High Thermic Effect: Foods to Eat and to Avoid

What is the magic weight loss secret? Everyone is looking for a unique diet, effective workouts, or nutritional supplements that will allow them to lose extra pounds.

However, the reality is straightforward: there are several basic principles of metabolism, understanding which you can significantly speed up the process of losing weight. Adding high thermic foods to your diet can help you lose weight faster without strict diets. 

On my way to a perfect body, I’ve realized that it is essential to combine healthy exercise and basic dietary nutrition principles without exhausting diets. And if we have already talked about effective weight loss workouts, today, let’s talk about boosting metabolism with high thermic effect foods.

With its help, those who want to lose weight check how correct their diet is and whether anything needs to be changed to lose weight faster. From my own experience, I am convinced that such control works great. There is a reason to learn more about the thermic effect of foodWhat are thermic foods, and what foods should you avoid? Let’s figure it out together!

What Does Thermic Effect Mean?

Metabolism is a system of chemical reactions in the body that obtains calories from food consumed and provides the body with energy. It’s like an oven that burns calories. The more powerful it is, the lower the risk of obesity. That is why the metabolic rate excites everyone who wants to become slimmer.

In the process of losing weight, the body’s reaction to the consumption of food in excess is essential. In some people, the metabolism increases significantly, while in others – very little. It is the body’s response to excess calories that is of practical importance. Therefore, with a slow metabolism, the food received is converted into energy less efficiently, which leads to the accumulation of fat. With a fast metabolism, the process of converting food into energy is more efficient, all food is absorbed, and the risk of fat build-up is minimal.

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The thermic effect of food is the amount of energy that is spent on processing it. The higher it is, the greater the benefits for fat burning.

Why Is It Important?

The thermic effect is important because it is one of the components of the body’s energy expenditure. It consists of:

  • 60% to 70% spent on serving the basic needs of the body. Temperature, breath, heartbeat – the body spends the main part of the received energy on all these processes. It is called basal metabolism, and you can count it using our TDEE calculator.
  • 20% to 30% is spent on physical activity. Any. From cleaning your home to energy-consuming burpees. How much you will have for this part, in the end, depends on what you choose – cleaning or, after all, push-ups with jumping higher.
  • about 10% remains for foods with high thermic effect. The body spends energy to chew, swallow, assimilate what has been eaten, and remove the remains. Kilocalories that remain unused your body stores as savings. The tenth part is quite a bit, and here it is essential to take the maximum from the body’s capabilities. Because 10% is a figure calculated from a healthy diet. If there is a bias in it, for example, towards fast carbohydrates (sugar, sweets, flour), the thermic effect will decrease.

Which Macro Has the Highest Thermic Effect?

The thermic effects of different types of nutrients are known. So, only up to 3% of energy is spent on the assimilation of fats. Slow carbohydrates require 5% to 10% of energy to be absorbed. And proteins are the most “greedy” – they spend 20-30% of the energy received from their consumption.

Nutritionists say that the main ways to speed up metabolism are regular exercise, eating healthy foods that contain protein, vitamins, and minerals, drinking enough water, minimizing stress, and healthy sleep.

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However, there are certain high thermic foods with which you can speed up your metabolism. Some foods slow down this process and should be avoided if you want to lose weight. Let’s take a closer look at both types.

What Foods Have the Highest Thermic Effect?


Eggs are a rich source of quality protein that can enhance fat burning and relieve hunger for a long time. Egg dishes are a great breakfast option to recharge you until lunchtime. Participants in a small study who ate two eggs for breakfast five days a week lost 16% more body fat than those who ate bagels and other high-carb foods for breakfast.

Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, arugula, etc.) are high in fiber, which is great for filling and reducing overall calorie intake. They are also rich in phytonutrients – substances that can reduce inflammation. You can eat vegetables raw and baked as a side dish for meat, chicken, or fish.

Whole Grains and Legumes

These food groups are high in fiber, so the body needs to work harder to digest them. Thus, it burns more calories and also speeds up the metabolism. Eating whole-grain bread, cereals, pasta, and legumes can increase your calorie burn rate by 10 percent. In addition, these foods contain many beneficial ingredients, natural trace elements, and vitamins.

