7 Foods to Eat so You Never Have to Diet
These powerhouse foods help keep unwanted pounds at bay, and it has nothing to do with counting calories and fat grams.
1. Garlic 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 and Nutritious 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 study published 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.
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."
6. White potatoes
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 study published in the journal Diabetes found that butyrate also improved insulin sensitivity and increased energy expenditure in mice.
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 research from 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.