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How to Increase Leptin Levels (From a Dietitian)

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Last updated: March 26, 2023

Leptin is a hormone that plays an important role in your overall health, including appetite and weight regulation.

If you’re overweight and feel trapped in a vicious cycle of weight gain despite a vigorous fitness routine and a calorie-restricted diet providing various nutrients, you might have become leptin-resistant.

Luckily, it’s possible to reverse leptin resistance naturally (unless you have a serious medical condition like rare congenital leptin deficiency caused by genetic mutation).

We’ve asked a qualified health care professional to provide medical advice on how to boost your leptin, and here’s what we’ve learned.

Quick Summary

  • To boost your leptin levels, avoid meals that lower leptin sensitivity, consume meals that stimulate leptin production, and embrace a healthy diet.
  • Individuals with low leptin levels can restore them by getting enough sleep, regularly working out, and avoiding refined carbs.
  • Some healthy meals that can boost your leptin levels are fruits, legumes, meat, whole grains, non-starchy vegetables, and unsweetened beverages.

How Can I Increase My Leptin Levels to Lose Weight?

Below are several strategies you can employ to increase your “satiety hormone” leptin levels naturally without synthetic leptin supplements to regulate your metabolism and appetite so that you prevent excess body weight gain, enhance weight loss, support healthy weight management and overall health [1].

1. Avoid Foods That Reduce Leptin Sensitivity

tray of donuts, plate with pizza, and a man doing the no sign

Scientific evidence suggests that certain foods may increase triglyceride levels in your blood.

Triglycerides are proven to cross the blood-brain barrier, increase inflammation, cause insulin resistance, and induce a medical condition called leptin resistance [2].

These unhealthy food choices include:

  • Foods high in added sugar (including fructose) like doughnuts, cakes, sweet pastries, cookies, chocolate, candy, some cereals, sugary soft drinks, sodas, fruit punch or juices, high-fructose corn syrup, etc.
  • Refined carbohydrates with a high Glycemic Index (GI) such as white bread, pizza, potatoes, pastries, pasta, sweets, soft drinks, and other highly processed foods with added flour or sugar
  • Foods high in artificial trans fats such as cakes, cookies, French fries, and other fried foods, some pastries, microwave popcorn, margarine, cooking vegetable and seed oils too high in omega-6, and all highly processed foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oil
  • Processed meat like bacon, pepperoni, sausages, ham, hot dogs, beef jerky, corned beef, smoked and deli meats, etc.

Alcoholic drinks, and other sweetened beverages, and similar foods high in refined grains, added fats, sugar, artificial flavors, etc.

2. Eat Foods That Stimulate Leptin Production

woman giving a thumbs with healthy food as background image

A well-balanced diet with healthy, nutritious, whole foods that may boost levels of leptin in your body, helping you improve insulin sensitivity, control hunger, prevent overeating and maintain weight loss and healthy body weight include:

  • Anti-inflammatory foods
  • High-protein meals because a protein-packed breakfast can enhance weight loss by improving leptin sensitivity [3], plus help build lean muscle mass and prevent muscle loss while losing body fat mass [4]
  • Healthy fats such as monounsaturated fats and long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids [5]
  • Plenty of soluble fiber, which may help improve your gut health and prevent obesity
  • Complex carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables, which help decrease appetite and calorie intake

Foods high in Zinc as research suggests that Zinc deficiency may result in obesity-related leptin resistance [6]

What Foods Are High in Leptin?

bowl of different beans and peas, and a stack of different berries

Since your body doesn’t absorb leptin through the intestinal tract as it’s a hormone produced in your adipose tissue, there aren’t any foods high in leptin that can raise your blood leptin levels.

Still, some foods can lead to increased or decreased sensitivity to this “starvation hormone.”

The healthy foods that may increase your leptin sensitivity, helping you suppress appetite, metabolize food more efficiently, and burn excess body fat include:

  • Non-starchy vegetables - leafy greens, kale, cauliflower, spinach, broccoli, and similar veggies raw, steamed, roasted, in salads, broth-based soups, etc.
  • Fresh fruit - berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries) and other low-sugar fruits with lower GI
  • Legumes - lentils, peas, beans, etc.
  • Whole grains - brown rice, whole-grain bread and pasta, chickpeas, quinoa, oats, and similar high-fiber cereals
  • Lean meats - poultry, fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines), seafood, grass-fed beef, or lamb
  • Healthy fat in moderate amounts - olive oil, canola oil, flaxseed oil, high-oleic sunflower oil, avocados, nuts and seeds (almonds, pumpkin), or fats naturally found in plants or animal products like eggs, dairy (yogurt and fermented cheese), cocoa, dark chocolate, etc.
  • Mushrooms
  • Unsweetened beverages - lemon water, herbal, black, or green tea

3. Make Long-Term Diet and Lifestyle Changes to Improve Leptin Resistance

woman relaxing outdoors, and two old couples running as exercise together

Although you can’t easily eliminate leptin resistance, researchers found that some long-term balanced lifestyle changes may: 

  • Contribute to a better overall life quality
  • Help you increase leptin sensitivity and metabolism
  • Positively influence or help avoid health problems like high blood pressure, heart and kidney problems, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, issues with the thyroid gland and adrenal glands hormone secretion, and many other medical conditions common in obese people.

