Skip to main content

Foods With High Thermic Effect

min read

By Emily Lockhart

Medically Reviewed by Julie Ching, MS, RDN, CDE

While there are no short foods to single-handedly make you shed the weight you want to lose, certain foods have natural metabolism-boosting or energy-enhancing properties over others. These are known as foods with a high thermic effect.

So if you’re hoping to lose weight or harness more pep in your steps, the following foods with a high thermic effect may help you achieve your goals when combined with a healthy diet and regular exercise…

Want diet & nutrition content delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for our exclusive diet & nutrition newsletter!

Green Tea

You likely already expected green tea on this list of naturally metabolism-revving foods. OK, so it’s not technically a food, but a drink, you got me. However, this brew (along with green tea extract) is credited by numerous scientific studies with accelerating metabolism.

In addition to incorporating green tea into your weight loss efforts, WebMD found that the rich antioxidant content in green tea may prevent cell damage.


Black pepper, cayenne pepper, chili powder, and even ground ginger have one very important thing in common—these spices are known to have a high thermic effect.

Most notably, a study, published by the National Institutes of Health, says the seedier and more pungent the spice—the better it is for energy increase. The study pointed out that participants who consumed meals seasoned with ground black pepper, powdered ginger, powdered onion, red pepper, and mustard seeds burned upwards of 1,000 additional calories per day!

Nuts and Seeds

A diet high in omega-3 fatty acids may also increase your metabolism and energy levels. Some examples of Omega-3 fatty acid foods include fish, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, green vegetables, egg yolk, and wild rice.

Scientists monitored the diets of lab mice and found that rodents who consumed greater amounts of omega-3s had a higher metabolism due to lower levels of a hormone, known as leptin. Researchers noted in their findings that omega-3s naturally help lower leptin, which in turn, leads to naturally faster metabolism.

Fatty Fish

Likewise, research conducted by the Mayo Clinic noted that a diet high in omega-3 rich fatty fish may have similar effects on metabolism—and was also responsible for lowering levels of leptin in the human body.

The researchers recognized the link when studying African tribes whose diets were rich in fatty fish—like salmon and mackerel. Due to the fish-based diets, tribesmen and women reduced their leptin levels by up to 5-percent.

Hemp and Flaxseed Oil

Both of these touted superfoods contain their fair share of energy-boosting omega-3 fatty acids, which can be of use if you don’t eat or don’t like fish.

Hemp oil and flaxseed oil can be incorporated into cooking, smoothies, and baking as healthy sources of essential fatty acids, which in addition to metabolism, may also be great for skin, nails, and hair.

Hot Peppers

Like dried spices, raw and cooked hot peppers—such as cayenne, jalapeno, and habanero—may cause your metabolism to spike naturally. Just think about how hot you get under the collar when eating something spiced with these potent peppers.

In addition to quickening metabolism, a study from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology also credits hot peppers with reducing appetite cravings due to the rich capsaicin within. The capsaicin compound may naturally speed up both blood circulation and metabolic rate, which is why you sweat when you eat hot wings or nachos seasoned with particularly hot peppers.


We know, water isn’t a “food” either. However, if you drink water prior to eating and continuously throughout the day, you may notice more energy and an increased rate of fat burning.

A 2004 German study from Berlin’s Franz-Volhard Clinical Research Center, published by WebMD, linked water consumption—of at least 17-ounces of water per day—to increased metabolic rates of 30-percent for both males and females.


You likely already know that dairy is rich in calcium, a nutrient that’s long been associated with strengthening bones but is now credited with weight control.

Researcher Michael Zemel, Ph.D., professor of nutrition and medicine at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville tells WebMD, “If you compare a dairy-rich versus a dairy-poor diet you can nearly double the rate of weight and fat loss with the same level of calorie restriction,”

Citrus Fruits

Oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, limes, and lemons are all rich in vitamin C—studies have shown these fruits aid our fat burning efforts and boost metabolism. Diets rich in vitamin C may help stable the hormone that regulates glucose in the body, but more importantly, reduce instances where that hormone spikes and we crave carbohydrate-loaded snacks during our day.

A study by the National Library of Medicine discovered “that daily consumption of 1000 mg supplementary vitamin C may be beneficial in decreasing blood glucose and lipids in patients with type 2 diabetes and thus reducing the risk of complications.”


If you’re looking for a lighter body mass, scientists at Penn State University suggest adding meals rich in liquids—like soups and stews—to your weekly diet.

According to research findings, a group of women who ate the hunger-satiating combo of liquids and solids, ate less, had fewer snack cravings, and increased their metabolism and fat burning abilities.

