For the most part, vegetables have natural qualities and nutrients that facilitate weight loss. Some weight-loss plans even classify them as a “free” food, implying that you really can eat as many veggies as you like and still drop pounds. While that isn’t true in every case, the health benefits of eating a lot of vegetables are significant enough to mitigate most concerns about weight.
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Veggies and Weight
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, increased vegetable consumption is associated with a lower risk of obesity and overweight. Specifically, modifying your diet to replace some higher-calorie foods like refined grains, meats and processed products with vegetables can improve weight management. Most vegetables are low-energy-dense foods, meaning they have relatively few calories and high fiber, vitamin and mineral counts per serving.
According to licensed nutritionist Monica Reinagel, the ratio of fiber and water to sugar and calories in most vegetables will naturally prevent overeating them and consequently gaining weight. Loyola University registered dietitian Brooke Schantz agrees, noting that people are not likely to have problems overeating nonstarchy vegetables unless they dress them up with extra calories and fat from butter, oil, cream or cheese.
There is an exception to the rule: starchy veggies, like potatoes, corn, peas, beans and legumes. According to Reinagel, those foods should be classified as “starches” in your diet rather than “vegetables” and treated accordingly, with moderate serving sizes. Registered dietitian and clinical nutritionist Joy Bauer points out that limiting portions of starchy vegetables is especially important when you’re trying to lose weight since they contain higher calorie counts per serving than nonstarchy veggies. One study, published in 2011 in “The New England Journal of Medicine,” found that potatoes and potato chips were the foods most strongly associated with weight gain in both men and women over a four-year period.
While most vegetables can help you lose weight, it’s not healthy to eat only vegetables on a weight-loss diet. Vegetables tend to be high in carbohydrates but low in healthy fats and proteins, both of which are essential nutrients that your body requires for optimal everyday functioning. Eating lots of veggies every day can also cause digestive discomfort due to their high fiber content, which could be relieved by following a more balanced diet. To meet all of your nutritional needs, eat a healthy balance of low-calorie fruits, veggies, protein foods and whole grains every day.
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: Health and Nutrition Benefits of Vegetables
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Can Eating Fruits and Vegetables Help People Manage Their Weight?
- Nutrition Over Easy: Can You Eat Too Many Veggies?
- Loyola University: Is There Such a Thing as Eating Too Many Fruits and Vegetables?
- JoyBauer.com: Starchy Vegetables - How Food Affects Health
- New England Journal of Medicine: Changes in Diet and Lifestyle and Long-Term Weight Gain in Women and Men