Forget counting calories or fat grams, or filling your pantry with “diet” foods or drinks. If you want to control your weight, try eating these foods.
It seems counterintuitive, but a recent study from Loma Linda University in California found that the people who ate the most tree nuts were up to 46 percent less likely to be obese than those who ate the fewest nuts.
“They are high in protein, fiber and unsaturated fat — all of which digest slowly and help keep you feeling full longer,” says Alissa Rumsey, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “In comparison to refined carbohydrate-based snacks, nuts do not cause a blood-sugar spike and subsequent insulin release, so your body is less likely to store the calories as fat.”
To avoid excess calories, limit your intake to one ounce, Rumsey advises — about 20 to 24 almonds, 14 walnut halves, 28 peanuts, 14 pistachios or 16 cashews. Almonds, walnuts, pecans and macadamia nuts are particularly linked to weight benefits.
Say no to potato chips and other fattening snacks, and yes to popcorn. Air-popped popcorn only has 30 calories per cup, and with a whopping 5 grams of fiber per 4-cup portion, it keeps you feeling full.
Go easy on the butter and steer clear of most commercial oils, which may negate the health perks. Rumsey suggests these seasoning ideas: Dust with chili powder and a dash of sea salt. Mist with olive oil and sprinkle with a tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese and black pepper. Or toss with rosemary, thyme and sage.
(MORE: 7 Foods You Should be Eating)
3. SPICY FOODS
Some research has shown that spicy foods may promote weight loss. The magic ingredient: capsaicin, a chemical compound found in chili peppers that appears to suppress appetite or boost metabolism.
“Adding spicy ingredients like cayenne or red pepper to your meals may not only improve your weight,” says Rumsey. “It’s also a no-calorie way to flavor your dish.”
It’s a little known fat-fighting fact: People often think they are hungry when they are really thirsty. So it makes sense to stay hydrated. Drinking water also helps you feel full. Starting your meal with a broth-based soup or a veggie-filled salad (veggies have a high water content) will help you eat less of your main course.
“There’s data that shows people who drank two cups of water before eating lost more weight than those who didn’t,” Rumsey adds.
What’s more, a study from German researchers found both men’s and women’s metabolic rate surged 30 percent after drinking about 17 ounces of water. Over a year’s time, that could add up to a five-pound weight loss.
5. CHICKEN (and other proteins)
Protein helps keep you full and increases your lean muscle mass, which keeps metabolism revved, Rumsey says. So instead of filling up on carbs like pasta and bread, aim to include some lean protein — such as low-fat dairy, legumes, eggs, poultry and fish — in every meal and snack.
Research has shown that those who skip breakfast are more likely to be overweight or obese. “Eating a nutritious meal first thing in the morning jumpstarts your metabolism and may prevent you from overeating later in the day,” says Rumsey.
No time? Prep the night before — hard boil eggs or grab a yogurt and some berries before you head out the door.
7. DARK CHOCOLATE
Small amounts of its intense flavor satisfy sweet and chocolate cravings, saving you from the high calories of treats like cakes, cookies and ice cream, says Blatner. A study from the University of California at San Diego found that people who ate chocolate most frequently had lower BMIs (body mass index) on average.
Research done in mice chalks up chocolate’s weight-suppressing effects to antioxidant compounds called oligomeric procyanidins (PCs). An ounce or so is usually enough to satisfy your sweet tooth, while keeping calories to a minimum.
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