If you’re trying to lose weight, you may be tempted to cut calories, but doing so can jeopardize your health. In fact, research shows that a diet of less than 1,000 calories per day generally fails to provide the balanced nutrition your body requires, and it can lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, which can lead to serious health problems.
Furthermore, eating far fewer calories than you require causes your body to use its own muscle and organ tissues for fuel. Furthermore, the lower your lean tissue mass, the slower your metabolic rate, which is not ideal for weight loss.
Instead of restricting your caloric intake, focus on feeding your body healthier foods, according to Jamie Feit, a registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of Jamie Feit Nutrition in White Plains, New York. According to experts, the following are the best foods to support a healthy and sustainable weight loss plan.
The Role Food Plays in Weight Loss
According to Matthew Olesiak, M.D., chief medical director of Bellevue, Washington-based health technology company SANESolution, weight control is primarily a hormonal response to certain foods. “Hormones send signals to the brain, influencing our cravings, hunger, and body weight,” he explains. Here’s how different foods influence your hunger hormones:
Protein quickly fills you up and keeps you full for a long time. According to Dr. Olesiak, it also reduces post-meal secretions of the hunger hormone ghrelin, which reduces feelings of hunger.
“Protein also requires more energy to digest and increases lean muscle mass, both of which aid in metabolism,” he explains.
According to Dr. Olesiak, dietary fiber slows digestion and ensures a gradual rise in blood glucose levels, which causes a slower release of the fat-storage hormone insulin.
“Various satiety hormones (like ghrelin) are released as fiber moves through the digestive system, sending signals to the brain to reduce hunger and regulate food intake,” he explains.
That means you’ll feel fuller for longer, which can help prevent overeating and lower your overall caloric intake, according to Kara Landau, a registered dietitian, gut health expert, and founder of Brooklyn snack brand Uplift Food. “Prebiotic soluble fiber also feeds the beneficial bacteria that live in your large intestine, improving gut health,” she adds.
According to Dr. Olesiak, ultra-processed foods are low in nutrients and fiber, so they digest quickly. “As a result,” he says, “eating them (think potato chips, candy bars, and toaster pastries) causes a rapid rise in blood glucose levels, triggering a significant release of insulin.” Because insulin must quickly clear glucose from your bloodstream, he explains, the majority of those calories are sent to your fat cells.
“Ideally, the next time you need energy, you’ll draw on these stored calories.” “However, eating a steady supply of ultra-processed foods means you’ll always be making deposits to your fat cells, never withdrawals,” explains Dr. Olesiak.
Losing Weight Safely and Sustainably
Calorie restriction isn’t necessary; in fact, it’s not recommended, according to Dr. Olesiak. Rather, eating whole, unprocessed, high-quality foods is the safest and most sustainable way to lose weight. “These foods naturally suppress your appetite, boost your metabolism, and promote fat burning,” he says.
Feit recommends avoiding as many processed foods, fried foods, and refined sugars as possible, as well as paying attention to portion size. “A great strategy is to use the plate method,” she says, “where your plate is half fruits and vegetables, a quarter lean protein, and a quarter fiber-filled carbohydrates.”
According to Landau, eating a variety of clean, unprocessed foods can also improve your gut health. “Not only is good gut health linked to a stronger insulin response (which decreases fat stored around the midsection), but it can also help decrease inflammation and improve immunity, both of which will have you feeling better physically and mentally so you can stay on track to achieve your weight loss goals,” she adds.
17 Weight Loss-Friendly Foods that You Can Try
The foods listed below can help you lose weight and improve your overall health in a variety of ways.
1. Lean Protein
According to Feit, lean protein sources such as chicken, turkey, and grass-fed lean beef help keep you full, reduce cravings, and stabilize blood sugar. Plant-based proteins, such as legumes, beans, and lentils, provide the same benefits and are high in fiber, which promotes satiety.
