15 (Unexpected) Ways to Support a Healthy Metabolism

Weight can be tricky. To be quite honest, it's not something I focus on when working individually with clients. Rather than focusing on restricting foods to lose weight, I encourage focusing on a mindset of abundance—that is, adding lots of whole, vibrant plant-based foods to your plate to feel your best. Plant-based foods contain powerful nutrients that heal the body and, when you add them to meals you're already eating, you start to naturally crowd out the foods that aren't serving your health. In my experience, when you focus on the way foods make you feel, you start to naturally lose weight (if that's your goal).

I believe it's important to love and embrace your body and all of the gifts it gives you (the ability to move, cook, walk the dog, play with the kids, etc), no matter the shape or size. But, I also recognize the importance of maintaining a healthy weight to feel your best both physically and mentally. Maintaining a healthy weight is also important for fighting inflammation and preventing lifestyle diseases like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer's disease. Whether you feel you're at a healthy weight for you or if you feel you'd like to lose a few pounds to feel your best, we're about to dive into ways to support a healthy metabolism, which supports a happy body and mind.

What NOT to do if you want a healthy metabolism

Foods that I often hear people completely omitting from their diet, when trying to lose or manage weight, include carbohydrate-rich foods, gluten, beans, fruit, sugar, and meat. Can you guess which two out of the six of things can be a positive omission for both weight and health? If you guessed meat and sugar then, hooray!

Reducing processed sugar and meat consumption, or omitting them altogether, are undeniably better for your health and weight. Studies show that both sugar and saturated fat lead to inflammation of the gut, which can interfere with a healthy metabolism. It’s also easy to consume sugar in excess with its addictive properties and lack of fiber or nutrition. These excess calories can be stored as fat. (No new news there.)

What can be a disservice is omitting an entire plant-based food group. Common things I hear people say they’re doing to lose weight include:

  • I’m cutting out carbs, because they make me gain weight. (Do French fries count?)

  • Kourtney Kardashian says giving up gluten helped her lose weight so I'm giving up all bread. It's so hard, bread is my downfall.

  • I tried beans, but they made me bloated and unable to button my jeans. I just can’t tolerate beans so I don't think plant-based will work for me. I mean, I did do a complete overhaul from omnivore to vegan overnight and ate two big bowls of four-bean chili as my first vegan meal. Do you think it was too much too fast?*

  • I'm cutting out fruit because I heard it's nothing but sugar. But I love fruit! Is it really that bad?

*Going from no beans to lots of beans is definitely going to put some gas in your tank. Go slow when it comes to bean introductions, friends.

The above examples demonstrate reasons for wanting to give up foods or food groups, as well as how it can be difficult to enforce this “diet” or restrictive mentality. We often say we are going to stop eating this or that, but willpower is short-lived and these restrictions often lead to eating more of these foods later or substituting similar foods in their place (that still don’t serve your best health). Instead of complete restriction, shift your mindset to thinking in terms of abundance and adding foods that support health and metabolism. What positive things can you do and what healthy foods can you add that serve your body to be and function at its best every single day?

Below are 15 suggestions. Even if you incorporate one or two of the suggestions, you’re on your way to an energized, vibrant, and abundant life with a metabolism that is fit for Nascar.

P.S. Some may be a surprise to you!

1. Stay hydrated. Hydration is one of the most important things you can do for your body. Drinking enough water supports a healthy metabolism. One study also showed that drinking approximately two cups of water before a meal led to greater weight loss. Everyone’s fluid needs are different based on age, body weight, activity level, and environment. The best way to tell if you are hydrated is the urine test. Clear urine is indicative of adequate hydration. Grab your favorite reusable water bottle and fill up, buttercup!

2. Make the first meal of the day fiber-fueled and (plant) protein-packed. Including fiber and protein in both meals and snacks may help to fill you up more quickly than eating foods that only have carbohydrate. They can also keep you satisfied longer and manage blood sugar because they take longer to digest. Examples include oatmeal with soy milk, nuts and seeds; tofu scramble with sweet potato hash; or a smoothie with unsweetened plant-based yogurt, nut or seed butter, handful of leafy greens, banana and berries.

3. Eat more fruits and vegetables. While the evidence is lacking on the direct relationship between fruits and veggies on metabolism, we do know that fruits and vegetables are known for being nutrient dense. This means they contain tons of nutrients in exchange for little calories. Sure, fruit has natural sugar, but fruit is also packed with fiber and water, two nutrients that can keep you full and healthy. Fruit is also abundant in thousands of phytonutrients, or nutrients specific to plants that help our body to function at its best. Fiber, as well as some of the phytonutrients in fruits and vegetables, can support gut health, which may also lead to healthy metabolism.

4. Swap out refined carbs for whole grain carbs (eat carbohydrate-rich food, but the right kind). Let’s clear this myth: carbs are not bad. Certain types of carbohydrate-rich foods are processed, meaning they’ve been stripped of their nutrients and fiber, which make them calorically dense. Calorically dense means lots of calories in exchange for very little or no nutrition. Compared this to nutrient dense, which means lots of nutrients in exchange for little calories. Carbohydrates that probably aren’t serving your health or metabolism include white processed carbohydrates like white pasta, bread and rice, chips, cake, and cookies, to name a few. Whole grain carbohydrates are good for you! In fact, studies show