Food With High Thermic Effect List


Food With High Thermic Effect List. Thermic effect is defined as the amount of heat produced by a food during metabolism. Some foods are more thermogenic than others, causing you to burn more calories. The higher the thermic effect, the more calories are burned after eating that food. The following foods have a high thermic effect and will make you burn more calories while having a healthy diet.

Food With High Thermic Effect List

When it comes to losing weight, eating in a calorie deficit should always be your biggest priority, but food quality is important as well. While there is no one food that can help you lose fat, certain foods are better than others at boosting your metabolism.

These are called high thermic foods. Including them in your diet can boost the number of calories you burn every day and further help promote fat loss.

Here are 13 high thermic foods that can help boost your metabolism:

  • Lean meats
  • Low-fat dairy
  • Eggs
  • High-quality fish
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Avocados
  • Green tea
  • Dark chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Chili peppers
  • Beans and legumes
  • Whole grains
  • Sweet potatoes

Thermic Foods That Support a Healthy Metabolism

The following foods have been shown to at least temporarily boost metabolism:

1. High-Fiber Foods

Replacing refined grains with fiber-rich whole grains may have beneficial effects on energy regulation and metabolism.

In a March 2017 study in ​The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition​, participants were asked to substitute whole grains for refined grains throughout a six-week period.

By the end of the study, people who ate around 35 to 45 grams of fiber noticed an increase in their metabolism.

Examples of high-fiber foods include:

  • Avocados
  • Pears
  • Mangoes
  • Pistachios
  • Artichokes
  • Popcorn
  • Almonds

Related Reading

19 High-Fiber Foods for Better Heart and Gut Health

2. Lean Animal Proteins

High-quality protein foods offer not only a high thermic effect but also provide a higher degree of satiety, says dietitian Joy Bauer, RD and author of ​Joy Bauer’s Food Cures​.

She credits this phenomenon to protein’s ability to keep blood sugar levels stable, thus avoiding the sharp, temporary ups and downs in blood glucose that are associated with hunger pangs.

The key, of course, is picking the best proteins to add to your nutrition plan. Great choices in this category include proteins in their whole and minimally processed form with limited added sugars and synthetic fats, such as:

  • Lean meats
  • Poultry
  • Unsweetened fermented dairy (think: plain, low-fat yogurt)

3. Plant-Based Proteins

Like animal-based proteins, plant-based foods high in protein can boost your metabolism, too.

These options require your body to use more energy to digest them, increasing their thermic effect, says dietitian Vanessa Rissetto, RD.

In fact, researchers speculate that the increased oxygen demand needed to metabolize protein foods might cause an increase in satiety, according to a 2014 article in the ​Journal of Nutrition & Metabolism.

Good options in this category include:

  • Lentils
  • Nuts
  • Beans
  • Tofu

4. Seafood

Seafood is also naturally high in protein.

“Research shows that protein has the highest thermic effect,” Marisa Moore, RDN, tells “Protein requires between 15 to 30 percent more energy to digest, followed by carbohydrates at 5 to 10 percent and fats which are significantly lower at 0 to 3 percent.”

“For every 100 calories of protein consumed, about 20 to 30 calories are spent during digestion and absorption,” explains Cordiails Msora-Kasago, RDN and media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

High-protein seafood options include:

  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Shrimp
  • Scallops
  • Cod

5. Foods With Capsaicin

A July 2013 study in ​PLOS One​ notes that capsaicin — which is found in chili peppers and paprika — can bolster your metabolic rate and promotes fat burning.

6. Foods Rich in Iron, Zinc and Selenium

Iron, zinc and selenium are nutrients your thyroid gland requires to function at its best, and your thyroid plays a key role in regulating your metabolism, per an April 2014 paper in ​Physiological Reviews​.

Foods rich in these three nutrients include:

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Seafood
  • Nuts and legumes
  • Dairy

14 High Thermic Foods That Will Boost Your Metabolism

Have you heard of thermic foods?