Fatty Fish

Fatty fish is high in Omega-3 acids, which can reduce the production of a hormone called leptin. It makes the metabolism in our body is slower than we want. Fatty fish is an excellent source of protein, which provides a high thermic effect and is well nourishing. Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation in the body.

Hot Spices

Hot spices (chili, jalapeno, ginger, etc.) increase your heart rate and body temperature, which leads to burning more calories. Also, capsaicin, found in hot peppers, reduces appetite, and a substance called quercetin (also found in pepper) suppresses inflammation.

Citrus Fruits

Grapefruit contains a lot of water. It is low in calories, contains almost no fats and proteins, but is full of vitamins. In addition, it contains half the daily requirement for vitamin C. Grapefruit is one of the most effective foods with a high thermic effect.

Orange citrus fruits are a strong natural metabolic stimulant, thanks to a unique set of vitamins, trace elements, fruit acids, and fiber. Regular consumption of citrus fruits will improve your digestion.


Dairy foods are a powerful metabolic stimulant. Scientists believe that this effect is due to the high content of calcium in them because its deficiency is a real threat to proper metabolism. If you consume dairy products three times a day, you can speed up your metabolism by 70%.

It is worth giving preference to dairy products with low-fat content. This does not affect the metabolism, but you should not saturate your body with extra calories.

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Lean Turkey and Chicken

Turkey and chicken are especially good thermic foods, high in protein and low in fat. Protein builds muscles and helps burn calories by making your body work harder to digest it.

What Food Should You Avoid?

Fatty Meats

If you want to lose weight, you should give up fatty meat – pork, smoked meat, sausages, etc. Fat is absorbed faster than all macros and requires practically no energy for this process. Eat lean meats – chicken, beef, turkey. Before cooking, you need to cut off excess fat from them, bake, boil or steam.

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Pastry and white bread are sources of carbohydrates that the body needs for energy. However, processed flour products are considered “fast” carbohydrates, and the body needs “slow” ones that take a long time to digest and keep you full. Carbs throw glucose into the blood, and the body quickly gets hungry. Fast carbohydrates, which are prohibited for weight loss, include sweets, sugar, honey, jam, etc.

Sweet Fruits

Sweet fruits are prohibited for weight loss. They are considered healthy, and dietary, with a lot of vitamins, but they contain carbohydrates and sugar. It is better to choose sour fruits with a thermic effect – grapefruits, kiwi, tangerines, pomegranates, and berries. Exclude grapes, bananas, melons, pears, peaches, and apricots – due to the high sugar content. When choosing between fresh fruit and freshly squeezed juice, it is better to choose the first one. Fruits, especially apples, contain fiber, which is useful for digestion, and the juice has a high glycemic index.

Starchy Vegetables and Fruits

Not all fruits and vegetables are good for your diet. Sweet or starchy ones do not promote weight loss, and are prohibited due to the presence of sugar and complex carbohydrates that break down into glucose and lead to insulin spikes. Try to avoid:

  • bananas, figs, dried fruits;
  • potatoes – it is better not to use it at all, and if you want, bake it whole in a peel, but not boil or fry;

Processed Cereals

When losing weight, cereals from processed grains are prohibited. The junk food list includes:

  • pasta made from white wheat flour;
  • white rice;
  • semolina and couscous.


In total, if you want a reliable result for losing excess weight, you need to check your diet and physical activity. Knowing how much energy certain nutrients need for their assimilation, you can build a diet to increase this number. Reduce the consumption of fast carbohydrates, the thermic effect of which is low, and choose meat, eggs, seafood, fish, and similar protein dishes. The more of them, the higher the thermic effect, the more energy consumption, and, accordingly, the faster you move towards the body of your dreams.


Ana Rinkevich is a writer specializing in health, nutrition, fitness, and weight loss. Over the past 10 years, she has used various methods to deal with obesity, metabolic syndrome, and eating disorders. Proud keto follower for 6 years - lost 100 pounds and fought insulin resistance. Ana shares her experience, tips, and motivation to help people use eating habits for better health and harmony with the body.