15 Foods That Help You Peel Off the Pounds
Last Updated: May 19, 2017
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woman with a mandarin on her belly
Looking to drop some weight? The answer may lurk in your eating habits. We've done the research and found 15 foods that are delicious and nutritious and can help you peel off the pounds. Find out which citrus fruit helps you eat less, which are the best breakfast foods for slimming down, which protein will help you consume fewer calories and which snack has a portion-control system pretty much built in. Read on to see if any of your favorite foods made the list.
APPLES AND PEARS
An apple a day keeps the muffin top away! Several studies suggest that enjoying whole apples (and pears) may help you lose weight. A 2003 study published in Nutrition journal, investigated the effect of fruit intake on body weight change. Half of the group ate three apples (or pears) per day in addition to their regular meals. Half of the group ate oats three times per day in addition to their regular meals. At the end of the 12-week study the apple group had lost more weight – and average of almost three pounds each. Why is this? Apples and pears are rich in fiber and low in calories to help keep you full. But the primary fiber in pears and apples —pectin — forms a gel in the stomach, to provide more hunger-curbing power.
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ARTICHOKES AND SUNCHOKES
In addition to being tasty and filled with cancer-fighting phytochemicals, artichokes contain oligofructose and fructooligosaccharides (also known as FOS), a type of soluble fiber that’s linked to weight loss. Oligofructose concentrate was used in a 2009 study of 48 overweight adults where one group was given a low-calorie diet, and the other group received a low calorie diet, plus the Jerusalem artichoke (or sunchoke) concentrate. It was found that the individuals who received the Jerusalem artichoke concentrate lost weight and reported less hunger, in comparison to the control group who actually gained weight. The conclusion of the study was that “Oligofructose supplementation has the potential to promote weight loss and improve glucose regulation in overweight adults.” Consider adding steamed artichoke to your next lunch or dinner.
Berries are rich in ketones, which are aromatic compounds responsible for their pleasant smell. Ketones in berries can help increase the expression of adiponectin, a protein hormone that helps to burn fat for energy and stabilizes blood sugar levels. Research from the University of Pennsylvania Health System shows that adiponectin helped to spike metabolism and suppress appetite in mice. Further, it was found that in severely obese mice, adiponectin rapidly decreased blood glucose and lipids, while still burning fat. Berries also offer a large serving size for relatively few calories so they help fill you up -- not out! A cup of fresh berries contains just 50-60 calories and provides filling fiber too.
With a whopping 12.5 grams of fiber per cup and disease-fighting antioxidants, beans already have a lot going for them. But now, beans can add one more impressive feat to their resume: weight loss. An April 2013 study of 173 men and women found that a high-fiber, bean-rich diet was as effective as a low carbohydrate diet when it comes to weight loss. As an added benefit, the results also found that individuals following a bean rich diet had better total cholesterol and LDL levels, compared to those following a low-carb diet. Another study found that when paired with a low-calorie diet, individuals who consumed 4 servings of legumes per week (chickpeas, lentils, peas, or beans), achieved greater weight loss and experienced improvement in some lipid panels, when compared to those following the low-calorie diet with no legumes.
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Eggs are a high-quality protein with a relatively low calorie count (70 calories per medium egg). A June 2013 study in the European Journal of Nutrition gave 30 men varying breakfasts which included eggs on toast and cereal with milk and toast. The study found that the men who ate eggs for breakfast consumed up to 331 fewer calories throughout the day compared to when they ate the breakfast of cereal and milk with toast. Additionally, a 2005 study of 30 overweight women that compared an egg breakfast to a bagel breakfast containing the same amount of calories, it was found that the egg breakfast helped participants to feel more satisfied, and thus eat less at the next meal.
Related: 8 Best Filling Foods
FISH AND SEAFOOD
If you're having trouble dropping pounds, you may want to choose fish over beef as your meal protein. A July 2006 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that individuals who ate fish for lunch consumed 11 percent fewer calories at a subsequent dinner, when compared to those individuals who consumed the same calories and same amount of protein at lunch in the form of beef. On a calorie-matched diet intervention with cod, subjects who ate the most cod (five times per week) lost significantly more weight than those who didn’t eat any cod and consumed the same amount of calories. For the most sustainable fish choices, look for wild Alaska Pacific cod, wild Alaskan salmon and trout.
Related: 5 Dangerous Fish and 3 Safer Seafood Options
GRAPEFRUIT AND 100 PERCENT GRAPEFRUIT JUICE
You’ve probably heard of the grapefruit diet, right? It dates back to the 1930s, and essentially called for eating half a grapefruit or 4 ounces of 100 percent grapefruit juice before each meal while following a protein-rich, low-carb meal plan. The ability of grapefruit to help banish your belly may have renewed interest, thanks in part to a study published in February 2011 in Nutrition & Metabolism that provided 85 obese men and women who had either a serving of grapefruit or a glass of grapefruit juice, or water 20 minutes before their meals. The participants reduced their daily calorie consumption by up to 29 percent. In the 12-week trial, subjects lost an average of 15 pounds and significantly reduced their belly fat. The authors suggest that consuming water, grapefruit or grapefruit juice prior to meals helps individuals stick with a lower-calorie eating plan because it helps to fill you up.
Oatmeal makes for a more satisfying breakfast. In a study published in 1995 in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, oatmeal was found to have the highest satiety -- an objective score to determine the ability of a specific food to keep hunger at bay -- when compared against other breakfasts, including packaged cold cereal. What’s more, April 2013 research from Louisiana State University sponsored by PepsiCo on behalf of its Quaker Oats brand found that a breakfast of instant oatmeal curbed hunger and appetite better than a leading ready-to-eat cold boxed cereal. The study concluded that the processing that occurs when oats are used to make boxed cold cereal decreases its beneficial effect of helping us to feel fuller longer. When individuals ate the instant oatmeal breakfast, they ate significantly fewer calories when provided with an all-you-can-eat lunch, compared to when they ate a cold oat-based boxed cereal for breakfast.
