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By Amy Capetta
These powerhouse foods help keep unwanted pounds at bay, and it has nothing to do with counting calories and fat grams.
This herb does more than just give meals extra flavor and scent—it can also help keep your tummy flat through its naturally occurring chemical allicin, says registered dietitian andNutritious Life founder Keri Glassman. “Allicin kills off harmful bacteria in your digestive tract to keep your gut healthy and functioning, which means less bloat.” Also, Korean researchers discovered that this member of the onion family may have an anti-obesity effect thanks to proteins being stimulated in the liver. Toss garlic in almost any poultry, pasta, or veggie dish, or add it to dressings and sauces.
When you’re craving carbs, look no further than the legume family, says registered dietitian and food and nutrition consultant Rachel Begun. “Beans are unique in that they offer significant amounts of both fiber and protein in one package—one cup of black beans has a whopping 17 grams of fiber and 14 grams of protein. We’re learning that fiber and protein are invaluable for weight management because both are highly satiating, meaning they leave us feeling full for longer and prevent overeating later in the day.” A recent studypublished in the journal Obesity found that extracts from white kidney beans can reduce the absorption of calories from carbohydrates and tame sweets cravings, thanks to certain enzymes that inhibit starch digestion.
“In-shell pistachios are one of my go-to snacks for weight management,” says Katherine Brooking, a registered dietitian and cofounder of Appetite for Health. A one-ounce serving has 6 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber, but their real power is felt more in your eyes than your stomach. “Needing to de-shell helps you munch more slowly, and the discarded shells may also provide a visual cue to remind you of how much you’ve eaten, which helps put the brakes on out-of-control snacking,” adds Brooking. In fact, in a study conducted at Eastern Illinois University, participants who snacked on in-shell pistachios consumed 41 percent fewer calories compared to those who ate the shelled version.
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Perhaps we should take tips from the Japanese, whose country has one of the lowest obesity rates in the world, says registered dietitian and Appetite for Health cofounder Julie Upton. One of their staples is wakame, a type of nutrient- and protein-rich seaweed. “Compounds isolated from wakame, [known as] fucoxanthin, have been shown to help increase fat burning in animal model studies,” says Upton. “More studies are currently looking at other compounds in seaweed, like alginates, that form gels in the stomach to enhance feelings of fullness.” Toss seaweed into soups and salads or use it instead of lettuce in wraps and sandwiches.
Good news for those who like it hot. “Jalapeño peppers contain an antioxidant called capsaicin, which acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory and metabolism booster,” says Glassman. “Some studies have found that people who eat pepper-packed meals feel less hungry and burn more calories later.” One such study conducted at Purdue University discovered that volunteers who infrequently consumed this spicy, nutrient-dense vegetable reaped more of its weight-loss benefits, a result of experiencing less hunger, especially for fatty, salty, and sweet foods. According to researchers, sprinkling red pepper on a meal “may be sustainable and beneficial in the long run, especially when paired with exercise and healthy eating.”
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Who said all white foods are off-limits? “White potatoes are actually a slimming food,” says Glassman. The reason: They’re full of rich resistant starch, a compound that ferments in the gut and creates butyrate, a fatty acid that may spur your body to burn more fat. A studypublished in the journal Diabetes found that butyrate also improved insulin sensitivity and increased energy expenditure in mice.
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While these juicy stone fruits are naturally filling due to their fiber content—a medium one contains 3 grams—that’s not the only reason they help peel off the pounds. “New researchfrom Oklahoma State University indicates that mangoes may lower blood sugar, which can help to control cravings, especially for carbs, thus keeping your willpower intact,” says Brooking. And good news: Since mangoes are grown in tropical climates all over the world, they’re available year-round.
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It’s more than just a low-cal standby. “The calcium in yogurt may help lower calcitrol in the body, which helps turn on fat burning and turn down fat storage,” says Brooking. “Plus, the beneficial probiotics in yogurt feed your gut, and we now know that gut microbes in those who are a healthy weight are different than in those who are obese.” The way yogurt is made, which includes fermentation, also gives it higher concentrations of protein, B-vitamins, calcium, potassium, and magnesium compared to milk, making it the ultimate dairy food.
More than 80 percent of the calories in avocados are from fat—but they’re still incredibly good for you, says Upton. “Research shows that people who eat avocados have lower BMIs, and a recent study of overweight men and women found that adding avocados to lunch increased satisfaction by 22 percent. It also reduced desire to eat over the next three hours by 24 percent.” The study authors suggest that the fiber, unsaturated fat content, and a blood-sugar-lowering sugar called D-mannoheptulose may play a role in helping steady blood sugar levels and keeping appetite in check.
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These veggies are rich in fiber, with each medium-size one packing 6 grams. “Fiber is valuable if you’re trying to lose weight because it actually slows digestion so that you feel full longer,” says Glassman. “It also means more volume for fewer calories.” And artichokes promote good gut health. They contain indigestible nutrients, called prebiotics, that help support the good bacteria in your digestive system, which can deflate belly bloat and flatten your tummy.