Are you concerned that your food cravings increase as the weather turns cold? For thousands of years, humans have consumed vast quantities of food in the fall in order to survive food shortages in the winter. Now that we have access to great food all year round, an appetite shift to heavy carbs and fats simply adds up to extra pounds on our waistlines. To prevent this accumulation, the solution is to embrace anti-inflammatory foods that balance our weight without the need for dieting. When we embrace slimming meals that heal, we can satisfy our cravings naturally, and balance our metabolism at the same time.
The Link Between Inflammation and Weight Gain
According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, processed sugars and other high-glycemic starches increase inflammation. Eating foods that you are allergic to causes inflammation and destabilizes your insulin and blood sugar levels. The high level of insulin raises cortisol (the stress hormone), which causes your body to hold onto – and deposit – fat rather than burning it for energy (insulin resistance). By reducing insulin resistance, we are able to move more calories into the cells to be burned as fuel.
Foods that slow metabolism and cause inflammation:
• Alcohol and caffeine – irritate the gut wall; this includes pop (diet and regular), conventional coffee, and black tea.
• Refined sugars and other carbohydrates (e.g. candy, cookies, sodas, processed foods and white bread)
• Allergenic foods: if you are allergic to wheat and continue to eat it, inflammation and intestinal damage occurs. Remove hard-to-digest proteins such as gluten and dairy from the diet.
Take Care of Your Butterfly
Thyroid health is the most important to focus on when you need to turn up the fat burning furnace. The thyroid gland is a small organ with a big job. Located just below the Adam’s apple, the butterfly-shaped thyroid gland controls all your main bodily functions, including metabolic rate. It does this via two hormones, triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), which act on each organ in your body to control the rate at which the body burns calories for energy.
A deficiency of thyroid hormones (aka hypothyroidism) leads to a general slowing of metabolism – the rate at which the body burns calories.
The most important nutrient for the thyroid is iodine. It helps regulate the rate of energy production and body weight, and promotes proper growth. Look for iodine in unrefined salt, ocean fish, sea vegetables (kelp, dulse, arame, hijike, etc), and vegetables grown in iodine-rich soils. (Note: Iodine taken in supplement form is best supervised by a naturopath or other health professional.)
Organic Tip: Organically grown vegetables, fruits, seeds and animal products can keep your fat-burning system running at full-tilt because they don’t expose the thyroid to toxins. Non-organic, conventionally grown produce contains chemicals that can block metabolism, mainly by interfering with the liver and thyroid.
Top 10 Picks for Anti-Inflammatory Metabolism Boosters
- Asparagus and avocado have the ability to boost levels of glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that ramps up your immune system, warding off invading pathogens that are an underlying cause of inflammation.[ii] Asparagus is also a wonderful source of thyroid boosting selenium, while avocados are proven to reduce your appetite.
- Consumption of fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, herring, sardines, krill) helps increase metabolism. It contains eicosapentaenoic acid, a powerfully anti-inflammatory type of omega-3 fatty acid.[iii] One study published in the American Society for Nutrition indicates that the oil in fish induces anti-inflammatory gene expression.[iv] Omega-3s balance blood sugar and reduce inflammation, helping to regulate metabolism. Take omega-3 fatty acid supplements (2-3,000 milligrams per day) of combined EPA and DHA. (Editor’s note: Shellfish such as shrimp and lobster can trigger inflammation and are best avoided.)
- Pomegranates have been shown to halt the enzyme reactions the body uses in triggering inflammation and pain, and the high fiber content dramatically reduces sugar cravings. Furthermore, research has shown that drinking pomegranate juice improved blood flow, lowered blood pressure, and delayed the oxidation of LDL cholesterol in patients with coronary heart disease. (https://tinyurl.com/n6mb3jm)
- Medicinal mushrooms such as shiitake, maiitake, and cordyceps are very high in polyphenols – nutrients that protect liver cells from damage. Supporting the liver is critical in fighting inflammation in the body as this is where the hormones responsible for weight balance are metabolized.[vi]
- Both turmeric and ginger root have the ability to clear painful inflammation by inhibiting the effects of arachadonic acid, a fat responsible for triggering inflammation and, ultimately, pain.[vii] Spicy foods have natural chemicals that can kick the metabolism into a higher gear; cooking soups with a tablespoon of curry powder can boost your metabolic rate. The effect is temporary, but if you eat spicy foods often, the benefits may add up.
