JDP Top Trainer Matt Williams explores the 19 best foods for weight loss.
Whether you’re trying to lose a significant amount of weight or the last 10 pounds, dropping fat is incredibly difficult. Low-calorie diets are unreasonable and you’re hungry all the time. That’s why as trainers we urge our clients to eat quality, nutrient-dense foods—the benefits of which equal to or outweigh their caloric impact.
For one, fibre-packed foods are a great way to fill up and control hunger, mange blood glucose levels, as well as promoting gastrointestinal health. Fruits and veggies are rich in fibre and are also predominately water, which makes them heavy (your stomach feels weight) and keeps you fuller longer, while being low in calories.
Finally, take plant-based foods that are naturally high in protein and you’ll get a hunger-curbing one-two punch that’ll ignite your metabolic fire, keep you satisfied, and torch calories while you chew. So, add these foods to your “diet” if you’re looking to drop some pounds. The best part? It won’t feel like a diet at all.
Quinoa is a unique whole grain because it’s a complete protein (about 7g per serving) and high in fibre (6g). Dietary fibre actually binds to fat and cholesterol, helping your body absorb less of the two. The ancient grain is also rich in eight essential amino acids, and vitamins and minerals like magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, iron and B12—both of which are crucial to energy levels. Quinoa is great eaten alone, mixed with raw veggies as a cold salad, or warm like a pilaf. It’s a high-quality carb that scores low on the glycemic index, so you won’t experience a sharp rise and fall of blood sugar.
Mushrooms meaty flavour and texture make them great additions to ground meat dishes such as hamburgers, meatloaf, meatballs, or the like. Because they hold up to cooking, mushrooms can even serve as beef substitutes for vegans and vegetarians. Research has even found subbing out meat with mushrooms for one meal a day can prompt significant weight loss because you’re consuming less fat and fewer calories. They add flavour and moisture as well as fibre—stretching recipes to make them more economic, lower in calories, and more nutritious.
Blackberries, blueberries, strawberries (and more varieties) are an ideal weight loss food because they’re relatively low in calories, pack a nutrient-dense punch, and add tons of flavour to otherwise lacklustre meals. Loaded with fibre and antioxidants these little fruits are great on cereal, yogurt, smoothies, salads, or alone as a snack. Fruit gets a bad rap when it comes to weight loss because of its natural sugar, but this actually helps relieve the monotony of a diet program. Berries satisfy your sugar cravings without destroying your progress because they’re filling, and can effectively curb your overall calorie intake by slowing digestion and the absorption of fructose.
Greens like spinach are low in calories so you can eat cups of them, allowing you to fill up on a variety of nutrients (vitamins A, K, C, E, copper, manganese, iron, calcium, and many others) and phytonutrients, while consuming few calories. Spinach is an incredibly versatile vegetable, but it’s also a powerful weight loss food. A Lund University in Sweden study found a spinach extract containing green leaf membranes called thylakoids boost weight loss by 43 percent and are able to curb food cravings by up to 95 percent. The extract bolsters your body’s production of the satiety hormone, which curbs hunger, and promotes healthier eating habits.
5. Dark chocolate
The health benefits are seemingly endless. Cocoa contains flavonoids and polyphenols, nutrients that have potential health benefits. For one, frequent dark chocolate consumption (twice a week) is linked to lower BMI, according to a study published in the Journal Internal Medicine. A small square of chocolate can satisfy a chocolate craving while keeping calories in check, which is what the study concluded, too. People who ate modest amounts of dark chocolate had better mood and activity levels, ate more fruits and vegetables, and ate less saturated fat.
Peppers, particularly green peppers, have large amounts of vitamin C, which is actually a potent fat releaser. Research has found people with inadequate levels of vitamin C hold on to fat more readily, so munching on foods rich in the stuff can trigger your body into a weight loss mode. The colours, crunch, and options from sweet to earthy to spicy allow you to personalise peppers to your flavour preferences. Plus, vitamin C helps your body absorb iron, so cooking peppers with beef or spinach can make for a powerful combination. What’s more, a study published in the journal PLOS ONE found hot chilli peppers trigger a nerve in your stomach that creates the sensation of fullness and tells your body its had enough food—amazing when you’re trying to lose weight!
Apples typically come in at about 100 calories, making them the perfect snack or pre-workout staple. The portable fruit makes eating on the go simple and nutritious since there are so many varieties of apples available year-round, and they pair well with entrees like lean pork loin or salads. Apples are also delicious baked, making for a tasty, comfort food-type of dessert. Compounds called polyphenols in apples are also linked with promoting a healthier immune system, reducing your risk for stroke, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease.
If a bag of carrots isn’t a fridge staple for you, you should change that. These root vegetables are hearty, so have them ready to eat as a snack to curb hunger pre-meal instead of opening a bag of chips or other high-calorie snacks. Carrots can also serve as a fat substitute by thickening soups and stews. You’ll benefit from the high degree of beta-carotene and fibre content.