We are all trying to choose the right foods to fuel our bodies the right way. 

We know certain foods are rich in specific nutrients. 

Need vitamin C? Grab an orange! Need more fiber? Have some oatmeal for breakfast. 

But did you know that certain foods may also boost your metabolism?

Research has shown that there are foods with a high thermic effect that burn more calories than others just by being digested and processed. 

Those are called thermic foods.

Can this effect influence our energy balance and hold the key to weight loss?

What Is The Thermic Effect of Food?

What Is The Thermic Effect of Food?

The thermic effect of food, or TEF, describes the increase in metabolism after eating a food or a meal.

As you start working to digest the food, your body burns calories (1).

This phenomenon is also called diet-induced thermogenesis (DIT). 

Certain foods have more of a thermic effect than others.

These foods have been studied for their potential benefits to aid in weight loss.

Because of their ability to use more calories to be digested, these fat-burning foods may also be the best foods for weight loss.

Age and physical activity also impact the basal metabolic rate for each individual, which will impact the DIT of certain foods (2).

What Foods Have a High Thermic Effect?

Thermic Foods for weight loss

The types of nutrients that are in food will influence its thermic effect.

Studies have shown that larger meals, protein-rich foods, complex carbohydrates, and other low-fat plant-based diets all have a higher thermic effect or DIT. (2)

Protein and fiber take more energy to be digested compared to high-fat foods.

Fat will require around 0-3% of the energy that is consumed to digest it.

Comparatively, carbohydrates require 5-10% of energy, and protein requires 20-30% of energy to be digested (3).

A Few Words on Insulin

Insulin is an important hormone in the body.

It functions a bit like a key that unlocks the door on a cell, allowing glucose, your body’s main fuel source, to shuttle inside.

This helps regulate energy and blood sugar levels. 

Generally, when carbohydrate-rich foods are broken down, insulin is released to help this fuel get into the cell to be used properly.

Insulin also promotes fat storage in the body, which is a necessary function, but when it works excessively, this can lead to poor health outcomes such as diabetes and obesity.

Insulin resistance occurs when your body’s cells become resistant to insulin doing its job to usher sugar or glucose into a cell.

This leaves glucose to float around the bloodstream and leads to high blood sugar levels.

Insulin sensitivity describes the opposite effect.

When someone has high insulin sensitivity, their body is more efficiently able to use glucose for fuel.

This hormone also regulates our appetite.

So having balanced blood sugar and insulin levels is important for overall health and weight maintenance.

As you can see, weight maintenance is influenced by many factors. 

The thermic effect of foods can perhaps help a little with weight loss, but ultimately, eating an appropriate amount of healthy, nutrient-dense foods is the most important key.

What Influences a Thermic Effect?

Things That Influences a Thermic Effect?

Several things influence the thermic effect of food or TEF. 

Similar to body temperature, not everyone’s metabolism is the same and that will impact a food’s thermogenesis. 

Some additional factors include:

  • Physical Activity: Research is still needed on how physical activity directly impacts TEF, but we do know that more physical activity leads to a higher metabolism and greater energy expenditure.
  • Age: As we get older, our metabolism will naturally slow down, and our digestive efficiency can also change as well.
  • Meal frequency: Many people believe that smaller, more frequent meals aid in weight loss and fight obesity. But that doesn’t necessarily equate to high thermic effect foods. Research shows that less frequent but larger meals require more energy to digest.
  • Meal size: While it is often thought that smaller meals can help with weight loss, research shows that larger meals can increase TEF by almost 10%.
  • Meal composition: Meals that are higher in protein and complex, fiber-rich carbohydrates have contained foods with higher TEF.
  • Sleep: Getting a good night’s rest is important to overall health but also can lead to a higher TEF.

All of these factors are important considerations when evaluating your lifestyle.

These same factors can influence body weight.

Many people may think that food takes the same amount of energy to digest regardless of the person, but that’s not quite the case. 

