When eaten as part of a balanced diet, vegetables help reduce the risk of obesity and with weight loss, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Still, most Americans don’t get the recommended 2 1/2 cups of veggies per day. If you struggle with weight or appetite control, serving up more veggies of any type can help, but some veggies have especially stellar qualities for encouraging weight loss.
Lentils, split peas and other legumes are remarkably high in fiber, a component of most weight loss diets. According to a research review published in 2005 in “Nutrition,” people who eat the most dietary fiber tend to have the lowest body weights, body fat percentages and body mass indices. One cup of cooked lentils contains more than 10 grams of fiber, which is 26 and 40 percent of the Institute of Medicine’s daily recommended intake for the nutrient for men and women, respectively. Use lentils or another legume as a meat substitute in tacos, chili or casseroles.
Artichokes are another high-fiber veggie, with approximately 10.3 grams per medium globe, and only 64 calories. Artichokes can be difficult to prepare if you buy them fresh, but buying canned varieties that are packed in water and low in sodium saves time and prep work. Use artichoke pieces instead of cheese to give flavor to a Mediterranean salad or pasta dish.
Leafy greens are among the lowest-calorie varieties of veggies, usually with fewer than 10 calories per cup. That makes them an excellent meal base when you’re trying to lose weight, since you can pump up the volume of your serving sizes without increasing calories. Eat a spinach-based salad for lunch, subbing in some cooked kale or chard leaves for rice or pasta at dinner, or blend spinach into low-calorie fruit smoothies to boost the nutrient content without significantly affecting the taste.
Fresh soybeans, or edamame, aren’t as low in calories as non-starchy veggies, but they’re much higher in protein. One cup of cooked, prepared edamame has about 17 grams of protein and all essential amino acids, which isn’t true of most plant proteins. Along with fiber, protein is a key nutrient in weight loss; in fact, according to research published in 2008 in “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,” protein is more satiating than either fats or carbohydrate. That means snacking on edamame could help keep hunger pangs at bay and even decrease your total calorie intake.
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: Health and Nutrition Benefits of Vegetables
- USA Today: Americans Need to Try Harder to Eat Fruits, Vegetables
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: Nutrition: Dietary Fiber and Body Weight
- Harvard School of Public Health: Fiber Content of Foods in Common Portions
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes: Macronutrients
- Fit Sugar: How Much Fiber Is in That: Vegetables
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Edamame, Frozen, Prepared
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Protein, Weight Management and Satiety