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Healthy Foods That Slow Down Your Metabolism

Most people notice they tend to put on more weight as they age, often blaming this change on a slower metabolism. 

The term “metabolism” covers all those chemical reactions in the body that convert food into energy. It’s essential for maintaining physiological processes and for the production of new cells. And while it’s true that your metabolism gets sluggish with age, other factors play into this. The foods you eat, for example, can affect how slow or fast your metabolism runs. 

The speed at which your body turns food into energy is called the basal metabolic rate (BMR). Besides age, the BMR depends on your sex, health, activity levels, and, of course, on food. 

Most people know that certain foods can have a bad effect on metabolic health. But there are also foods considered “healthy” but that are actually metabolism killers. 

With that said, here are 8 of those foods that can sabotage your metabolic health without you knowing.

1. Agave Nectar

Agave nectar is a popular replacement for sugar and honey. This naturally sourced syrup contains up to 90% fructose and has a low glycemic index (GI). Foods high on the GI are easy to digest, raise blood glucose levels quickly, and slow down metabolism.

However, just because agave nectar is a low GI food does not make it healthy.  

Turns out fructose is not as good for metabolic health as commonly believed despite being a low-GI sugar. The problem with fructose is that it does not raise insulin or leptin levels — both important in regulating body weight. The body also tends to convert fructose to fat in the liver rather than use it for energy, which can also spell trouble for your metabolic rate.

Studies comparing agave to other sweeteners even found that it led to similar weight gain as sugar, honey, molasses, and maple syrup. Besides that, agave nectar provides the same number of calories as table sugar and only a small amount of fiber, protein, and micronutrients.

2. Granola Bars

Store-bought granola bars are widely held as a healthy snack, and many think they’re great for weight loss. And we can’t blame them. Also known as cereal bars and muesli bars, granola bars are a good source of fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that can boost metabolic health and support weight loss. In that respect, they’re healthier than candy bars. 

But most brands also contain added fats and sugar, which are problematic for your metabolism. The added sugars and fats in granola bars include high-fructose corn syrup, table sugar, rice flour, and palm oil. These ingredients can quickly increase the calorie count and glycemic index of a granola bar. 

Researchers also warn that added sugars pose a great risk to metabolic and overall health by adding empty calories to our food. Added sugars as found in granola bars raise blood glucose to excessive levels, which can slow down your metabolism.

3. Fruit Juice

We’re often told to eat several servings of fruit a day to stay healthy. Since fruit juice comes from fruit, the same health benefits should apply, right? Well, turns out things are not that simple. Fruit juice, as it turns out, may actually be quite bad for your metabolism.

Recent studies found that both commercial and natural fruit juice can have a sugar composition similar to sugar-sweetened beverages, meaning high in simple, easy-to-digest carbs. But it’s not just their composition that’s the problem: the way our bodies process fruit juice is also why it may not be a good idea to make it a regular part of your diet.

You see, fruit juice passes your digestive tract fairly quickly since it is a liquid. It is also usually devoid of dietary fiber, which normally slows down digestion but also helps normalize blood glucose levels. In other words, as a concentrated liquid source of sugar and calories, fruit juice is no good for a fast metabolism. 


4. Margarine

Health guidelines generally speak against butter and in favor of margarine as a healthier alternative. This is even after margarine went through a debacle when studies found that trans fats in it were worse for cardiovascular health than saturated fat.

Luckily novel margarine types don’t contain trans fats like margarine of the past. But they do contain another problematic ingredient: interesterified fat. Research carried out over the past couple of years has raised concerns regarding the way these fats impact metabolic health. These fats seem to raise blood triglycerides and trigger weight gain, possibly by slowing down metabolism.

What’s even more worrying is that interesterified fats are now available in many processed foods and not just margarine. Keep an eye on these foods and skip margarine to keep your metabolism running high. 

5. Regular Produce

Conventionally grown produce is not only less nutritious than its organic counterpart, but it may lead to a lethargic metabolism. A study published in 2003 in Obesity Reviews found that some pesticides resistant to degradation have a propensity to store in fat tissue and lead to a slower metabolism. 


The above study found that obese subjects had greater levels of these pesticides in their fat tissue. When people start to lose weight, these pesticides end up being released from fat tissue and into the bloodstream, from where they seem to lead to a reduction in RMR, among many other things. 

Luckily, most of these specific pesticides have been phased out, but studies show they’re still present in our environment. Since pesticides were found to be detrimental to metabolic health, it’s a good idea to limit your exposure to them by sticking to organic produce whenever possible. 

6. Vegetable Oil

Certain vegetable oils are as bad for your metabolic health as animal fats, if not worse. These oils — which include safflower oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, and soybean oil —  are high in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats that can slow down your metabolism.

According to an article in Nutrients, the modern diet is excessively high in omega-6 fats and low in omega-3 fats. This imbalance in the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio from 1:1 in the past to 1:20 that we’re seeing parallels the ongoing obesity epidemic. According to the above article, this imbalance could lead to low-grade inflammation as well as changes in appetite, both of which can make you prone to weight gain. 

For a more balanced diet that won’t slow down your metabolism, choose oils low in omega-6 fats, like olive oil and avocado oil.

7. Rice Cakes

Rice cakes are very low in calories, which is why many consider them great for weight loss. But they’re not the best snack option if you want to keep your BMR high. 

One rice cake has around 35 calories, hardly any protein, very little fiber, and trace amounts of vitamins and minerals. In other words, they’re not very nutritious. 

To keep your metabolism from slowing down, it’s best to eat nutrient-dense foods, meaning. foods that are relatively low in calories but rich in metabolism-boosting ingredients. Think broccoli, Greek yogurt,  mushrooms, and almonds. Such foods are harder for the body to digest, which helps keep your BMR running high. Rice cakes, on the other hand, are easy to digest and only provide quick energy that we already said was a metabolism killer.  

 

 

 

 

References:


Valle M, St-Pierre P, Pilon G, Marette A. Differential Effects of Chronic Ingestion of Refined Sugars versus Natural Sweeteners on Insulin Resistance and Hepatic Steatosis in a Rat Model of Diet-Induced Obesity. Nutrients. 2020;12(8):2292. Published 2020 Jul 30. doi:10.3390/nu12082292


Elliott SS, Keim NL, Stern JS, Teff K, Havel PJ. Fructose, weight gain, and the insulin resistance syndrome. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002;76(5):911-922. doi:10.1093/ajcn/76.5.911


Rippe JM, Angelopoulos TJ. Added sugars and risk factors for obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Int J Obes (Lond). 2016;40 Suppl 1:S22-S27. doi:10.1038/ijo.2016.10


Auerbach BJ, Dibey S, Vallila-Buchman P, Kratz M, Krieger J. Review of 100% Fruit Juice and Chronic Health Conditions: Implications for Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Policy. Adv Nutr. 2018;9(2):78-85. doi:10.1093/advances/nmx006


Pelletier C, Imbeault P, Tremblay A. Energy balance and pollution by organochlorines and polychlorinated biphenyls. Obes Rev. 2003;4(1):17-24. doi:10.1046/j.1467-789x.2003.00085.x


Pearlman M, Obert J, Casey L. The Association Between Artificial Sweeteners and Obesity. Curr Gastroenterol Rep. 2017;19(12):64. Published 2017 Nov 21. doi:10.1007/s11894-017-0602-9