Here are several healthy lifestyle habits beneficial in helping you achieve higher leptin levels to lose weight and keep it off.

Follow a Sustainable and Healthy Diet

a nutritionist writing on a paper while holding up an apple

Follow a leptin diet designed by a certified nutritionist to lower triglycerides and maximize the flavor and nutrition you get from food while enhancing fat loss.

Essential guidelines include eating 20-30g of protein for breakfast, having three daily meals without snacking, reducing carbs, finishing dinner at least three hours before bedtime, making at least a 12-hour break before breakfast, practicing portion control, and stop eating before you feel full.

Try various forms of intermittent fasting as such time-restricted eating can help you control leptin, contributing to better health, sustained energy balance, and faster weight loss [7].

Avoid any weight loss diet with a drastic reduction in calorie intake because it can reduce the amount of leptin your body fat cells produce.

Avoid lectins from cereal grains like wheat, barley, and rye because it binds directly with the leptin receptors in the part of the brain called the hypothalamus, preventing leptin from binding adequately, possibly causing leptin resistance as several small studies suggest [8].

Avoid overindulging and eat mindfully to reach satiety and feel more satisfied for a few hours after eating. In other words: plan, cook and peacefully enjoy your meals at home, remove tempting junk food from your environment, focus on chewing food thoroughly and slowly without getting distracted, and similar.

Allow yourself a cheat day every (other) week to trick your body into feeling overfed. Eating more food occasionally helps shut off that starvation signal by increasing leptin levels [9].

Your metabolic rate increases due to high leptin, signaling your body that there’s no need to conserve energy as it’s not starving anymore.

Enough leptin lets your body control hunger, prevent leptin resistance, get more fat tissue and calories burned to maintain a healthy weight, and prevent obesity at the same time

Engage in Moderate Physical Activity Regularly

man and woman doing lunges together in gym clothes

Besides reduced calorie intake, exercising can increase sensitivity to the leptin hormone secreted and synthesized by your fat cells [10].

Also, your body fat stores decrease, preventing more weight gain even if you have a genetic predisposition to it, plus energy expenditure and weight management become easier to regulate.

But the key is in getting enough exercise regularly [11].

“When a goal of exercise is to lose weight or improve energy, overtraining can clearly be a major barrier to achieving those goals.”

- Chris Kresser, M.S., Clinician & Educator in Functional Medicine & Ancestral Health

So, ensure you incorporate 30-60 minutes of regular exercise daily, including both moderate aerobic and strength-building exercises.

You can also perform high-intensity interval training (HIIT) once a week for a higher metabolic rate and to stimulate the release of human growth hormone (HGH), adrenaline, testosterone, adiponectin, and endorphins, which enables stored fat to be used as energy, helps fight stress, prevents overeating, diabetes, heart disease, regulates appetite, cholesterol, glucose levels, and more.

However, avoid long-term over-training as it can be counter-productive in many ways, causing high cortisol levels and oxidative stress damage, decreasing your levels of leptin and fat metabolism, compromising your immunity, increasing hunger, etc.

Get Enough Good Night’s Sleep

bearded man sleeping peacefully on his side in bed

Research shows that chronic lack of sleep and poor sleeping habits interfere with normal leptin and ghrelin levels - the two hormones that regulate appetite [12].

“Sleep is key, essential, absolutely downright necessary for our basic physiological operations – with special support for neurological performance, endocrine balance, immune system functioning, and musculoskeletal growth and repair.” Mark Sisson, The New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet

Not getting enough sleep will raise your “hunger hormone” ghrelin and decrease leptin levels, making you hungrier and increasing the risk of obesity.

After a poor night’s sleep, you’re likely to wake up feeling hungry and overeat because your leptin levels decrease by 15%, as one study found, sending your brain signals that you need to eat [13].

So, it’s vital that you develop a consistent sleep schedule and get enough quality sleep - at least 7-8 hours per night.

Ensure your bedroom is dark, quiet, without any electronics (phone, TV, or computer screen) and other distractors. Also, avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol a few hours before bedtime.


woman in a yoga pose at home

When you’re stressed out, your body responds by elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Higher levels of cortisol produced for a prolonged period because of chronic stress may lead to lower leptin levels, comfort eating, anxiety, depression, low energy levels, and similar consequences that make losing weight harder.

Emotional eating goes hand in hand with excess body weight gain due to higher food intake and bad meal choices. .

It’s because the hypothalamus of a stressed body often signals that it needs high-carb food that can provide instant energy, even if you aren’t hungry (making you overeat).

That’s why it’s important to find time to rest throughout the day and learn to manage stress.

So, sleep enough, spend time with friends and family, exercise, read, take a bath, and do whatever relaxes you to reduce stress

How Do I Restore My Leptin Levels?

It doesn’t have to be too hard to restore and improve leptin levels and encourage weight loss with the professional guidelines above:

  • Consume more fiber, protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats
  • Avoid refined carbs, artificial trans fats, and other processed food
  • Do regular moderate exercise
  • Get more sleep
  • Rest and relax

It’d be wise to consult your doctor, registered dietitian, and personal trainer before implementing any of these changes into your everyday life.

Also, remember to let us know whether you’ve experienced any fat-burning or other benefits from these tips.

We’re looking forward to your great results.

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