If you’re trying to lose weight, the right food choices could mean all the difference. Though there are endless diets out there, there are also some superfoods that you should always try to integrate into your diet if you’re on a weight loss journey.
The best foods for weight loss are often high in protein. High protein foods make you feel fuller for longer. One study found that eating a high-protein breakfast increases a person’s satiety (the absence of hunger). In fact, people who started their day with a boost of protein, compared with low-protein food or no breakfast at all, had greater appetite control and reduced food intake at lunch.
Many nutrient-dense foods also contain fiber, which can help prevent constipation, stabilize blood sugar, lower cholesterol, and help you feel full for longer.
Best foods for weight loss
Now we know that the best foods for weight loss are nutrient-dense foods high in protein and fiber. So, which foods pack the most punch? Continue reading to learn about 12 of the best foods for weight loss.
According to one study, starting the day with eggs for breakfast can help you feel more full and consume fewer calories throughout the day. Another study examining breakfast choices among biological men found that those who ate eggs for breakfast required smaller lunches and felt fuller than those who had carbohydrate-rich foods like cereal or croissants.
With just 78 calories in one large hard-boiled egg, they’re a naturally low-calorie food and a good source of protein and nutrients such as vitamin D and choline. Whether boiled, baked, poached, or scrambled, eggs are an extremely versatile way to get your protein. When preparing, just be careful not to add too much fat from oil or butter which can deter your weight loss goals.
Oatmeal is another highly regarded morning meal. Known as a “stick to your ribs” kind of food, oats are high in fiber which helps you feel full for longer, making them a popular choice for those with weight loss goals.
Oats contain large amounts of a certain type of fiber called beta-glucan, which has been shown to regulate hunger hormones and decrease subsequent meal intake.
The exact nutrition facts of your meal depend on how you prepare it, but in general, dietitians say that one cup of oatmeal has around 5 grams of fiber, one serving of whole grains, and 6 grams of protein—all for just 150 calories.
Touted by well-known names like Heidi Klum and President Obama as a go-to snack, almonds are just one type of nut that is linked to weight loss and cardiovascular health. Walnuts, pistachios, cashews, and Brazil nuts are all similarly packed with protein, fiber, and healthy fats.
Data compiled from three long-term studies found that increasing daily consumption of nuts is linked to less long-term weight gain and a lower risk of obesity in adults. In fact, swapping half of a serving per day of less healthy foods with nuts may help ward off gradual long-term weight gain.
That said, nuts are a high-calorie food and should be consumed in moderation. For someone on a 2,000-calorie diet, no more than 5 ounces, or just over a half-cup, of nuts and seeds are recommended per week. Two tablespoons of peanut butter or other nut spreads are equal to about 2 ounces of protein foods (but opt for natural nut butters low in added sugar.
4. Beans and legumes
Although they’re sometimes used interchangeably, beans and legumes are not the same. Legumes are plants that bear fruit, and beans are the seed of those plants. All beans are considered legumes, but legumes aren’t always beans.
Some popular beans (and legumes) are kidney beans, pinto beans, white beans, black beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), and lentils. They’re affordable, full of protein and dietary fiber, and some research even suggests that making legumes a regular part of your diet can help support healthy weight management or weight loss. A meta-analysis of 21 trials showed that diets that included beans, lentils, and peas yielded modest weight loss even when participants weren’t restricting calories.
Legumes are also a staple of the Mediterranean diet, which some experts recommend as one of the healthiest dietary patterns in the world.
5. Cruciferous veggies
When you hear cruciferous vegetables, you probably think of broccoli and cauliflower, but the family is quite diverse. Cabbage, bok choy, arugula, and brussels sprouts are included in this group of fiber-filled vegetables. As an added health bonus, cruciferous vegetables are rich in folic acid, potassium, and other B vitamins and minerals.
Berries may be tiny, but they’re mighty in their health benefits. Sweet favorites like strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries are high in fiber, which slows digestion and keeps you feeling full. Opt for berries as a nutritious alternative to candy or add them to sparkling water when you crave sugary soda or juice.