Each person has their own unique basal metabolic rate, or rate of metabolism to carry out basic life functions (2, 4).

What Influence Weight Loss

Best weight loss tips

For most people trying to lose weight, there are no magic pills, tricks, or foods that will speed up the process. 

The most important factor in maintaining energy balance, consuming the same or less calories than you take in.

A negative total energy expenditure, or consuming fewer calories, will lead to gradual weight loss over time. 

And while eating a high-fat meal may not have a high TEF, eating sufficient healthy fats can help with satiety or feeling full and satisfied after a meal.

In addition to the number of calories you consume, the amount of calories you burn is also important. 

Building and maintaining healthy muscle mass is key to not only fat loss and weight maintenance but also can help with relieving aching joints and prevent falls and broken bones as we age.

Top Foods With High Thermic Effect

Foods that have a high thermic effect

The following foods are high thermic effect foods and will require more energy to digest and process than other foods. 

Try incorporating some of these thermogenic foods into your regular meal plan!

1. Protein-Rich Foods

Protein-Rich Foods - Thermic foods

Foods that are high in protein require more energy to be broken down and digested. 

Studies show that protein can temporarily increase metabolism by 15-30%. 

This can help with overall weight control and fat loss. 

Some examples of high protein foods are lean meat, eggs, fish such as wild salmon, Greek yogurt, and cottage cheese (5). 

Lean meats, eggs, and fish are all good examples of complete proteins that offer all twenty essential amino acids. 

Plant-based proteins can be combined to provide these amino acids as well. 

Dairy-based proteins, like cheese and yogurt, and kefir, as well as wild salmon, can be great sources of calcium as well.

It seems that eating protein can prevent a decrease in metabolism later on because it helps keep your muscle mass intact. 

Consuming protein is also helpful for building muscle tissue as well. Protein can also help keep your feelings of fullness for longer periods (6). 

In fact, one study reported that a diet that was high in protein, featuring turkey, cottage cheese, tuna, and egg whites doubled thermogenesis even almost three hours after eating, compared to a meal high in carbohydrates (7).

Additionally, eating protein-rich foods can improve satiety, or feelings of fullness. 

Depending on your weight and health goals, you may need more grams of protein than others.

2. Chili Peppers

Chili Peppers - Foods with high thermic effects

If you like it hot, hot, hot, then there is good news for you! 

Capsaicin, a compound found in chili peppers, can increase metabolism. 

Research has shown that including peppers in your regular diet may help burn about 50 extra calories a day (8).

Additionally, a study found that consuming capsaicin directly before a meal can help reduce one’s appetite. 

If you like spicy food, adding cayenne pepper to your food may help your body burn more fat cells (9, 10).

Capsaicin has also been shown to reduce inflammation throughout the body and can help your heart health (11). 

So if you can stand the heat, add more peppers into your regular diet.

3. Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes - Thermic effect foods

Sweet potatoes have long been heralded for their nutrient profile. 

These complex carbs are a great source of fiber and boast a lot of vitamins and minerals, such as beta-carotene and potassium.

But they also have a high thermic effect.

Sweet potatoes have been shown to reduce insulin resistance and plasma glucose levels. 

So these sweet sidekicks may help you ward off diabetes and obesity. (12)

Curcumin, one of the active compounds in turmeric, is a powerful carotenoid.

For those who are working on glycemic control, half of a 5-inch sweet potato is one portion or carb serving.

4. Legumes


Beans and legumes, like black beans, chickpeas, lentils, and peas, are high in both fiber and protein. 

These carbs have high levels of protein and fiber, which require you to burn more calories to break them down for digestion. (13, 14)

The fibers in beans and legumes take longer to break down, which will reduce blood sugar spikes and overall insulin levels. 

And they can also help feed the good bacteria that live in your gut, which helps the bacteria create short-chain fatty acids. 

These fatty acids help us keep normal blood sugar levels, and utilize our stored fat for energy ( 2, 15, 16, 17).

