What Should You Eat to Boost Your Metabolism and Live Longer?

Dr. William Li, Harvard researcher and an expert on metabolism, tells us what’s on his menu, and how we can cook healthier meals, too.
What Should You Eat to Boost Your Metabolism and Live Longer?
Dr. William Li. (Roger Pelissier)
Annie Wu

Dr. William Li is here to tell you that you can eat well on the path to living longer. The Harvard-trained doctor and researcher’s new book, “Eat to Beat Your Diet,” reveals how eating metabolism-boosting foods can help us maintain the same level of metabolism even as we age (and lose excess body fat while at it). We asked Dr. Li what’s on his menu, and for his recommendations on preparing healthier meals.

Dr. William Li’s latest book, “Eat to Beat Your Diet” (Balance, March 2023).
Dr. William Li’s latest book, “Eat to Beat Your Diet” (Balance, March 2023).

American Essence: Could you give us a breakdown of what a typical breakfast/lunch/dinner consists of for you?

Dr. Li: Breakfast, I usually skip (though I’ll have a small cup of espresso, and sometimes a small piece of fruit).

I extend my overnight (intermittent) fasting period from after dinner the night before to lunch time the next day, which is usually between noon and 1 p.m.

I usually eat dinner between 7 to 8 p.m. So that translates into 16 hours of intermittent fasting.

Lunch is a small portion of leftovers from the night before, which is often roasted or sautéed vegetables, reheated in a pan with extra virgin olive oil, and I might add some boneless chicken thigh or a tin of sardines. I might add a little double-concentrated tomato paste to the pan in order to up the umami.

Dinner varies every night. I design meals around fresh produce I find at the grocery store or market, and usually sauté or roast them with a little extra virgin olive oil. I enjoy legumes like white beans or edamame for healthy protein and fiber.  I’ll use different herbs—like thyme, oregano, or parsley—and spices are added depending on the recipe. I am an omnivore and love cooking, but my non-plant proteins are minimal and could be chicken (thighs), fish, shrimp, or shellfish. I tend to cook Mediterranean or Asian-style depending on my mood. All the ingredients I use contain metabolism-activating bioactives.

AE: What is some metabolism-boosting fall produce that we can incorporate into our diet?

Dr. Li: I suggest the following fall seasonal foods:

Apples—whole or baked

Mushrooms—sautéed with extra virgin olive oil and chopped garlic and parsley

Red onions—pickled with apple cider vinegar

White bean soup with thyme

AE: What are some common foods that are typically billed as healthy but actually aren’t good for our metabolism? What are the alternatives to these foods?

Dr. Li: Not so good: Flavored yogurt with a layer of fruit jelly containing added sugar

A better alternative: Plain Greek yogurt with fresh seasonal fruit and honey

Not so good: Coffee with flavoring and sweeteners, especially the drive-through kind

Better alternative: Straight-up black coffee, preferably made from organically grown beans for more bioactives

AE: Are there certain cooking methods that are better for the body’s metabolism? Any tips for readers looking to make the most out of their favorite foods?

Dr. Li: As a general rule, sautéeing in a healthy oil like extra virgin olive oil, or baking or stewing, are the healthiest ways to cook. Steaming is always healthy, and a number of Asian recipes use this technique. If you are going to grill, consider using a fresh fruit marinade to protect against some of the damaging chemicals that a grill can produce. Avoid deep frying.

This article was originally published in American Essence magazine.
Annie Wu joined the full-time staff at the Epoch Times in July 2014. That year, she won a first-place award from the New York Press Association for best spot news coverage. She is a graduate of Barnard College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.