Whole Grains

Whole grains—or grains that retain all naturally-occurring nutrients from the bran, germ, and endosperm compared to stripped, refined grains—lead to higher metabolism because they may stabilize the hormone that regulates glucose in the body.

Research from Harvard’s School of Public Health, claims that diets rich in whole grains (such as quinoa, oats, and brown rice) ensure that carbohydrates are released slowly, to prevent spikes in blood sugar and hormone levels to regulate glucose in the blood, and associated snack attacks!

Dried Beans

No, we’re not suggesting you get Mexican takeout for dinner, especially not a meal focused on refried beans! Reach for dried red beans (i.e., kidney beans) instead and make your favorite and healthier Mexican-inspired meals at home.

Studies published by the National Institutes of Health show that the resistant starch in dried red beans may keep the hormone that regulates glucose in the body in check so you feel full for longer, are less prone to binge eating, and just naturally store less fat.


Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries are a naturally sweet and juicy dessert or snack. However, berries are also rich in anthocyanins, water-soluble vacuolar pigments that encourage production of the hormone, adiponectin, and prevent the expansion of fat cells.

In addition, National Institutes of Health research shows that berries rich in the micronutrients, polyphenols, (i.e., raspberries and strawberries) may reduce the body’s absorption of fats and starches, which can add up quickly and cause weight gain.


Garlic might scare your date away after a huge pizza or pasta dinner. However, a study from Ewha Womans University, in Seoul, Korea linked garlic to higher testosterone levels. If you weren’t aware, the testosterone hormone is closely related to energy production. And we all know that more energy means more time to be active, exercise, eat well, and maintain a healthy body weight.

The study fed a group of mice a rich fat diet for a period of 8-weeks. Once the mice gained weight, the researchers fed half the mice a garlic supplement for a period of 7-weeks. In the end, the mice that ate the garlic significantly reduced their body fat and overall body weight. Talk to your doctor or dietitian before starting any supplements because they may interact with your medications or any preexisting conditions that you may have.

Say No to Sugar

One easy way to boost your metabolism and aid your weight loss efforts is to say no to foods and drinks high in refined sugar, such as candy, sodas, baked goods, processed snacks, and sugar-infused coffees and teas.

Instead, if you’re craving sweets, choose from the slides above to satisfy your sweet tooth naturally with apple slices or a bowl of berries.


Julie Ching is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator in Los Angeles. She decided to become a Dietitian after traveling through Europe, South America, and Asia and discovered a passion for food. She now works with people of all ages and varying disease states to improve their health. She is passionate about teaching people about nutrition so they can live their best life while still considering their cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Diet and Nutrition News & Advice


Dietary Fibre Affects More Than Your Colon: How the Immune System, Brain and Overall Health Benefit Too
By Mark Wulczynski Diet and Nutrition News & Advice

Dietary Fibre Affects More Than Your Colon: How the Immune System, Brain and Overall Health Benefit Too

There’s no shortage of advice about what to eat, including hype about the latest superfoods that will help you live to 100, or about the newest restrictive diets that claim to help you lose weight and look beautiful. As a researcher from the Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute, I’m well aware that there is […]

Read More about Dietary Fibre Affects More Than Your Colon: How the Immune System, Brain and Overall Health Benefit Too

4 min read

What’s the Best Diet for Healthy Sleep? A Nutritional Epidemiologist Explains What Food Choices Will Help You Get More Restful Z’s
By Erica Jansen Diet and Nutrition News & Advice

What’s the Best Diet for Healthy Sleep? A Nutritional Epidemiologist Explains What Food Choices Will Help You Get More Restful Z’s

You probably already know that how you eat before bed affects your sleep. Maybe you’ve found yourself still lying awake at 2 a.m. after enjoying a cup of coffee with dessert. But did you know that your eating choices throughout the day may also affect your sleep at night? In fact, more and more evidence […]

Read More about What’s the Best Diet for Healthy Sleep? A Nutritional Epidemiologist Explains What Food Choices Will Help You Get More Restful Z’s

5 min read

Does an Apple a Day Really Keep the Doctor Away? A Nutritionist Explains the Science Behind ‘Functional’ Foods
By Janet Colson Diet and Nutrition News & Advice

Does an Apple a Day Really Keep the Doctor Away? A Nutritionist Explains the Science Behind ‘Functional’ Foods

We’ve all heard that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but how true is that? Apples are not high in vitamin A, nor are they beneficial for vision like carrots. They are not a great source of vitamin C and therefore don’t fight off colds as oranges do. However, apples contain various bioactive […]

Read More about Does an Apple a Day Really Keep the Doctor Away? A Nutritionist Explains the Science Behind ‘Functional’ Foods

6 min read