According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 50 percent of Americans are trying to lose weight. It’s one of the most popular New Year’s Eve resolutions and for good reason. Nearly 40 percent of all adults over the age of 20 in the United States — about 93.3 million people — are currently obese.
Even more, are overweight, and both conditions are linked with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some forms of cancer.
Exercise helps, but if you want to lose the pounds, you have to focus on your diet. In a 2016 study, researchers found that exercise alone was not enough to produce weight loss, mostly because the body is so efficient. It adapts quickly to exercise, after which working out more doesn’t necessarily burn more calories.
Of course, exercise is extremely important to health. If you want to live a long and active life, exercise is the best thing you can do. However, if you want to lose weight, you must change your diet.
Cutting calories is difficult, though, as anyone will tell you. A more successful approach is often to change the kind of foods you eat.
A Big Problem in Weight Gain: Ultra-processed Foods
One of the big problems we have in our modern world is the increasing availability of tasty, processed foods. These are foods that have been changed significantly from their natural form through ultra-heat treatment, high-pressure processing, modified atmosphere packaging, smoking and with the addition of additives to preserve freshness, safety, taste, and appearance.
Processing helps remove harmful microorganisms, extend shelf life and make foods more convenient for families on the go, but it can also remove healthy nutrients while adding in unhealthy fats, salt, and sugars.
Whether processed food is healthy or not depends on the extent of the processing. Vegetables that are harvested and then immediately frozen, for example, are considered minimally processed, whereas vegetables that are harvested, then combined with processed cheeses, artificial flavors and preservatives, are considered more heavily processed.
Researchers from George Washington University recently reviewed overall trends in food and found that the rising obesity epidemic in the U.S., as well as the related chronic diseases, all correlated with a rise in ultra-processed food consumption.
Foods most associated with weight gain included:
- Potato chips
- Sugar-sweetened beverages (soda)
- Sweets and desserts
- Refined grains like white bread, white rice, and white pasta
- Red meats
- Processed meats like hot dogs, sausage and bacon
Ultra-processed foods like these were also connected to:
- Decreased satiety (fullness)
- Increased meal-eating rates like eating faster, which usually translates to eating more
- Increased inflammation
- Increased cholesterol
On the other hand, lower weight gain or even weight loss was associated with:
- Whole grains like oats, wheat, barley, amaranth, and quinoa
- Eating a high-fiber diet
- Eating low levels of meat
- Eating minimally processed foods
“Rather than solely treating the symptoms of obesity and related diseases with medication,” said co-author Leigh A. Frame, “we need to include efforts to use food as medicine.”
To that end, we found seven foods that may help you reach your weight loss goals.
7 Foods that Can Help You Lose Weight
Swap your ultra-processed foods with these healthy and weight-loss encouraging options.
1. Leafy Greens
You already know that choosing a salad for at least one of your daily meals can make a difference in your diet. Not only are these greens low in calories and high in fiber, but they can also increase the volume of your meals without increasing weight. Fill your plate with lettuce, kale, spinach or collard greens. You can eat a lot without consuming too many calories.
These foods are all super healthy for you too. They are high in vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals as well as ingredients called “thylakoids,” which can act as natural appetite suppressants, reducing feelings of hunger and increasing fullness.
One study of over 130,000 adults found that those who increased their intake of green leafy veggies lost more weight over four years than those who didn’t eat these vegetables.
2. Cruciferous Vegetables
These are high in fiber and are good sources of protein, which means they leave you feeling full and satisfied and less likely to snack. They’re low in calories too, and some studies have indicated they may help promote a spike in metabolism, so you burn more calories after eating them. Examples of these vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts.
Soups can be helpful in a weight-loss diet because of their liquid content, particularly if you eat water-based soups, you’re getting volume without a lot of calories. Cream-based soups are typically higher in calories and fat.
Studies have shown that when participants turned their food into a soup, they felt more satisfied and consumed fewer calories. In one experiment, for example, participants were divided into three groups:
- Group 1 received chicken rice casserole
- Group 2 received chicken rice casserole served with a glass of water
- Group 3 received chicken rice soup that contained the same ingredients ― type and amount ― as the casserole.
Results showed that those served the soup consumed fewer calories than did those served the other two options. Even better, the subjects didn’t compensate for those missing calories later on.
Consuming soup before a meal can also help. Several studies have found that “preloading” with soup decreased hunger, increased fullness, and reduced subsequent calorie intake. Look for options with low sodium and that contain whole food ingredients.
It’s high in protein, particularly if you eat Greek yogurt, which can keep you satisfied. It’s also a good source of calcium, which may aid in fat burning. In a 2004 study, scientists found that participants who increased daily calcium intake lost more of their body weight than those who didn’t. Fat loss was also increased by high-calcium and high-dairy diets.
Studies specifically on yogurt have also shown promising results. A 2015 review of 22 studies showed a correlation between yogurt consumption and lower body mass index (BMI), lower body weight or weight gain, smaller waist circumference and lower body fat.
Even better, yogurt can help you get rid of belly fat. In an earlier study, obese adults who ate three servings of fat-free yogurt a day as part of a reduced-calorie diet lost 22 percent more weight and 61 percent more body fat than those who cut calories. Yogurt eaters also lost 81 percent more fat in the stomach area.
If you’re craving a snack, but you’re trying to lose weight, get a handful of nuts. They’re high in fiber and protein, which makes them satisfying. Even though they’re a significant source of healthy fats, they will help you lose rather than gain weight as long as you limit your serving size.
Studies show an inverse association between consuming nuts and BMI. Adding them to a low-calorie diet was also found in one study to increase reductions in weight, BMI, fat mass and waist circumference. Researchers concluded that the almond-enriched, low-calorie diet not only improved weight loss but helped participants keep the weight off over a 24-week period.
6. Whole Grains
Whole grains are loaded with fiber and also provide a good amount of protein — both of which help keep you full. They also include other ingredients that can increase satiety and improve metabolic health.
A study of more than 74,000 women, for example, found that those who ate more whole grains weighed less than those who ate fewer of them.
A healthy diet, together with regular intake of oats, was found to result in greater reductions in weight, total triglycerides, and total blood sugar than a healthy diet without oats. Replacing white rice with brown rice, in another study, resulted in significant reductions in body weight and waist circumference.
7. Whole Eggs
This one may seem surprising, but a lot of the information we were given on eggs in the past was recently found to be wrong. Eggs are high in protein and can be very satisfying, they’re low in calories and their cholesterol content was recently found not to be associated with raising cholesterol levels in humans.
In a 2008 study, researchers compared an egg breakfast with bagel breakfast. Both meals were matched for energy density and total calories. After eight weeks, those eating the egg breakfast had a 61 percent greater reduction in BMI, a 65 percent greater weight loss, a 34 percent greater reduction in waist circumference and a 16 percent greater reduction in body fat. Meanwhile, they did not experience any increases in cholesterol.
If you are looking for foods to eat that will help you slim and heal, check out The Best Foods that Rapidly Slim & Heal in 7 Days, here!
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