. Including a balanced mix of macronutrients in your meals can help increase TEF and support weight management.

2. Protein Content

foods that fuel metabolism

The protein content of a meal directly impacts TEF. Protein-rich foods such as lean meats, poultry, fish, legumes, and dairy products can boost TEF and promote satiety.

3. Meal Size and Frequency

Larger meals and increased meal frequency have been associated with a higher TEF. However, it’s crucial to find a balance that suits your individual needs and promotes overall health and satiety.

4. Physical Activity

Engaging in regular physical activity not only supports weight management but also elevates TEF by increasing the overall metabolic rate. Combining cardiovascular exercises and strength training can help maximize the thermic effect of food.

5. Age and Gender

Age and gender can influence TEF. Generally, younger individuals tend to have a higher TEF, and men tend to have a slightly higher TEF compared to women due to differences in body composition and hormonal factors.

By considering these factors and incorporating high thermic foods into your diet, you can optimize the thermic effect of food and support your weight management goals effectively.

Benefits Of High Thermic Foods

high thermogenic foods

Let’s explore some benefits of incorporating foods that increase metabolism and burn fat into your diet. 

Benefits include:

Increased calorie burning during digestion

One of the significant benefits of high thermic foods is the increased calorie burn during digestion. 

A boost in metabolism

Consuming high thermic foods can also result in a boosted metabolism. When we eat, our bodies go through various metabolic processes to break down and utilize the nutrients. 

This process, known as diet-induced thermogenesis, requires energy and contributes to our basal metabolic rate (BMR). 

Research indicates that high thermic foods, particularly protein-rich foods, can increase our BMR by temporarily raising our metabolic rate, which means that our bodies burn more calories even at rest when we consume these foods.

By incorporating a variety of high thermic foods into our diet, we can give our metabolism a natural and healthy boost, supporting our weight management goals.

Enhanced weight Loss and weight management

Another significant benefit of high thermic foods is their potential to enhance weight loss and weight management efforts. As mentioned, these foods can increase calorie burning during digestion and boost our metabolism. This combination can make weight loss easier.

Promotes satiety and reduces hunger

High thermic foods, especially those rich in protein, promote satiety and reduce hunger. When we feel satisfied and full after a meal, we are less likely to overeat or indulge in unhealthy snacks. 

By incorporating foods from the high thermic foods list into our meals, we can support portion control, reduce cravings, and maintain a healthier caloric intake, ultimately facilitating weight loss and long-term weight management.

So let’s finally discuss what to eat; which food has the highest thermic effect?

Top 27 High Thermic Foods For Optimal Calorie Burning

Foods with a high thermic effect on a counter as part of a healthy thermogenic diet

Lean Proteins

Protein and thermic effect of food: Foods with protein, specifically lean proteins like chicken breast, turkey, and fish, are excellent foods to boost thermic effect.

1. Chicken Breast

This lean protein is not only low in fat but also high in quality protein, making it a perfect choice for boosting the thermic effect of food.

2. Turkey

Similar to chicken breast, turkey is an excellent source of lean protein and can help increase calorie burning during digestion.

3. Fish

Fatty fish like salmon and tuna are not only rich in omega-3 fatty acids but also high in protein, making them excellent choices to elevate the thermic effect of your meals.

4. Eggs

3 eggs on a table

Eggs, a staple food in many diets, are not only versatile and nutritious but also have the potential to increase the thermic effect of food. 

They are a rich source of high-quality protein, which requires more energy to digest compared to fats and carbohydrates. 

In addition to protein, eggs also contain essential vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin B12, choline, and selenium, which support overall metabolic function. 

Incorporating eggs into your meals provides you with a complete source of protein. Also, it contributes to a slight boost in the thermic effect, potentially aiding in weight management efforts. 

5. Greek Yogurt

This popular dairy product, known for its creamy texture and tangy flavor, offers potential benefits when it comes to the thermic effect of food. 

Greek yogurt is high in protein, which has a higher thermic effect compared to carbohydrates or fats. 

Additionally, the protein content in Greek yogurt can help promote feelings of fullness and satiety, making it a great option for those looking to manage their weight. 

Incorporating Greek yogurt into your diet may not only provide you with a delicious and nutritious snack but also contribute to a slight boost in your metabolism.

Whole Grains

6. Quinoa

This versatile grain is packed with protein, fiber, and various nutrients, contributing to its thermogenic effect. 

7. Oats

oats in a bowl

This grain, known for its high fiber content, requires more energy to digest, thereby increasing the thermic effect of your meal. Oats are a fantastic addition to your diet if you’re looking to increase the thermic effect of your meals. 

To maximize the thermic effect of oats, consider incorporating them into well-balanced meals. Pairing oats with protein sources like Greek yogurt or adding fruits for additional fiber and nutrients can further enhance the thermic effect of your meal. 

8. Brown Rice

Unlike refined grains, brown rice is a whole grain that offers complex carbohydrates and fiber, resulting in a higher thermic effect.

Metabolism boosting spices

Thermogenic spices or spices that increase the thermic effect of your meal include spicy peppers, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, and garlic.

9. Spicy Peppers 

Chili peppers and cayenne pepper contain capsaicin, a compound that can increase metabolic rate and promote calorie burning.

10. Ginger

Ginger, known for its digestive properties, can increase the thermic effect of your meals and promote a healthy metabolism.

11. Garlic

garlic on a wood table

This flavorful bulb not only adds taste to your dishes but also offers various health benefits, including supporting a higher thermic effect.

12. Cinnamon

Adding cinnamon to your meals or beverages can help regulate blood sugar levels and potentially increase the thermic effect of food.