With the exception of Vitamin C, eggs contain almost every essential vitamin as well as minerals such as phosphorus, calcium, and potassium. Eggs, in addition to being a complete protein source, are also adaptable to different tastes, according to Feit.
According to Feit, vegetables of all kinds can help with weight loss. Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage, are high in fiber and vitamins and can help with digestive issues. Meanwhile, dark green leafy vegetables are high in protein and high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. And crunchy vegetables like celery and jicama are excellent low-calorie snack options.
Avocados are vastly underappreciated, according to Feit. The fruit is high in fiber and a good source of healthy fat, making it an excellent food for weight loss. However, because avocado is a fat source, it is calorically dense, so keep portion size in mind.
According to Feit, apples are high in fiber and antioxidants. The fruit is also anti-inflammatory and high in phytochemicals and vitamin C.
Berries are high in fiber, antioxidants, and vitamin C, all of which your body requires to function properly, according to Feit.
7. Nuts and Seeds
According to Feit, the health benefits of nuts and seeds differ. All nuts are high in fiber, protein, and healthy fat, and they aid in weight loss. Meanwhile, seeds are high in minerals and healthy fat. Watch your portions as well. A quarter cup of nuts and seeds equals one serving.
Salmon is high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, according to Rima Kleiner, registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of Greensboro, North Carolina-based wellness coaching company Smart Mouth Nutrition. According to research, omega-3 fatty acids may help people who are overweight or obese feel fuller. According to Kleiner, fish in general may help you feel satisfied and fuller for longer than other proteins such as eggs and beef.
According to Kleiner, shrimp increases feelings of satiety. Eating shrimp appears to suppress appetite by increasing the production of cholecystokinin, or CCK, a hormone that tells your stomach you’re full. In addition, shrimp and other shellfish contain zinc and selenium, both of which are essential minerals for immune health and increased energy.
10. Lupini Beans
According to Landau, lupini beans are high in prebiotic fiber, which feeds the beneficial bacteria in your gut. “When your gut bacteria is well fed, the number and variety of bacteria present increases. “A diverse and well-populated microbiome improves gut health, which makes your cells more responsive to insulin, assisting in the removal of fat stored around the waist,” she says.
11. Unripe Bananas
According to Landau, unripe bananas are one of the world’s richest sources of prebiotic-resistant starch. Prebiotic-resistant starch makes your cells more insulin-responsive, which aids in the prevention of belly fat storage. It can keep you satisfied for hours when combined with protein (for example, in a smoothie with protein powder and/or nut butter).
12. Raw Oats
According to Landau, raw oats are high in resistant starch, which is a type of starch that resists digestion and is beneficial to weight loss. Resistant starch releases byproducts during digestion that can make your cells more responsive to insulin, assisting in the reduction of stubborn fat around your midsection.
According to Dr. Olesiak, sauerkraut, or fermented cabbage, is both a prebiotic and a probiotic food, which means it both adds beneficial bacteria to your gastrointestinal tract and feeds the good bacteria that are already present. According to him, sauerkraut is also high in fiber, which helps control appetite and regulate blood glucose levels.
According to Landau, legumes improve satiety and gut health. Because of their high fiber content, they keep you feeling fuller for longer, preventing overeating. They also contain nutrients that nourish your gut bacteria.
15. Chia Seeds
According to Dr. Olesiak, chia seeds can help with weight loss in two ways. For starters, they’re high in fiber, which can help you feel full and prevent overeating. Second, because they expand in water, if you eat them unsoaked, they will grow in your stomach, taking up more space and acting as a natural appetite suppressant.
Water is not a food, but it is equally important for healthy weight loss. “All of our body processes require water to function—metabolism is one of these processes,” explains Feit, so stay hydrated.
17. Fat Burning Pudding
Another impressive fat burner that is also quite tasty is the fat burning pudding. This particular food may be trickier to find than the other ones on this list, but this fat burner has been proven to help you lose weight and burn more fat.