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10 Foods to Trim Your Waistline and Boost Your Health

author image Julie Upton, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D.
Julie Upton is co-founder of Appetite for Health and is a certified sports dietitian who has been writing since 1994. She is a nationally recognized journalist who has contributed to "The New York Times," "Shape" and "Men's Health." Upton is also the coauthor of "The Real Skinny: Appetite for Health's 101 Fat Habits & Slim Solutions." She holds a Master of Science in nutrition communications.

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10 Foods to Trim Your Waistline and Boost Your Health
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These 10 hardest-working foods will help you fight fat and improve your health. They help keep your weight in check, protect your ticker, temper inflammation, cut your risk for cancer, strengthen bones and boost your immunity. Read on to find out if any of these healing foods are missing from your diet.

1. Beets
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1 Beets

There are more than 3,000 published research papers on beets documenting the potential health properties of this fall root veggie. Beets’ purple hue is an indicator that they’re nutrient powerhouses. The color comes from betanins, known to have strong antioxidant properties. Beets are the latest “performance enhancers” because of their nitrates, which help to increase nitric oxide levels in the blood. In turn, nitric oxide widens blood vessels to deliver more oxygen to working muscles. Several studies with runners, swimmers and other endurance athletes have shown performance-enhancing effects of beetroot supplementation. And if that’s not enough, Wake Forest Researchers reported that older adults receiving beetroot juice had increased blood flow to areas of the brain associated with cognitive function. A cup of cooked beets is just 75 calories and provides about 3.5 grams of fiber.

Read more: 14 Foods to Help You Get Lean

2. Avocados
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2 Avocados

You might know that more than 75 percent of the fat in avocados comes from beneficial mono- and polyunsaturated fats, making the fruit a heart-healthy choice, but avocados’ health benefits extend well beyond your ticker. Results published in Nutrition Journal showed that avocado consumers had better diets, lower body weights and smaller waistlines compared with those who didn’t report eating avocados. And another study conducted at The Ohio State University showed that pairing avocados with tomato sauce or carrots more than doubles the absorption of beneficial carotenoids. A serving of avocados (one-fifth of a medium-size fruit) provides 50 calories and nearly 20 different vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, including lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids known to help prevent cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.

Read more: Check Out This Slimmed Down Guacamole Recipe

3. Pumpkin
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3 Pumpkin

This is an autumn favorite that is not only great for your eye health due to its beneficial carotenoids, it may also help reduce your risk for certain types of cancer, including skin, lung and oral cancers. A study published in Nutrition and Cancer found that pumpkin and broccoli intake was inversely associated with risk for lung cancer, while many other studies link beta-carotene (the pigment that gives pumpkin it’s orangey hue) to reduced risk for cancer at multiple sites. According to the USDA Nutrient Database, a cup of cooked pumpkin (mashed) provides about 50 calories, two grams of protein and three grams of fiber. Pumpkin also provides more than 20 vitamins, minerals, fiber and beneficial antioxidants. It contains vitamin C, iron, zinc and potassium and provides more than 100 percent of daily vitamin A needs.

Read more: 12 Fall and Winter Superfoods

4. Beans
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4 Beans

When it comes to defending yourself against chronic diseases, beans are hard to beat. They’re considered so beneficial that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends at least one-and-a-half cups of beans each week. Rich in protein (seven to eight grams per half-cup serving), B vitamins, iron, magnesium, potassium and much more, beans are considered one of the most nutrient-rich foods you can eat. They also contain resistant starch to help boost beneficial bacteria in your GI tract. Beans are also recommended to reduce the risk for diabetes, heart disease, certain types of cancer and obesity. Many health benefits associated with beans stem from their fill-you-up fiber and resistant starch that help keep your appetite, cravings and body weight in check. In addition to being a diet ally, beans also have a low glycemic index, so they may help reduce the risk for Type 2 diabetes.

Read more: 14 Foods to Help You Get Lean

5. Cauliflower
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5 Cauliflower

As a close cousin to broccoli, we often overlook the health benefits of cauliflower. Brassica veggies -- including broccoli, cauliflower, kale, arugula and Brussels sprouts -- are known to help reduce the risk of several types of cancer. In fact, the National Cancer Institute reports that glucosinates in these veggies have been shown to help reduce the risk of several types of cancer in animal studies and some human clinical trials. Compounds present in cauliflower have been shown to help protect DNA, induce cell death of cancerous cells and inhibit tumor growth. What’s more, the antioxidants packed into every bite of the veggie can help temper inflammation in your body that’s linked to a whole host of chronic diseases. Cauliflower is low in calories -- just 27 per cup -- and is rich in vitamins A, C, fiber and B vitamins.