Additionally, certain legumes like lentils and peas are rich in specific amino acids, glutamine, which can help burn more calories during digestion. (18).

5. Coconut Oil

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil isn’t just good for your skin and hair. It is also a high TEF food!

Coconut oil is rich in medium-chain triglycerides or MCTs. Many other types of oils have long-chain fatty acids. 

MCT oil is quickly turned into energy by the liver and is a lot less likely to be stored in the body as fat cells.

Additionally, MCT oil can rev up the metabolism more than its long-chain counterparts. 

It has also been shown to aid lipolysis, or the breakdown of fat into fatty acids (19, 20, 21).

All of this said, coconut oil, like all fat, is still calorically dense and too much can throw off her energy balance. 

Try limiting your intake to a tablespoon per day.

6. Nuts


Nuts are often lauded for their health-promoting benefits because they are full of healthy fats, protein, fiber, as well as vitamins and minerals. 

But they also have a thermic effect on the body.

One study found that those who consumed a meal with walnuts had an increase in thermogenesis compared to others who had a meal with dairy. 

It is thought that the type of fat in the nuts (polyunsaturated fat) is absorbed slowly and needs prolonged energy for complete digestion and absorption. (22)

Nuts are also great sources of iron, zinc, and selenium, which are all needed to support a healthy thyroid.

The thyroid regulates our metabolism. 

If you are not getting enough of these minerals in your diet, your thyroid cannot produce enough hormones and it will slow down your metabolic rate. (23)

One-quarter cup of nuts is roughly 200 calories, so you will want to enjoy them in moderation. 

Sprinkling some on your oatmeal, salads, or enjoying some as a snack is a great way to get in more zinc, selenium, and iron. 

Walnuts, pistachios, and almonds are all popular nuts that are used in a variety of recipes. 

7. Turmeric


Turmeric boasts many health benefits. 

It is now widely accepted as a spice that can help tamp down inflammation, as well as boost your metabolism. 

Curcumin is the active compound in turmeric and has been linked to the expression of adiponectin, which helps with blood sugar control and the breakdown of fat cells (24, 25, 26).

This yellow spice contains powerful antioxidants that may help with heart disease and has been shown to improve pain. 

Turmeric actually has a mild flavor, so sprinkle a tablespoon on your eggs or in a smoothie in the morning, or add some to soups and stews. 

8. Green Tea

Green Tea

Green tea is one of the healthiest beverages. 

It has been consumed for centuries and we are starting to understand its many health benefits. 

It has been linked to heart and oral health, improved digestion, as well as other powerful antioxidant effects.

In fact, green tea, as well as oolong tea, may boost the metabolism by 4-10% or help burn an extra 100 calories daily. 

It may also turn your fat-burning ability up by 17%. 

It is thought that both caffeine along a powerful plant compound catechins, also known as EGCG, are responsible (27, 28).

Both oolong and green tea can be enjoyed regularly and help keep your body at a healthy weight.

9. Flaxseeds


Flaxseeds are a great source of fiber, protein, and vitamins. 

But now research is also showing that they have a thermogenic effect as well.

A recent study showed that flaxseeds may help boost the metabolic rate in mice. 

The fiber in flaxseeds also helps improve gut health which has been shown to increase metabolism (29, 30).

Having a healthy gut has been linked to a number of health benefits from weight maintenance to improved immune function and more. 

10. Apple Cider Vinegar 

Apple Cider Vinegar 

People take apple cider vinegar for a variety of health reasons. 

Many animal studies have found that vinegar may help increase the amount of fat their body burns by increasing a specific enzyme. 

Another study found that obese mice that took vinegar had a decrease in liver and belly fat (31, 32).

That said, more studies are needed on the effects of apple cider vinegar on human metabolism.

11. Coffee


If you look forward to your morning cup of coffee, the good news is in store for you. 

Studies have shown that one of the world’s most popular beverages can also boost your metabolism.

Studies have found that the caffeine in your morning joe may increase your metabolism by about 10%. 

