It's the New Year and many of us are singularly focused on Objective Number One: Get Fit. We're all aware that eating low-calorie, nutritious meals is the key to an effective slimdown. But did you know there are certain weight-loss powerhouse foods that can actually help your body get trim? Nutritional reseacher, Joel Fuhrman, MD., shares five inexpensive and accessible foods that will help you shed the buldge.
1. Leafy Greens
Dr. Fuhrman's Take: I like to say, "The more you eat green, the more you get lean!" Leafy greens have the highest ratio of nutrients to calories of any food. When you eat a huge leafy salad, your body is taking in less than 100 calories per pound. Leafy greens and raw salad vegetables are high in fiber and water, so they take up a lot of room in the stomach. You are consuming a small amount of calories in a large amount of food. This will leave less room for more calorie-dense foods, and you will naturally consume fewer calories, without feeling hungry or deprived.
Preparation: Begin lunch and dinner with a big bowl of high-fiber, nutrient-rich leafy greens. Start with leafy greens like mixed lettuces, romaine, arugula or shredded cabbage. Then add onions or scallions, shredded carrots or beets, cucumbers, tomatoes and any other vegetables you enjoy. The right dressing is crucial: a great dressing made with healthful, whole food fats (nuts and seeds or avocado) is the secret to eating and enjoying salad every day.
2. Healthful Fats from Nuts and Seeds
Dr. Fuhrman's Take: Eating "low-fat" is a misguided weight loss strategy. Fats have important nutritional roles in the body and whole food fats like nuts and seeds actually help with weight loss. Fat slows the emptying of the stomach and makes meals satiating. Studies have also suggested that many of the calories in nuts are inaccessible to the digestive system, meaning that we can’t absorb all of them. In contrast, all of the calories in oils are accessible to the digestive system, and they are absorbed more quickly, so they don’t have the same satiating effects that nuts have.
Preparation: Don’t use nuts as a snack! When you snack on nuts and seeds it is very easy to overeat. Instead, use raw nuts and seeds (or raw nut butters) to make salad dressings or to top your salad. Eating fat with your salad helps your body absorb fat-soluble nutrients from the greens. Try mixing some almonds with a garlicky tomato sauce and a dark vinegar—simply delicious.
Dr. Fuhrman's Take: Beans, lentils and other legumes are high-nutrient, high-fiber, and low-calorie, so you can eat them in large quantities without worrying about weight gain. Beans are unique in that they have a very low glycemic load and their carbohydrate enters the bloodstream slowly, which is beneficial for weight loss. Also, the high fiber and the fact that they're slowly digested limits the amount of calories we can absorb from beans and makes bean-containing meals very satiating. Beans at lunch help to prevent afternoon cravings.
How to prepare: Over the weekend, make a big pot of vegetable and bean soup or chili, so you can take a bowl with you to work for the next few days. When you are short on time, lunch can be salad greens topped with a can (preferably BPA-free) of no salt added beans, a small handful of nuts or seeds and flavored vinegar.
Dr. Fuhrman's Take: Mushrooms are high in fiber and nutrients and low in calories, but their chewy, meaty texture makes them a hearty stand-in for meat in burgers, stews and other dishes. Mushrooms also benefit the immune system and contain breast cancer-preventive phytochemicals. Interestingly, mushrooms also interfere with fat storage on the body and promote weight loss.
Preparation: Only eat mushrooms cooked, because they contain a mild toxin that dissipates with heat. Water sauté with onions, garlic and spices or use them to add substance to soups and stews. Try a recipe for mushroom bean burgers, and you won’t miss the meat.
Dr. Fuhrman's Take: Berries are the lowest-sugar, lowest-calorie fruits, plus they are rich in flavonoid antioxidants. Phytochemicals in berries also inhibit certain digestive enzymes, which limits calorie absorption from meals. Berries have anti-cancer effects and are on the list of foods (along with cruciferous vegetables and some mushrooms) that contain compounds called angiogenesis inhibitors, which may help to inhibit fat storage in the body.
Preparation: No preparation necessary! At the end of a meal, satisfy your sweet tooth with fresh berries. You can also blend up frozen berries and other fruit into a delicious sorbet. For breakfast, top steel cut oats with walnuts and fresh berries or combine frozen berries with leafy greens and chia or flax seeds for a healthy green smoothie.