Read more: 10 Ways to Add the Health Benefits of Cauliflower to Your Diet

6. Apples
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6 Apples

There are plenty of reasons why apples are considered the icon of health. Rich in both soluble fiber and antioxidants, apples are great for watching your waistline and improving your heart’s health. In fact, a study published in British Medical Journal found that flavonoid intake -- which predominately came from apples (and onions) -- reduces the risk of dying from heart disease by 19 percent among men and 43 percent among women. Apples can also help you breathe easier, as research shows they can help protect the lungs against the oxidative damage associated with asthma, bronchitis and emphysema.

Read more: 12 Fall and Winter Superfoods

7. Citrus (Grapefruit, Oranges, Lemons and Limes)
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7 Citrus (Grapefruit, Oranges, Lemons and Limes)

Oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, clementines, lemons, limes -- there are so many juicy ways to enjoy delicious citrus. That’s great news because eating more citrus may help whittle your middle -- especially if you enjoy it before your meals. Citrus fruits have low energy density -- or they provide a relatively small number of calories for the volume of a serving -- and low-energy-dense foods, especially before a meal, can help you eat fewer calories to promote weight loss. Citrus is nutrient-rich and calorie-poor, providing filling fiber, vitamin C, folic acid, potassium and much more. Citrus can improve blood cholesterol and blood pressure and significantly reduce your risk for stroke, and it may even help protect against certain types of cancer. In a recent review of 15 studies about diet and bladder cancer, citrus fruit was associated with a 15 to 23 percent reduction in risk.

Read more: 14 Foods to Help You Get Lean

8. Leafy Greens (Collards, Kale, Lettuces and Spinach)
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8 Leafy Greens (Collards, Kale, Lettuces and Spinach)

Kale, collards, lettuces, watercress and other leafy greens are rich in vitamins, minerals and disease-preventing phytonutrients, including beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. They’re also among the lowest-calorie foods you can eat: Watercress has just four calories per cup, while spinach and most lettuces weigh in at less than 10 calories a cup. Dark-green vegetables are considered so important for disease prevention that the USDA recommends eating about a cup every day of dark-green, red or orange veggies -- but national food surveys show we’re only eating about half of what’s recommended. Due to their high potassium content, leafy greens help manage blood pressure levels, and the lutein and zeaxanthin counts help protect your peepers from age-related macular degeneration. Some choices, like kale and collard greens, contain calcium too.

Read more: 23 Healthy Salads Nutrition Experts Eat

9. Raspberries
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9 Raspberries

While all berries offer health benefits, raspberries are one of the highest-fiber picks you can find. A cup of fresh raspberries has 65 calories and eight grams of fiber, while a cup of frozen raspberries has about 75 calories and a whopping nine grams of fiber. Their high fiber counts will keep you satisfied longer and help control cravings. They’re also an excellent source of vitamin C and manganese. Phytonutrients in red raspberries -- including anthocyanins, procyanidins, flavonols and ellagic acid -- reduce inflammation, oxidative stress, and protect against free-radical-induced cell damage, all of which are implicated in chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, Type 2 diabetes and declines in cognitive function.

Read more: Healthy Stronger Snacks Under 200 Calories

10. Sweet Potatoes
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10 Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes may have calorie counts and traditional nutrients similar to their white potato cousins, but their bright-orange flesh means they pack in a lot of antioxidants in the form of beneficial beta-carotene. A medium sweet potato has about 115 calories and is a good source of vitamin C, fiber and potassium, but it also has more than a day’s worth of vitamin A (as beta-carotene). Sweet potatoes improve your skin’s health by increasing its ability to protect against the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. In addition, the beta-carotene and other carotenoids present in the orange flesh have known anticancer properties. In a study of more than 7,000 women, researchers found that those with the highest blood levels of carotenoids had significantly reduced risk for breast cancer.

Read more: 12 Fall and Winter Superfoods

What Do YOU Think?
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What Do YOU Think?

Do you eat these double-duty foods regularly? Are any of these foods missing from your diet? Were any of their health benefits a surprise to you? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

Read more: 10 Surprising Flat-Belly Foods

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