13. Turmeric

Turmeric, a vibrant yellow spice commonly used in cooking and traditional medicine, has been gaining attention for its potential health benefits, including its impact on the thermic effect of food. 

This spice contains a bioactive compound called curcumin, which has been studied for its various health-promoting properties. 

Curcumin has been found to increase metabolism and stimulate fat burning. 

It also helps regulate blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity, further supporting weight management. 

While more research is needed to fully understand the specific mechanisms and effects of turmeric on the thermic effect, incorporating this flavorful spice into your meals can add not only a burst of flavor but also potentially contribute to a modest boost in metabolism.

Metabolism boosting drinks

14. Apple Cider Vinegar

Some research has shown consuming apple cider vinegar before meals can enhance thermogenesis and support weight loss.

15. Green Tea

This antioxidant-rich beverage contains catechins that can boost metabolism and enhance the thermic effect of food.

The catechins in green tea are believed to enhance fat oxidation and increase energy expenditure, leading to a slight increase in calorie burning. 

Additionally, the caffeine content in green tea can promote thermogenesis, the process by which the body generates heat and burns calories. 

16. Coffee

Black coffee - how to increase thermogenesis

Some research shows the caffeine content in coffee can increase energy expenditure and metabolic rate, potentially leading to a higher thermic effect. 

Studies have found that caffeine stimulates the metabolic rate in both lean and obese individuals and may promote fat oxidation.

17. Water

Water, the essential and life-sustaining liquid, plays a crucial role in our body’s thermic effect. While water doesn’t have a direct thermic effect, it can indirectly impact our metabolism. 

Staying adequately hydrated is vital for optimal metabolic function. Studies have shown that drinking water can temporarily increase our metabolic rate, leading to a slight increase in calorie expenditure.

Additionally, when we consume cold water, our body needs to work harder to warm it up to our body’s temperature, resulting in a slight boost in energy expenditure.

Furthermore, drinking water before meals has been found to enhance feelings of fullness, potentially leading to reduced calorie intake.

Therefore, staying adequately hydrated by drinking water throughout the day can contribute to maintaining a healthy metabolism and supporting weight management efforts. 

High thermic effect foods – Fruits 

18. Apples

Apples are rich in fiber and antioxidants and require more energy to digest, helping to boost calorie burning. 

19. Berries 

Berries, such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries, are not only delicious and vibrant in color but also have the potential to increase the thermic effect of food. 

They are fiber-rich and low in calories, making them a great addition to a healthy diet. The high fiber content in berries requires the body to expend more energy during digestion, leading to an increase in calorie expenditure and potentially boosting the thermic effect. 

Additionally, berries are packed with antioxidants, which can help reduce inflammation and support a healthy metabolism. 

Including a variety of berries in your diet can not only provide you with essential vitamins and minerals but also contribute to a slight increase in your body’s thermic effect, assisting in your overall weight management goals.

20. Grapefruit

Sliced grapefruit is a high thermic food

Grapefruit, known for its metabolism-boosting properties, can increase the thermic effect of your meal.

High thermic foodsVegetables

21. Broccoli

This cruciferous vegetable is packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, making it an excellent choice to support calorie burning during digestion. 

22. Leafy veggies like spinach and kale

Leafy greens are loaded with nutrients and low in calories. Spinach offers a high thermic effect while providing numerous health benefits. Similar to spinach, kale is a nutrient-dense leafy green that contributes to increased calorie burning and overall well-being.

A great way to get in more leafy greens is to include them in your smoothies. Check out this post on some great smoothie recipes that boost metabolism.


23. Lentils

High in protein and fiber, lentils have a significant thermic effect, making them an ideal addition to your diet. 

24. Chickpeas

chickpeas in a wood bowl

These versatile legumes not only provide plant-based protein but also support a higher thermic effect due to their fiber content. 

25. Black Beans

Black beans, a popular legume, have been found to have a positive impact on the thermic effect of food. According to studies, black beans contain a combination of nutrients, including protein, fiber, and slow-digesting carbohydrates, that can contribute to an increase in calorie expenditure during digestion. 

The high protein content in black beans requires more energy to break down and absorb, resulting in a higher thermic effect. 

Additionally, the fiber content in black beans adds bulk to the diet, promoting satiety and potentially increasing the number of calories burned during digestion. 

Furthermore, black beans contain plant compounds called flavonoids, which have anti-inflammatory properties and may support metabolic health.

Other high thermic foods

26. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil, a versatile and popular oil derived from the fruit of the coconut palm, has been associated with various health benefits, including its potential impact on the thermic effect of food. 

This oil is rich in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are known to have a different metabolic effect compared to other types of fats. 

MCTs are quickly absorbed by the body and are readily converted into energy rather than being stored as fat. This increased energy expenditure can contribute to a slight boost in the thermic effect. 

Additionally, coconut oil can enhance satiety and reduce appetite, supporting weight management efforts. 

While the thermic effect of coconut oil alone may not have a significant impact on weight loss, incorporating it as part of a balanced diet and overall healthy lifestyle can provide potential benefits for metabolism and weight management.

27. Nuts and Seeds 

nuts and seeds are included as part of many high thermic meal plan

Almonds, chia seeds, and flaxseeds are excellent sources of healthy fats, protein, and fiber, contributing to a higher thermic effect.

Final Thoughts

Incorporating foods with a high thermic effect into your diet can bring numerous benefits, including increased calorie burning, boosted metabolism, and enhanced weight management. 

From lean proteins and whole grains to fruits, vegetables, legumes, and other options like nuts, seeds, and spices, you have a wide range of delicious and nutritious choices to explore. 

Remember to consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian to tailor your diet to your individual needs and goals. 

Let me know in the comments below if you found this article helpful.

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