Whether you're trying to drop a few pounds or you're pursuing a significant weight-loss goal, what you eat can be more important than how much food you consume. Discover 11 foods that can help you shed pounds, plus watch out for four foods that can complicate your weight-loss goals.
Almonds might be small, but these nuts contain many of the nutrients your body needs. In addition to healthy monounsaturated fat, protein, and fiber, almonds are also a great source of Vitamin E, magnesium, and some B vitamins.
Although you'll find almonds available salted, roasted, or candied, the best way to enjoy them is raw and unsalted. Stick to about 15 almonds for an energy-dense afternoon snack or replace an entire meal with up to 50 nuts.
Fats might have had their fair share of bad press in the nutrition world, but healthy fats have always been an important part of a balanced diet. The monounsaturated fatty acids, MUFAs, in avocados can actually help to tame your hunger, and the fiber and protein will help you feel full.
Avocados are smart additions to a vegetable-packed meal, since eating avocados with fresh produce can help you absorb as much as 15 times the amount of nutrients. Since avocados can be high in fat, limit yourself to half an avocado if you're sticking to a low-fat diet.
Some of the most accessible fruits in any supermarket, bananas are also one of the top options for weight loss. An average, almost-ripe banana has as much as 12.5 grams of resistant starch, a type of soluble fiber. While your body can't digest the resistant starch, this substance has a host of other benefits.
Resistant starch helps your body regulate blood sugar levels, aids digestion, and decreases your appetite. Bananas have a moderate number of calories, however, so be sure to enjoy this fruit in your diet at a reasonable frequency.
From black beans and chickpeas to lentils, beans come in many shapes, sizes, and flavors. Some of the most nutrient-dense foods in this category, black beans offer high levels of protein and fiber without the saturated fat found in most other protein options.
Lentils and chickpeas are high in fiber and have plenty of healthy fat and protein. Beans and lentils with resistant starch can also increase metabolism while burning fat.
5. Citrus Fruits
Not all types of fruit aid in weight loss, but some citrus fruits offer vitamins and nutrients without a large amount of sugar. Oranges, for example, have an average of 60 calories. Oranges also have high amounts of fiber that help keep you full for hours.
Grapefruits have even more weight loss benefits. These fruits can help lower insulin, a key component in fat storage. Grapefruits also contain plenty of protein and nearly 90 percent water to help you feel full without adding any unwanted calories to your diet.
6. Dark Chocolate
Eating sugary sweets or milk chocolate might not help you meet your weight-loss goals, but having a bite or two of dark chocolate occasionally can do wonders for them.
Since it's packed with healthy MUFAs, dark chocolate helps keep your metabolism high to burn even more calories and fat. Indulging in a small amount of dark chocolate can also help you feel full and eat less, as well as put the brakes on cravings for salty, sugary, or fatty snacks.
Ideal for breakfast, eggs offer essentially the perfect package of healthy fats and protein. Studies have shown that starting your day with eggs can help you lose twice as much weight as starting your day with bready products, such as bagels. Eating eggs can also make you feel full for a longer amount of time.
While some dieters opt to eat egg whites only, these small but mighty foods are best eaten whole. Since the yolk holds nearly all an egg's nutrients, eating the entire egg is important, especially if you plan to cut calories elsewhere in your diet.
8. Green Tea
When you want to see a big difference on the scale, green tea might be your best bet. Studies have shown that consuming green tea actually benefits the body in several ways. Not only does green tea increase fat oxidation rates by 25 percent, but the tea also helps reduce body fat and improves physical performance.
While green tea naturally contains caffeine, studies have shown that decaffeinated green tea extract can offer these benefits without potential side effects from caffeine consumption.
9. Leafy Greens
Whether you prefer collard greens, Swiss chard, dinosaur kale, or spinach, leafy greens are a critical part of any weight-loss diet. These vegetables support a low calorie and carb count, but they're packed with vitamins, nutrients, and fiber.
You can load any salad, stir fry, or omelet with leafy greens to create a meal that's more satisfying and healthy without increasing the calorie count. Some greens have large amounts of minerals, such as calcium, which can give even more power to your weight-loss goals.
10. Lean Proteins
Protein is an essential part of a healthy diet. With so many unhealthy and high-fat protein sources out there, however, choosing a lean option is key.
As one of the healthiest and smartest lean protein choices, salmon is rich in MUFAs, which can directly contribute to weight loss. Salmon also contains healthy oils and omega-3 fatty acids, which can help with managing inflammation. Along with most other types of fish and seafood, salmon also has high levels of iodine, which helps the thyroid regulate metabolism.
11. Whole Grains
If you've considered eliminating whole grains in pursuit of a low-carb diet, think again. Refined grains tend to be high in sugar and empty calories, but whole grains provide much-needed protein while boosting your metabolism.
Oats, for instance, are high in fiber and resistant starch, and they can boost your metabolism to burn extra fat. One of the highest protein grains, quinoa makes portion control easy and prevents overindulging in other meal components. Unlike white rice, brown rice provides extra energy and a metabolism boost without increasing the overall calorie count in your diet.
Foods That Can Compromise Weight Loss
While several carefully chosen foods can contribute to weight loss, a few key ingredients can actually do the opposite. If you're watching your weight, trying to avoid bloating, or keeping an eye on other health issues, be sure to avoid the following foods:
1. Frozen Meals
Some frozen meals contain plenty of vegetables and lean proteins, but even those that have a seemingly healthy balance of both also have their fair share of bad ingredients. In fact, frozen meals are known for having high levels of salt.
Since most people already consume about twice the recommended amount of salt each day, incorporating a few frozen meals into your weekly plan is a convenience you're better off without. Skip the frozen meals, and you'll resist gaining water weight and avoid increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke.
2. Fruit Juices
For many weight watchers, sugar-packed, high-calorie foods like soft drinks and sweets are completely off-limits. It's easy to forget, however, that some foods and drinks that seem benign are filled with as many empty calories as a can of regular soda.
Fruit juice is one of the worst offenders in this category, especially since many juices include much less than 100 percent fruit. If you're considering treating yourself to a glass of cranberry or orange juice, make sure your drink doesn't have any added sugar or corn syrup. As an alternative to drinking juice, consider indulging in a piece of fresh fruit instead.
3. Low-Fat Items
On the surface, low-fat ingredients seem like the perfect additions to the foods you eat, especially if you're watching your weight. Keep in mind, however, that most low-fat foods are packed with salt, sugar, and other fillers to make up for the missing fat.
Low-fat salad dressing, for instance, can have twice the amount of sugar as your favorite sweet treat, while low-fat cottage cheese can layer on the extra salt. Instead of springing for low-fat replacements for your favorite foods, consider sticking with smaller portions of the originals.
4. High-Fiber Snacks
Like low-fat items, high-fiber snacks sound healthy in theory. While they're packed with the substance that your body needs to feel full, high-fiber snacks can actually be much more trouble than they're worth.
To promote healthy digestion and feel full throughout the day, however, it's important to consume a small amount of fiber at every meal. Taking in your daily requirement of fiber all at once can cause an upset stomach and digestive distress. Instead of wasting calories on foods with added fiber, be sure to get a healthy amount of fiber from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains throughout the day.
From protein to produce, several foods can help you nourish your body, feel full, and increase your metabolism. To make your weight-loss efforts as effective as possible, make a point of adding fresh, whole ingredients to your diet and eliminating processed filler foods.