Yes, you read that right, and we'll say it again: Canned foods can help you shed unwanted weight.
For one, they make eating healthy foods like lean protein, fruits and vegetables easy and quick.
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Also, people who eat canned fruits and vegetables eat more produce overall compared to those who skip canned produce, according a July 2015 study in Nutrients. And ample amounts of other research has found that people who eat more plant-based tend to weigh less, per the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Even if you're trying to eat cleaner (because, yes, eating fewer processed foods does help with weight loss, per a May 2019 study in Cell Metabolism), canned food can fit within your diet. Look for canned foods with simple, short ingredient lists and aim to choose a brand that doesn't add sugar or salt — or at least limits how much of those ingredients they add.
The 4 Best Canned Foods for Weight Loss
Canned beans — regardless of the variety — deliver hearty amounts of fiber, which helps you feel full and stay full, even on a lower-calorie diet.
But also, the simple switch of upping your daily fiber target to 30 grams could spur weight loss, per a study published February 2015 in Annals of Internal Medicine. In that particular study, people who made no other diet changes beyond aiming to eat 30 grams of fiber each day lost nearly 5 pounds in a year.
A half-cup serving of beans delivers anywhere from 15 to 25 percent of that daily fiber target, depending on the bean variety.
Look for low-sodium or no-added-salt versions so you can save on sodium and prevent water weight gain.
Chances are you're not eating as much fruit as you probably should be. Don't worry, most Americans aren't.
But upping your fruit could help with weight control. Increasing the number of daily fruit servings was associated with both weight loss and not gaining weight (e.g., long-term weight stability), according to a June 2020 study in Nutrients.
And if you happen to like pears or apples, stock up. Regularly eating those was associated with the most weight loss in adults, according to a September 2015 study in PLOS Medicine.
3. Canned Fish
Choosing canned fish is one of the simplest ways to meet your weekly fish intake recommendations for general health (that's two servings, for the record).
But also, regularly eating fish could help you whittle your waistline, per a July 2018 review in Nutrients. Researchers found that in many of the studies (but not all of them) where people ate fish most days of the week, they typically had a smaller waist circumference compared to people who ate less fish.
Also, one type of fish didn't seem to have more weight-loss benefit than another. But we'd suggest you stick to baked, grilled or poached versions of your favorite fish and seafood, as fried versions will add extra calories.
4. String Beans
Adding (fiber-rich) green beans to your daily diet may spur weight loss, particularly for those in peri-menopause.
People assigned female at birth and ages 46 to 51 years old who regularly ate green beans lost a little over a pound more (over four years) than their counterparts who didn't eat strings beans, per a meta-analysis in the June 2011 issue of the The New England Journal of Medicine. In fact, adding a single serving to their day yielded weight loss.
The 4 Worst Canned Foods for Weight Loss
1. Refried Beans
This Mexican side dish typically sneaks in a fair amount of fat, which might be added in the form of oil or lard — and that adds up calorie-wise.
There's also a significant amount of sodium in refried beans. For example, a half-cup of traditional refried beans has about 5 percent of your daily saturated fat and a quarter of your sodium, while a half-cup of low-sodium beans has no fat and less than 5 percent of your daily sodium.
When your diet is heavy on sodium, your body typically holds onto water and that leads to puffiness, bloating and — ultimately — weight gain, per the American Heart Association.
2. Boiled Peanuts
Delicious, yes, but compared to the roasted version, there is so much more sodium in these.
For instance, one-quarter cup of one brand of boiled peanuts delivers 13 percent of your daily sodium, while a quarter cup of a mainstream brand of salted peanuts has just 4 percent.
3. Sweet Corn
Upping how much sweet corn (and other starchy vegetables) you eat may encourage weight loss.
In fact, when adults added an extra serving of corn to their daily diet, they gained about 2 pounds more over a four-year period, compared to their counterparts who ate less corn, per the September 2015 study in PLOS Medicine.
4. Processed Meats
Think: canned Vienna sausages, corned beef, SPAM, etc. Regularly including these in your diet could lead to weight gain down the line.
Over a four-year period, adults who regularly ate processed meats and unprocessed red meats gained almost an extra pound (versus those who didn't eat these meats as often), according to the June 2011 meta-analysis in The New England Journal of Medicine.
The Bottom Line
Canned foods are pantry staples for a reason — they're an easy go-to for adding fruits, vegetables, beans and lean proteins to your diet.
"All forms of canned fruits, vegetables, legumes and fish can be included in any healthy eating pattern. And experts agree that eating more fruits and vegetables, whether canned, frozen or fresh, is an essential part of a healthy diet," says Toby Amidor, RD, CDN, award-winning nutrition expert and Wall Street Journal best-selling author of The Best 3-Ingredient Cookbook.
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- Target.com: "Low Sodium Kidney beans"
- Target.com: "Low Sodium Garbanzo beans"
- Target.com: "Low Sodium Black beans"
- Rosarita.com: "Refried Beans"
- PLOS Medicine: "Changes in Intake of Fruits and Vegetables and Weight Change in United States Men and Women Followed for Up to 24 Years: Analysis from Three Prospective Cohort Studies"
- Nutrients: "A Comprehensive Critical Assessment of Increased Fruit and Vegetable Intake on Weight Loss in Women"
- The New England Journal of Medicine: "Changes in diet and lifestyle and long-term weight gain in women and men"
- "Canned Fruits And Vegetables Tied To Better Nutrition For America's Kids"
- AHA: "Effects of Excess Sodium Infographic"
- Nutrients: "Frequent Canned Food Use is Positively Associated with Nutrient-Dense Food Group Consumption and Higher Nutrient Intakes in US Children and Adults"
- Eatrightpro: "Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets"
- Cell Metabolism: "Ultra-Processed Diets Cause Excess Calorie Intake and Weight Gain: An Inpatient Randomized Controlled Trial of Ad Libitum Food Intake"
- Annals of Internal Medicine: "Single-Component Versus Multicomponent Dietary Goals for the Metabolic Syndrome"
- Nutrients: "Nutrients in Fish and Possible Associations with Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors in Metabolic Syndrome"