More specifically, people who consume 270 mg of caffeine, which is about 2-3 cups of coffee, can burn up to an extra 100 calories daily. (27, 33)

Black coffee itself contains zero calories, so if you are watching your waistline, make sure you watch your cream and sugar. 

Dieters who are watching their calorie intake may be shocked to find how many calories come in their favorite flavored coffee from a cafe. 

That said, caffeine’s effects can vary from person to person and some individuals may find that they are especially sensitive to it. 

And sorry, but decaf does not seem to have the same thermogenic properties.

12. Olive oil

Olive oil

Olive oil is a staple of the Mediterranean Diet, one of the healthiest dietary patterns. 

Due to the types of fat present in olive oil, it is especially good for heart health. 

Olive oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to be anti-inflammatory.

And this liquid gold may also have a thermogenic effect. 

A recent study found that those who consumed a meal with olive oil had higher thermogenic rates and more fat burning two hours after eating than those who ate a meal containing cream (34).

13. Grapefruit


This cheerful citrus fruit may boast more than vitamin C at breakfast. 

It may also help boost your metabolism and help you lose weight.

A study found that eating half a fresh grapefruit before meals led to significant weight loss, improved insulin resistance, and improved metabolic syndrome. 

There was also some improvement seen from those drinking grapefruit juice before the meal, though the results were not as drastic. 

This may be due to the fiber present in whole fruit that is often extracted during the juicing process (35).

14. Ginger

Ginger - Thermic foods

One of the world’s most beloved spices doesn’t just add flavor to your meals, but may also up your metabolic rate. 

Research has shown that ginger can help reduce weight and improve fasting blood sugar levels, as well as increase “good” cholesterol or high-density lipoprotein (HDL). (36)

Ginger is also anti-inflammatory and has been associated with a host of health benefits. 

For centuries, it has been known to help calm an upset stomach and aid in digestion. 

So it’s always handy to have some ginger root around the kitchen!

Final Take on High Thermic Foods

Many foods have been found to have a high thermic effect by using a higher amount of energy during their own digestion and absorption. 

Those listed above are by no means the only foods with high DIT. 

In fact, whole grains like brown rice, oats, quinoa, vegetables like spinach, seaweed, and other leafy greens, avocado, berries like raspberries, and blueberries, as well as cacao have all been shown to have high thermic effects or DIT.

This is mostly due to foods high in protein, fiber-rich carbohydrates, and certain kinds of fatty acids. 

These foods also boast high nutrient profiles and have been associated with a variety of health benefits.

While these high thermic foods may aid somewhat in weight loss and decreased fat storage, it is most effective to pay attention to overall energy intake and physical activity. 

A diet rich in fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats is associated with good health.

Body composition and one’s basal metabolic rate are impacted by several factors, including diet, exercise, genetics, hormonal shifts, medication, and sleep. 

If you are experiencing unwanted weight gain, it is important to visit a registered dietitian and/or physician to discuss various lifestyle and health factors that may influence your weight and overall health.


nominated-freshness-and-colorful-vegetables-thank-you-so-much-for-the-editor-s-pick_t20_2woe7v (1)-1

The word metabolism is shrouded in confusion and mystery. Mainstream nutrition advice touts seemingly endless ways to boost your metabolism, yet many of these strategies are not based on science and might even cause metabolic harm.

Certain whole foods from nature, on the other hand, have been used throughout history to provide energy, nourishment, and an optimally functioning metabolism. They are safe, effective, and can be easily incorporated into your daily diet to boost metabolism and support optimal health. 

Let’s first take a look at what metabolism isexactly, then move onto the metabolism-boosting foods that can help improve your metabolic rate.


While the explanation of metabolism can get pretty complicated, it can be more simply thought of as a set of chemical reactions and systems. For example, we have the cardiovascular system, digestive system, hormonal system, and others, all of which work together. 

The most important role of the metabolism is to create and use energy. The rate at which this happens determines your metabolic rate, which differs from person to person. 

