Eat Smart

Spicy Foods May Boost Metabolism

by Brianna Quaglia, blogger and Social Media Chair

We all know that one person who can eat whatever they want and not gain a single pound.  Why? They have a speedy metabolism.  They most likely are athletic or work out often, or have some sort of freakishly awesome genetic trait, which raises the metabolic rate.

However, there may be hope for us average-paced digesters!  According to the Mayo Clinic, eating spicy foods helps speed up your metabolism as well.  They claim that eating just a tablespoon of chopped red or green chili pepper can increase your metabolic rate by 23 percent.  While the effects are only temporary, eating spicy foods often may allow you to reap the benefits long-term.  They suggest using red-pepper flakes to spice up pastas or stews.  Here are two easy ways to spice up your culinary life:

Spicy Tofu with Green Vegetables adapted from

Serves 4 with roughly 265 calories per serving

Ingredients: 1/2 teaspoon chili pepper flakes/red chili flakes, 2 teaspoons soy sauce, 2 teaspoons sesame oil (or sesame seeds, peanuts, or peanut oil), 8 ounces tofu, 1/4 cup vegetable oil, 1 pinch paprika, 1 close garlic (chopped), 1 1/2 cup mushrooms (sliced), 2 green onions (sliced), 2 celery stalks (sliced), 1 small zucchini (sliced), 2 cups napa cabbage or broccoli (depending on your preference), whole grain rice, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sesame oil (seeds/peanuts/peanut oil), 1/2 teaspoon chili pepper flakes, 1 tablespoon cornstarch


  1. In a small bowl, combine the first three ingredients to make the marinade.
  2. Add the tofu to the bowl and let sit about 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, combine the sauce ingredients (the last four ingredients) in another mixing bowl.
  4. Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok and then fry the tofu until golden brown.
  5. Remove the tofu once cooked and place on paper towels.  Pat dry.
  6. Pour the excess oil out of the skillet.  Stir fry the vegetables.
  7. When the vegetables are cooked (but not overcooked!) pour the sauce over them and add the tofu.
  8. Serve over the whole grain rice and enjoy.

Chili Shrimp adapted from (made healthier by cutting calories)

Serves 4, original recipe contains 567 calories (before adaptation)

Ingredients: 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 pound large shelled and deveined shrimp, 2 cloves of garlic (finely chopped), 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 2 tablespoons chili paste (or flakes/powder), 1 cup low-fat coconut milk (or use nonfat cow’s milk and add in a 1/2 cup of coconut flakes/1 cup low-fat half and half), 1 cup bean sprouts, 1 scallion (thinly sliced), 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, 4 cups cooked whole grain rice


  1. Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat.  Add the garlic, shrimp, salt and some extra red chili flakes and cook until shrimp is pink/thoroughly cooked, about 5 min.
  2. Remove the shrimp and set aside.
  3. Add the chili paste/powder/flakes to the pan along with the coconut milk/milk/half and half, and bring sauce to a quick boil.
  4. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until desired thickness is acquired.
  5. Then add the rice, bean sprouts, scallion, lime juice, and shrimp until heated through (3-4 minutes).
  6. Serve and devour!

Hint: To give this dish an extra kick and even more South-Asian flair, add a pinch of curry powder to the sauce during the third step.

So remember, to satisfy your spicy food fix: keep some chili flakes nearby in a shaker to top all kinds of delicious dishes.  And next time you see that friend with the freakishly-fast-metabolism, laugh a little to yourself because you know the secret to boosting your metabolic rate, too!