7. Leafy greens
When nutritionists suggest eating more leafy greens, they usually refer to kale, spinach, collards, and swiss chards. Leafy greens are typically low in calories but high in fiber. For example, one eight calorie serving of kale contains vitamins A, C, and K, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and disease-fighting phytonutrients.
8. Whole grains
Generally speaking, whole grains, as opposed to refined white grains, are the healthier choice when it comes to bread, cereal, pasta, and rice.
Refined grains are processed to remove the bran and germ, which is said to improve the texture and shelf life. The downside is that the process removes dietary fiber, iron, and many B vitamins important to digestion and satiety. If you’re mindful of your carbs, choose wisely and go with whole grains.
There’s a reason why avocados still haven’t fallen out of trend. Avocados are not a low-fat food, but the health benefits are numerous. In addition to their reputation as a healthy staple and their photogenic nature on foodie Instagram posts, they’re full of monounsaturated fats that have been shown to reduce hunger. They also contain unsaturated fats that prevent the storage of belly fat, as well as fiber and antioxidants.
10. Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a fermented form of apple cider that offers a variety of household and culinary benefits, including aiding in digestion.
One small study found that among people who followed a 12-week restricted-calorie diet with and without apple cider vinegar, the apple cider vinegar group lost more weight. Several studies in mice and rats have suggested that ACV can improve metabolism and burn fat, but more research in humans is needed to draw conclusive evidence.
The tart flavor may be an acquired taste, but adding one or two tablespoons of ACV to a salad dressing or sauce might make incorporating it into your routine easier. Since vinegar is highly acidic, it’s important that you don’t drink it straight. You may have heard suggestions to take a shot of ACV straight, but you need to dilute it first to reduce the risk of nausea or burning your throat.
11. Full-fat Greek yogurt
Foods like Greek yogurt, which are rich in probiotics, are said to help people to look and feel their best. Probiotics foster “good” gut bacteria that can help boost immunity, regulate gut function, and banish bloat. It’s also high in protein.
12. Chia seeds
If you’re looking for a simple addition to your daily routine that comes with great benefits, then you might want to consider a superfood called chia seeds. Although there’s little research linking them to weight loss, chia seeds are packed with fiber, protein, and calcium. Just one serving of chia seeds, approximately two tablespoons, is said to contain about 10 grams of fiber.
4 Foods to avoid
Now we have enough nutrient-rich foods on our list to fill a shopping cart. However, weight loss isn’t just about what you eat–what you don’t eat may be just as important. Some foods may stand in the way of your weight loss goals. It’s unnecessary to eliminate these foods entirely, but if you’re trying to manage your weight, eat them in moderation.
1. Fried foods
Fried foods that are battered and cooked in oil tend to be high in calories and trans fats. One study of more than 33,000 people found that fried food intake was linked to general and central obesity.
2. Added sugars
The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that a person on a 2,000-calorie diet consume no more than 12 teaspoons of sugar per day. Unfortunately, the same report found that the average American consumes around 17 teaspoons of added sugar per day.
If weight loss is a goal, be mindful not to surpass this recommendation. A large portion of Americans’ sugar consumption comes from beverages, so consider swapping sugary drinks like soda, juice, sweetened teas, and flavored coffees for water or seltzer.
3. Red meats
Due to its high fat, salt, and calorie content, red meat has been associated with weight gain and other negative health effects due to its high fat, salt, and calorie content. If red meat is one of your go-to sources of protein, consider replacing high-fat red meats with lean proteins like fish, eggs, turkey, chicken, beans, and legumes.
4. Processed foods
Processed foods are packaged items like potato chips, cookies, deli meats, and prepared meals like soup and TV dinners. They often have a long list of unrecognizable ingredients like added sugar, salt, flavorings, emulsifiers, and high-fructose corn syrup. When possible, prepare your own food from whole ingredients. However, everyone needs a quick meal or snack now and then–just opt for options containing whole ingredients and less sugar and sodium.
Eating to support your weight loss goals doesn’t have to mean boring, bland foods. With so many diverse, nutrient-dense whole foods to choose from, you can develop a healthy and delicious meal plan to support your weight loss goals. Speak to your healthcare provider about more treatment options to help you reach a healthy weight.
If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
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Felix Gussone is a physician, health journalist and a Manager, Medical Content & Education at Ro.