9 Superfoods For Weight Loss And Maintenance
Can certain foods help you to lose weight and also help you keep it off? You can’t expect any food to miraculously “melt” fat the way the cabbage soup diet was supposed to. But these foods can help you get to and maintain a healthy weight, as part of a healthy lifestyle, by either encouraging you to eat less or helping you to use up more calories. A few of them may also help you lose body fat.
Two basic types of foods are touted by experts as weight maintenance superfoods: vegetables and fruits. This is because they fill you up without pumping you full of calories. In a whole two cups of steamed broccoli there are only 87 calories. From two cups of sliced strawberries, you get 99 calories. As for the denser fruits and vegetables, two cups of steamed carrots are still only 140 calories, and two cups of apple slices only give you 130.
Fruits and vegetables may be weight loss superfoods, but fiber is the weight loss supernutrient. In fact, the two-cup examples above all range from between 5 and 9 grams in terms of fiber content.
Another supernutrient would be protein. More and more scientific evidence supports the idea that protein can help to control appetite. But scientists are not in agreement about whether we need more than 0.4 grams of protein per pound of our body weight.
Eating an adequate amount of protein-packed foods that are relatively low in calories is useful in helping you to feel full while you are trying to lose weight. Protein can also raise your metabolism a bit, but if you get more calories than you need, even if you’re getting them from protein, you’re going to gain weight instead of losing it.
Before we talk about the superfoods themselves, let’s be sure we have this whole thing straight. Losing weight is accomplished by using up more calories than you’re taking in. These foods give you an edge by helping you to do that, when you substitute them for the high-calorie foods you might eat instead.
The 9 Weight Loss and Weight Maintenance Superfoods
1. Green Tea
Volunteers in a study drank a bottle of tea that was fortified with green tea extract every day for three months. A control group drank a bottle of plain oolong tea. Their diets were similar otherwise, but the green tea group lost more body fat. It may be phytochemicals called catechins in green tea which cause the body to burn more calories and decrease fat.
2. Soup (if it’s broth- or tomato-based)
Liquids with calories in them seem less filling to people than solid food – except in the case of soup. In a Purdue University study, participants had 300 calorie servings of soup at the beginning of lunch and then were allowed to eat as much other food as they wanted. On days when they had soup, they ate fewer total calories than on days they didn’t have soup. Having a low-calorie soup before a meal appears to make you feel fuller and less hungry, causing you to eat less.
3. Low-Cal Green Salads
Another good way to start a meal, that makes you feel fuller and eat less, is with a low-calorie salad. The key is “low-calorie,” as opposed to salads made with a lot of cheese, croutons, high-fat dressing, and other high-calorie toppings. In a study, people who ate a small low-cal salad before a meal cut total calories by 7%. If they ate a larger low-cal salad, they cut calories even further, by 12%. But participants who ate a higher-calorie salad increased their calories by 8-17%.
Some studies have pointed to dairy products as giving an added weight-loss advantage in a generally low-calorie diet. Other studies showed no strong effect, so some scientists are skeptical. In one study, obese adults ate a diet reduced by 500 calories from what they ordinarily ate. One group ate three, 6-ounce fat-free yogurt servings each day. The other group reduced the calories without an emphasis on calcium-containing foods. The yogurt eaters lost 22% more weight and 61% more body fat, including 81% more stomach fat, than the other group. More needs to be learned about the mechanism responsible for this loss, but six ounces of plain, low-fat yogurt does contain 9 grams of hunger-fighting protein and 311 milligrams of calcium.
Beans can help you feel full for a longer time, staving off between-meal hunger. They also pack a lot of fiber and a lot of protein with a minimal amount of calories. A half cup of pinto beans contains 8 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein, but only 110 calories.
Water is a weight-maintenance superfood if you drink it in place of beverages full of calories, like soda or sweetened coffee. When you drink calorie-laden beverages, you don’t compensate for it by eating less food.
For a healthy lifestyle, it is necessary to drink water a number of times a day. Your water intake can include unsweetened flavored mineral water, water with lime or lemon, or cucumber, unsweetened tea, or even unsweetened decaf coffee in moderation.
7. Light Diet Shakes
Diet shakes are not to be relied on as the answer, but some research (which was funded by Slim Fast Foods) shows they can be helpful. Women who lost weight on a plan including meal-replacement beverages and kept drinking one diet shake a day in place of one meal maintained the lost weight a year later. This one-shake-per-day strategy may work for people who have trouble changing their eating habits otherwise. But look for diet shakes with more fiber and less sugar.
8. Whole-Grain Cereal That’s High in Fiber
Whole grains boost both fiber and nutrition content in food. A lot of studies about whole grains and weight loss involved breakfast cereals and were funded by cereal companies. Some studies show that whole grain consumption over years of time curbs weight gain. One study found that using a portion-controlled serving of cereal, skim milk, and fruit as a meal replacement promoted weight loss. High-fiber whole-grain cereal can be a healthy breakfast or snack.
People in a study at Scripps Clinic in San Diego who ate a grapefruit at every meal for 12 weeks lost an average of 3.6 pounds, with some participants losing 10 pounds. A control group lost only about half a pound. The grapefruit eaters also had lower levels of blood sugar and insulin.
There is no scientific evidence that the grapefruit’s enzymes actually burn fat. But it is still a low-calorie food, with one pink or red grapefruit containing 3.5 grams of fiber and 74 calories. Remember that grapefruit can interact with some medicines, so consult your pharmacist.