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5 Worst Foods Slowing Your Metabolism

Some foods may be better left alone to help with optimal metabolism.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

Metabolism includes a myriad of processes that regulate chemical and metabolic functions from body temperature to cell turnover, digestion, blood circulation, hormone regulation, and breathing. It also is the major means of converting what we eat and drink to calories and fuel for energy to sustain life.

Metabolism is often regarded as synonymous with the rate at which we use calories that are consumed towards maintaining, losing, or gaining weight. However, many factors influence metabolic rate, including outright endocrine or metabolic disorders, muscle mass, age, sex, genetics, and physical activity level. Generally speaking, the nutrients or compounds found in foods do not impact metabolism, however, some unique foods may contribute to an altered metabolism in certain scenarios.

Here we discuss what foods could be disrupting your metabolism, along with some suggestions for alternative foods. To read up more on foods' influence on metabolism and energy, check out The 5 Best Foods for Energy After 50.

Fatty cuts of steak

steak on a plate

Regular consumption of high-fat animal-based proteins, such as higher fat cuts of beef, contain a hefty amount of saturated fat (and some trans fat), which is an undesirable dietary fat associated with increased triglycerides. Triglyceride values that exceed the ideal 150 mg/dL may also elevate LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol (known as the "bad" cholesterol) and contribute to metabolic syndrome risk. It's best to opt for a mix of low-fat dairy and seafood, and especially well-chosen plant proteins like beans, nuts, and seeds, for protein needs.


cooked millet

The thyroid is responsible for a substantial share of processes controlling metabolism. Unfortunately for those suffering from abnormal thyroid function such as hypothyroidism (including Hashimoto's Disease and thyroiditis) and who also have a diagnosed iodine deficiency, certain foods could be problematic. Millet is one of these foods.

Millet is considered a "goitrogen," which comprises foods that contain "goitrin," a compound that can interfere with the synthesis of thyroid hormones, inhibiting the effectiveness of our metabolism. Turn instead to other grains like whole wheat, quinoa, rice, or sorghum if this impacts you.


chocolate candy

It may not be a shock that candy isn't helping our health. But the even more devastating side effect of excess candy consumption is the associated high intake of added sugars. Added sugars, namely above 50 grams per day for most adults, seem to be linked to an increased risk of cardiometabolic syndrome, or for short, metabolic syndrome.

Cardiometabolic syndrome is characterized by a cluster of metabolic abnormalities: elevated fasting blood glucose, abdominal obesity, triglycerides, and blood pressure, as well as low HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. These issues increase the risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Turn first to fruit as a source of natural sweetness at meal or snack time.

 4 Best Fruits To Slow the Aging Process

Ultra-Processed Foods

table covered in bowls of popcorn, chips, candy, and other junk foods

Insulin resistance is strongly correlated to metabolic syndrome and regular consumption of "ultra-processed" foods (foods that have been dramatically manipulated from their natural state) is connected repeatedly to insulin resistance and obesity. Examples of ultra-processed foods include French fries (rather than a plain potato), corn chips (rather than the vegetable corn), or apple pie (rather than crunching on a fresh apple). Unfortunately, ultra-processed foods are abundant at the grocery store and restaurants, but they don't have to be fully eliminated to maintain a healthy diet. Try only indulging in one serving of an ultra-processed food every few days to strike a balance, while not depriving ourselves of perhaps some of our favorite foods.

 These Are The Best Snacks For a Faster Metabolism, Say Dietitians


cocktails, wine, and beer

Yes, you're right. It's not a food, but the average adult consumes 3.6 servings of alcohol weekly, according to a 2021 Gallup poll, so it's worth discussing. Alcohol follows an irregular path of digestion and absorption in the body. Alcohol, or ethanol, puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the liver to metabolize, detoxify, and eliminate this drug from the body. Any existing liver conditions or medication interactions compound the issue.

People who misuse alcohol also have an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, sleep disorders, and certain cancers. Alcohol impacts several components of the metabolic process, so it is crucial to strive for Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 recommendations of no more than two alcoholic drinks a day for men and no more than one alcoholic drink a day for women.

Molly Hembree, MS, RD, LD
Molly Hembree, MS, RD, LD, is a nationally recognized registered dietitian. Read more about Molly
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