Of the many varying weight-loss diets and philosophies, most, if not all, encourage eating more plants -- and for good reason. Plants, such as fruits, vegetables, grains and seeds, are some of the most nutrient-dense foods, providing valuable amounts of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and, in many cases, healthy fats and protein. While no foods trigger weight loss on their own, certain foods and nutrients within a balanced diet can make trimming away excess pounds easier.
Soybeans and Soy Products
Protein boosts appetite control, but you don't need to rely on meat or dairy to reap this benefit. In a study published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in June 2014, 20 obese adults consumed a vegetarian or non-vegetarian high-protein diet containing 30 percent protein from either soy or meat, as well as 30 percent fat and 40 percent carbohydrate for two weeks. Because participants in both groups showed similar appetite control, the researchers concluded that the diets can enhance weight control equally. Soybeans are one of the highest-protein plant foods, providing 29 grams of protein per cooked cup. Have the beans whole and boiled, steamed as edamame or incorporated into other foods, such as soups and chilis. Tofu, soybean curd and soy-based milk and yogurt are also protein-rich.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables supply water and fiber, which are calorie-free and promote a sense of fullness. As a result, they allow you to fill up on more bulk while reaping fewer calories. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine recommends aiming for at least four servings of vegetables daily within a plant-based diet for healthy weight loss. One serving is equal to 1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw. If you don't load your veggies with rich sauces, you can eat them freely. Fruit provides a lower-calorie dessert alternative to sugary sweets. One cup of unsweetened apple sauce provides about 105 calories, or nearly 75 percent less than the 411 in a slice of fruit pie.
Hearty Whole Grains
Grains promote appetite and weight control, but only if you eat them in their whole form. The process used to make refined grains like white flour and instant rice strips the original plant of vitamins, minerals and fiber. The B vitamins that whole grains contain play an important role in metabolism, and the fiber allows you to feel more full from fewer calories. To slim down, replace refined starches, such as sugary desserts, potato chips and white bread, with 100 percent whole-grain alternatives. Nutritious examples include quinoa, oatmeal, wild rice, brown rice and air-popped popcorn.
Nuts and Seeds
Although nuts and seeds are dense in calories, they provide valuable amounts of fiber and healthy fats, which promote satiation. In a study published in the "Journal of the American College of Nutrition" in 2010, overweight adults consumed a weight-loss-friendly diet containing the same number of calories, including a 500-calorie afternoon snack of salted pretzels or salted pistachios for 12 weeks. At the study's end, both groups lost similar amounts of weight, but participants who ate pistachios had significantly lowered triglycerides. In other words, replacing low-nutrient processed snacks with moderate portions of nuts in your diet could improve your wellness while you slim down.
- Today's Dietitian: Fruitful Endeavor: Adopting a Plant-Based Diet May Offer a Bounty of Benefits
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Appetite Control and Biomarkers of Satiety with Vegetarian (Soy) and Meat-Based High-Protein Diets for Weight Loss in Obese Men: a Randomized Crossover Trial
- Vegetarian Resource Group: Protein in the Vegan Diet
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Calorie Content of Selected Foods in Common Measure
- American Heart Association: Whole Grains and Fiber
- Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine: A Guide to Healthy Weight Loss: Three Weeks on a Low-Fat Vegan Diet Gets You on the Road to Your Healthy Weight Goal