The systems that comprise metabolism are either anabolic or catabolic. Anabolic processes are how we make energy, typically via fuel sources that provide macro and micronutrients. These nutrients are taken in, absorbed, and converted to usable energy in the body. Catabolic processes are how you then take those macro and micronutrients, assimilate them, and break them down for use. 

Signs of an upregulated metabolism (faster metabolic rate) can include weight loss and an increase in body temperature, hunger, and energy. It can also potentially lead to excess irritability or trouble sleeping. Signs of a downregulated (slowed) metabolism include fatigue, feeling cold, weight gain, hair loss, apathy, depression, or a low sex drive.


Alongside certain lifestyle factors like sleep, stress management, and exercise, whole foods truly are the most powerful way to boost metabolism. The following foods are proven to support a healthy metabolism and provide many other health benefits in the form of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.


Protein is the macronutrient with the highest thermic effect, compared to fats and carbohydrates. The thermic effect of food (TEF) refers to the number of calories your body needs to digest, absorb, and process nutrients. Research shows that protein-rich foods boost your metabolic rate by 15-30%, compared to 5-10% for carbohydrates and 0-3% for fats.1

Another metabolic-boosting property of protein is the fact that it helps build muscle mass, and muscle mass requires far more energy to maintain. Protein also has a high satiety factor, meaning it helps you stay full for longer, potentially controlling appetite and curbing cravings. Eggs and lean meats are great sources of protein for supporting a healthy metabolism.

Chili Peppers

Spice has been used throughout history for its medicinal properties, and supporting the metabolism is just one of the benefits of chili peppers. While various theories exist as to why and how chili peppers boost metabolism, it is a well-known fact that spice increases circulation. Chili also increases body temperature and might even change the way the body biochemically converts fat. Another benefit is that chili peppers help the actual process of thermogenesis, which increases metabolism and fat burn. It also doesn’t hurt that chili peppers are loaded with vitamin C!

Legumes and Lentils

Certain minerals are used as co-factors in metabolic chemical processes, and legumes and lentils are quite high in these particular nutrients. These foods are rich in zinc and selenium, making them especially potent for fueling metabolic functions. Legumes and lentils also contain slightly more protein than most other vegetarian protein sources, so if you are a vegan or vegetarian, including these foods as mainstays can help to support a faster metabolism.

Green Tea and Coffee

Green tea extract has been shown to increase the rate at which you burn fat and is a thermogenic type of compound.2 Both green tea and coffee have an appetite-suppressing effect, which is helpful for weight management and avoiding foods that cause metabolic damage, like sugar. Highly beneficial compounds called catechins and polyphenols in coffee and certain teas have also been studied for their metabolism-boosting effects.3 That said, caffeinated beverages such as coffee should be used in moderation. 


Healthy fats offer a great level of satiety, meaning they will keep you full and satisfied for longer. While a variety of clean fats can be included in a healthy diet, avocado is a quick fuel source that the body breaks down easily, and it goes a long way in supporting fullness and a healthy metabolism. Avocado is also rich in nutrients and fiber.


Ginger’s health benefits are vast, but it is especially known for supporting digestion and alleviating nausea. It has a cleansing effect in the body and can also support healthy immune function. Similar to green tea, coffee, and chili, ginger enhances the thermic effect of food and boosts metabolism.4

Dark Green Vegetables

You can never go wrong with dark green vegetables. These foods are especially high in iron, which plays a major role in a healthy metabolism by ensuring efficient transport of oxygen. Low iron can leave you with a slow metabolism and feeling fatigued. Dark green vegetables like kale, spinach, collards, bok choy, and swiss chard, among many others, are important for everyone—but especially for those who don’t eat meat, as iron levels tend to be low for vegans and vegetarians.

Including these seven metabolism-boosting foods in your diet will help to regulate metabolic function. But it’s only one part of the picture. Ensuring adequate sleep, along with physical activity, and finding ways to support the reduction of stress is a recipe for boosting metabolism and feeling your best each and every day.

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