Related: Sweet and Savory New Oatmeal and Egg Recipes
New 2013 research from the German Research Center for Food Chemistry shows that simply smelling olive oil can help curb calorie intake. Researchers compared the effects of four different fats (lard, butter, olive oil and canola) on feelings of fullness by enriching yogurt with one of the four fats. The group of people who consumed the yogurt enriched with olive oil experienced the greatest increases in blood levels of serotonin, a hormone associated with satiety. They also reduced their normal caloric intake most days to compensate for the extra daily yogurt enriched with olive oil, which prevented them from gaining weight. Two aromatic compounds in olive oil are thought to be responsible for this weight loss effect, and one of these compounds, hexanal, is said to resemble the scent of freshly cut grass.
Related: Is the Secret to Olive Oil in its Scent?
PISTACHIOS IN THE SHELL
Two preliminary behavioral nutrition studies from Eastern Illinois University tested the theory that you may be able fool yourself that you’re full by watching what you eat -- literally. In one experiment, students ate 41 percent fewer calories when they were served in-shell pistachios versus pre-shelled pistachios, yet each group reported being equally satisfied. In the second experiment, empty pistachio shells may have helped curb calories by acting as a “visual cue” of how many pistachios those subjects had eaten. Student participants who left pistachio shells behind on their desk reduced their calorie consumption by 18 percent compared to participants whose discarded shells were routinely removed throughout the day. You can enjoy 30 in-shell pistachios for about 100 calories. Pistachios contain protein and fiber, two nutrients that may help you feel fuller.
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According to 1999 research published in the British Journal of Nutrition, adding red pepper to meals leads people to consume less at their next meal, compared to those who go pepper-free. Capsaicin, the component that gives red chili peppers their heat, can help to reduce hunger while boosting your metabolism. And in 2011 Purdue University researchers reported that subjects who didn't regularly consume spicy foods experienced the most appetite-suppressing effects when they added the spice. But taking a capsule won’t work to get the metabolism-boosting effects -- you actually need to experience the burn in your mouth to get the benefits. "That burn in your mouth is responsible for the beneficial effects," according to Richard Mattes, Ph.D., the lead author of the study. "The burn contributes to a rise in body temperature, energy expenditure and appetite control."
Eating rabbit food to lose weight? That’s a no-brainer, right? But what you might not know is why salad is such an effective weight loss tool. First, salad has a high water-and-fiber combo to help keep you full on fewer calories. The technical term for this is “low energy density.” A cup of salad greens contains fewer than 20 calories -- making lettuce one of the lowest-calorie options of all foods. Studies show that having a salad as an appetizer helps reduce the overall calories consumed for the entire meal. Bottom line? Research shows for calorie-control, it’s best to eat your meals in order of lowest calorie to highest calorie, so make salad your first choice for your first course.
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SOUP (…AS LONG AS IT’S BROTH-BASED!)
If you’re not in the mood for a salad, but still want to start your meal off with a low-calorie appetizer, broth-based soups are a great alternative. Like salads, broth-based soups are low energy density (meaning low-cal, high-fiber), leading to a reduction in overall calories consumed, and aiding in weight loss. In fact, studies show that having a bowl of soup 15 minutes prior to a meal can significantly reduce your intake of that meal by nearly 20 percent. Whether it’s a chunky vegetable soup, chunky-pureed vegetable soup or pureed vegetable soup, all forms of broth-based soup were found to be equally effective when it comes to moderating caloric intake.
Related: RECIPE: Gingered Carrot and Leek Soup
Not only is tea (black, green or oolong) calorie-free, it’s also rich in unique antioxidants called flavonoids, which are terrific for heart health. Research also suggests that tea flavonoids can help elevate metabolic rate, increase fat oxidation and improve insulin sensitivity. Using the National Health and Nutrition Examination surveys of 2003-2006, researchers identified a correlation between hot tea consumption and lower mean waist circumference and lower BMI among adult tea drinkers versus non-tea drinkers. In another review of clinical trials, 24-hour energy expenditure increased by 4.7 percent (102 calories) with tea flavonoid and caffeine combination and in another study, after three months of consumption of a green tea extract by moderately obese patients, body weight decreased by 4.6 percent and waist circumference decreased by 4.48 percent.
PLAIN GREEK YOGURT
Rich, thick and creamy plain Greek yogurt has one of the best protein-to-calorie ratios of any food. A cup of nonfat, plain Greek yogurt contains around 23 grams of protein -- about the same as four eggs -- and contains just 130 calories. In addition, as long as it’s plain non-flavored yogurt, there are no added sugars. Tufts University researchers found that women who consumed three or more servings of yogurt per week had smaller waist circumferences and were less likely to gain weight, compared to women who ate less than one serving of yogurt per week. Since protein is known to enhance satiety more than fiber, carbohydrates or fat, diets that contain more protein and fewer carbohydrates may be easier for dieters to stick with because their hunger and cravings are curbed.
Related: Is Greek Yogurt Really More Nutritious Than Regular Yogurt?
Close up picture of fit woman holding her belly
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Were any of these waistline-friendly foods a surprise to you? Have you experienced weight loss success by incorporating any of these foods to your diet? Which ones are your go-to favorites? Did we leave your favorite diet-friendly food off the list? Leave a comment below and let us know.
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