- Drink herbal tea. Green tea has long been heralded for its ability to crank up metabolism. Researchers conducted a series of studies in dieters and found that those who drank green tea lost more weight than those who didn’t, suggesting that the active ingredient, catechins, may improve fat oxidation and thermogenesis – the body’s production of energy, or heat, from digestion.[x] As well, Honeybush is just coming into Canada and is making a great splash! An animal study, jointly conducted by the Medical Research Council of South Africa, the University of Stellenbosch, and the University of Southern Denmark, confirmed that an infusion of the herb ‘Honeybush’ resulted in a remarkable lowering of blood sugar. It also had a cholesterol-lowering effect when fed to Type 1 and Type 2 diabetic rodents.
- Seeds such as flax, hemp, chia, and perilla (aka shiso) are high in alpha linolenic acid, a type of anti-inflammatory Omega 3 fat. [viii] Seeds also contain plant sterols, which are powerful immune modulators capable of reducing allergies, a cause of inflammation.[ix] Hemp hearts are a top choice because they contain all the essential amino acids in an easily digestible form. Two tablespoons (30 g) of hemp hearts contain 7 grams of protein – equivalent to the amount found in a large boiled egg.
- Eating berries helps to build one of the body’s most powerful antioxidants – superoxide dismutase. SOD is important in reducing oxidative stress in our bodies, a key factor in liver support and the prevention of joint pain. Berries are also rich in flavanoids that reduce inflammation and repair cellular damage.[xi] Berries high in SOD include goji, wolfberry, acai, and blueberry. Also high in SOD is chaga (a fungus that grows on birch trees).
- Apples contain calcium D-glucarate, a phytochemical that plays an important role in liver detoxification and estrogen balance by increasing glucuronidation. [xii] As sex hormones become balanced, metabolism is able to ramp up into high gear. My favourite type of apple is the organic Canadian variety, Ambrosia, because it is slow to brown. Avoid the soon-to-be-released GMO non-browning apple – learn more at www.CBAN.ca
- Fresh herbs: rosemary, sage, oregano, basil, marjoram, thyme, and mint all contain rosmarinic acid, which has been shown in clinical trials to reduce stress [xiii] and inflammation.[xiv] Stress reduction is the key to boosting metabolism as we age.
Coconut oil provides energy without fat accumulation. Traditional sources of fat in the diet are broken down into individual fatty acids, and then regrouped into bundles of fat and protein called ‘lipoproteins’. These lipo- proteins are sent into the bloodstream so that the fatty acids can be deposited into our fat cells. But with coconut oil, instead of being packaged into lipoproteins and circulated in the bloodstream, the medium chain fatty acids are sent directly to the liver where they are converted into energy. These fats do not raise blood sugar, so they’re a good option for anyone wanting to avoid the insulin spike that can crush the metabolism.
Coconut oil has a thermogenic, or calorie-burning effect that directly boosts metabolism. This is because the medium-chain triglycerides in coconut oil are easily absorbed by the energy-producing organelles of the cells. Studies have shown that, after eating a meal containing medium-chain triglycerides from coconut oil, the metabolism stays elevated for at least 24 hours! Not only will you be burning calories at a faster rate, you will have more energy. [xv] It is best to replace all trans fats with coconut oil for cooking, as trans fats slow the body’s ability to burn fat. Eating trans fat can also lead to insulin resistance and inflammation, both of which cripple metabolism and cause weight gain.
Probiotics Can Increase Metabolism
According to a study published in Nature, obese people have a higher percentage of a certain type of colonic bacteria called firmicutes than lean people have.[xvi] On the other hand, lean people have equal proportions of firmicutes and another family of bacteria, bacteriodetes, in their gut. Supposedly, firmicutes allow the obese mice (and possibly obese humans) to digest otherwise non-digestible carbohydrates, thereby facilitating the extraction of an extra source of calories, which are then stored in the adipose tissue. Probiotics might help reduce the ratio of firmicutes to bacteriodetes in obese people. [xvii] In other words, these compounds have the potential to increase the bacteriodete community in your gut. Look for probiotics in fermented vegetables, coconut yogurt, and high dose supplements.
Make sure you eat breakfast, as it literally wakes up your metabolism. According to the National Weight Control Registry, 78% of people who lose weight (66 pounds or more), and keep it off, eat a morning meal every day.