Beans and legumes are seriously underrated in the superfood world. Kidney and black beans are loaded with fibre while being high in protein, iron, and zinc. Beans are a perfect diet staple if you’re hoping to lose weight, because they keep you energised and full longer. Plus, beans are a complex carb, so it takes your body a while to convert them into energy. Research backs it up: One study found black beans help improve insulin resistance, a protective effect against obesity.
Edamame is a complete protein that has all the amino acids of meat. The only difference is edamame also contains healthy fat. You’re helping your waistline twofold since one cup of edamame yields about 17g of protein, 8g of fibre, and 189 calories, so you’ll stave off hunger without hurting your weight loss progress.
Nuts are an incredible snack—in moderation! Walnuts, almonds, and other varieties are high in heart-healthy fat and fibre, which helps control your hunger. They’re also very caloric, so portion is important. There is an association with nut intake and weight maintenance. Brazil nuts are a top- notch choice. They’re one of the greatest sources of selenium, which keeps your metabolism, immunity, and reproductive health chugging along. Walnuts are another great option; with about 13g of polyunsaturated fats, these nuts can reduce fat storage and improve how your body metabolises insulin.
Loading more kale on your plate helps your stomach fill up on little calories (just 33 cals/100g serving) and fat, and tons of potassium, vitamin K, and iron. Because kale is fibre-rich, it can also aid your weight loss goals by regulating your digestive system.
13. Swiss chard
Swiss chard is loaded with anthocyanin and fibre, magnesium, iron, potassium, and vitamins A, C, E, and K. The taste is similar to beets and spinach, so don’t dismiss it at the farmer’s market or grocery store. Just one cup has 35 calories, making it an incredibly low-calorie yet filling veg you can add to salads, soups, stews, and more. Swiss chard is also a natural fat-burning food; it contains a good amount of vitamin C, which can actually promote weight loss by stimulating the synthesis of carnitine—a compound linked to improved fat burning.
14. Whole Eggs
Once feared for being high in cholesterol, whole eggs have been making a comeback. New studies show that they don’t adversely affect blood cholesterol and don’t cause heart attacks. What’s more… they are among the best foods you can eat if you need to lose weight. They’re high in protein, healthy fats, and can make you feel full with a very low amount of calories. One study of 30 overweight women showed that eating eggs for breakfast, instead of bagels, increased satiety and made them eat less for the next 36 hours. Another 8 week study found that eggs for breakfast increased weight loss on a calorie restricted diet compared to bagels. Eggs are also incredibly nutrient dense and can help you get all the nutrients you need on a calorie restricted diet. Almost all the nutrients are found in the yolks.
Oily fish like salmon is incredibly healthy. It is also very satisfying, keeping you full for many hours with relatively few calories. Salmon is loaded with high quality protein, healthy fats and also contains all sorts of important nutrients. Fish, and seafood in general, supplies a significant amount of iodine. This nutrient is necessary for proper function of the thyroid, which is important to keep the metabolism running optimally. Studies show that a huge number of people in the world aren’t getting all the iodine they need. Salmon is also loaded with Omega- 3 fatty acids which have been shown to help reduce inflammation, which is known to play a major role in obesity and metabolic disease. Mackerel, trout, sardines, herring and other types of oily fish are also excellent.
16. Lean Beef and Chicken Breast
Meat has been unfairly demonised. It has been blamed for all sorts of health problems, despite no good evidence to back it up. Although processed meat is unhealthy, studies show that unprocessed red meat does NOT raise the risk of heart disease or diabetes.
According to two big review studies, red meat has only a very weak correlation with cancer in men, and no correlation at all in women. The truth is… meat is a weight loss friendly food, because it’s high in protein. Protein is the most fulfilling nutrient, by far, and eating a high protein diet can make you burn up to 80 to 100 more calories per day. Studies have shown that increasing your protein intake to 25-30% of calories can cut cravings by 60%, reduce desire for late-night snacking by half, and cause weight loss of almost a pound per week… just by adding protein to the diet. If you’re on a low-carb diet, then feel free to eat fatty meats. But if you’re on a moderate- to high carbohydrate diet, then choosing lean meats may be more appropriate.
Tuna is another low-calorie, high protein food. It is lean fish… so there isn’t much fat in it.
Tuna is popular among bodybuilders and fitness models who are on a cut, because it’s a great way to keep protein high, with total calories and fat low. If you’re trying to emphasise protein intake, then make sure to choose tuna canned in water, but not oil.
18. Cottage Cheese
Dairy products tend to be high in protein. One of the best ones is cottage cheese… calorie for calorie, it is mostly just protein with very little carbohydrate and fat. Eating plenty of cottage cheese is a great way to boost your protein intake. It is also very satiating, making you feel full with a relatively low amount of calories. Dairy products are also high in calcium, which has been shown to aid in the fat burning process.
19. Chili Pepper
Eating chilli peppers may be useful on a weight loss diet. They contain a substance called capsaicin, which has been shown to help reduce appetite and increase fat burning in some studies. This substance is even sold in supplement form and is a common ingredient in many commercial weight loss supplements. One study showed that eating 1 gram of red chilli pepper reduced appetite and increased fat burning in people who didn’t regularly eat peppers.
However, there was no effect in people who were accustomed to eating spicy food, indicating that some sort of tolerance can build up.