30 Spring Foods for Weight Loss
Trying to trim down? Stock your shopping cart with these fresh, fat-fighting picks(30 Photos)
Snow peas have flat, edible pods (no shelling required!), plus a sweet flavor and crisp texture that make them great for snacking. And since almost 25 percent of a snow peas’ calories come from sugar-stabilizing protein, eating one cup -- raw or cooked -- shuts down the munchies for two hours straight, say researchers at the University of Toronto, Canada. Chefs also love to toss them into their stir-fries and you should try tossing them into your sauté dishes too.
Try this: Seared-Salmon Salad with Ruby Grapefruit and Snow PeasRob Lawson/ Photolibrary/ Getty Images
Butter (Boston Bibb) Lettuce
As the name suggests, it has a slightly sweet, buttery flavor. And if you’re looking for a slimming side dish, butter lettuce (sometimes called Boston Bibb lettuce) can’t be beat. According to USDA researchers, you’d have to eat six cups of the stuff (packed!) to match the calories in a single slice of bread. To make sure you get the tastiest possible head, scratch and sniff the stalk -- the sweeter the smell, the sweeter the flavor.Martin Harvey/ Photodisc/ Getty Images
Just one teaspoon of fresh ginger and you’ll feel full almost twice as quickly, say researchers at Florida’s University of Miami. Credit ginger’s two powerful appetite suppressants -- gingerol and zingibain, say the study authors. Bonus: Ginger is also an amazing anti-inflammatory, and eating it daily dampens pain, swelling and stiffness for up to 75 percent of women studied, adds James F. Balch, M.D., author of Prescription for Natural Cures.Kristin Duval/ The Image Bank/ Getty Images
This delicate, peppery-tasting green is low-carb, low-fat and contains a paltry two calories per half cup. It’s also a good source of magnesium, phosphorous and the B complex vitamins, which work hand-in-hand to reduce tissue inflammation and flush out trapped fluids, say Stanford University researchers. Raw watercress adds a delicious zing to sandwiches and salads -- or it can be steamed and served just like any other green. Tip: Wrap a damp cloth around the roots and toss the whole bundle into a plastic bag, and it will stay fresh in your refrigerator for up to two weeks.Stockbyte/ Getty Images
Sweet, juicy plums are loaded with soluble fiber, which swells up in the intestines and quickly dampens appetite. Enjoy two or three daily, and you could effortlessly cut your food intake by as much as 20 percent, say Yale researchers. An added perk: Plums contain neochlorogenic and chlorogenic acids -- antioxidants that nourish eye tissues, helping to prevent macular degeneration (one of the leading causes of blindness nationwide), according to a study in the Korean Journal of Ophthalmology.Emilio Simion/ Photodisc/ Getty Images
Spring’s sweet, tender baby lettuce varieties are now readily available bagged -- and also as heads at some farmer’s markets and well-stocked stores. Baby lettuce are low-carb, fat-free and contain just five calories per cup. Plus, one heaping cup of these tender shoots contains roughly 90 micrograms of vitamin K -- an often-overlooked nutrient that’s essential for keeping bones strong and break-resistant, say researchers at the University of North Carolina.David Marsden/ Photolibrary/ Getty Images
They’re not the prettiest things in the produce department, but they have a rich, smoky flavor that works beautifully in meat dishes, soups, stews and more. And, according to the National Institutes of Health, shiitakes are rich in selenium -- a mineral that helps ramp up your ability to burn fat for fuel. How? “By converting thyroxine (T4) -- your body’s weakest thyroid hormone -- into the metabolism-boosting, fat-blasting version called triiodothyronine (T3),” says Larrian Gillespie, M.D., author of You’re Not Crazy, It’s Your Hormones.Siri Stafford/ Lifesize/ Getty Images
Sometimes called scallions or green onions, these mild young shoots won’t bring tears to your eyes or leave a pungent smell on your skin after you cut them -- and both their white bulbs and tall green stems can be added to recipes for a dash of flavor and color. Spring onions are rich in sulfur -- a nutrient that helps your pancreas burn carbs for fuel before they can be stowed away as fat, say Stanford University researchers. Sulfur is also a powerful tissue-healing anti-inflammatory that helps protect your tummy from the ravages of ulcer-causing H. pylori bacteria, say researchers at the State University of New York at Albany.Martin Poole/ Digital Vision/ Getty Images
Also called Asian pears, these tasty treats combine the shape and crispness of an apple with the texture, flavor and golden-yellow hue of a pear. And Penn State studies suggest eating one every morning with breakfast can help you nosh 190 fewer calories each day -- and shed 15 pounds each year. The act of chewing, plus the rich, satisfying flavor of these unusual pears, soothes the hypothalamus -- the region of the brain that fuels powerful hunger pangs and cravings, say Stanford University researchers.Jill Fromer/ Photodisc/ Getty Images
If you’ve never been a fan of spinach because of its strong taste, give baby spinach a try. It’s surprisingly mild, plus much easier to prepare, since there are no mangy stems to trim off. And baby spinach is rich in lipoic acid -- an antioxidant that shuttles blood sugar and fatty acids into cells so they can be burned for energy instead of stuffed into fat cells, adds Dr. Gillespie.
Try this: Ravioli Soup with Baby Spinach and Black BeansJoy Skipper/ Photolibrary/ Getty Images
If your weight loss plans keep getting derailed by snackfests, garden peas could be the secret to slimming. They put the kibosh on speed-eating (since they need to be shelled before they can be munched), and Penn State researchers say that’s the ticket to cutting 400 calories out of an evening pig-out -- and 2-1/2 pounds off your figure each month if you nibble them daily. Garden peas are also rich in coumestrol -- a plant compound that protects against intestinal cancers if you consume two milligrams daily (and one cup of garden peas contains five times that much!).Chris Everard/ Stone/ Getty Images
This purple powerhouse is actually a berry, not a vegetable. And it’s a dieter’s dream, since it contains a measly 20 calories per cup, plus it’s low in sugar and high in muscle-strengthening protein and potassium. Eggplant is one of the main ingredients in the famous French dish, ratatouille, and it makes a great low-cal meat substitute in recipes like eggplant parmigiana. Try it grilled, baked, boiled, fried or sauteed.Gene Coleman/ Photodisc/ Getty Images
Thanks to their crispy texture and almost nonexistent flavor, these summer squashes make a filling, yet unobtrusive addition to salads and veggie platters. They can also be stuffed and baked, grilled, or added to stir fries, muffin recipes and lots of other cooked dishes. And, they’re so rich in fiber and water that researchers at Australia’s University of Sydney say they can shut down a ravenous appetite as quickly as higher-cal treats like peanut butter and and full-fat yogurt do. Pick small zucchinis, whenever possible -- the larger ones tend to have a woody texture.
Try this: Four Mouth-Wateringly Good Ways to Eat ZucchiniAntonio M. Rosario/ The Image Bank/ Getty Images
To lose weight at a steady pace, you need to keep your blood sugar levels low, since your body will only dip into your fat stores if its supply of easy-to-burn sugars dries up, says Dr. Gillespie. And that’s where button mushrooms come in handy. According to UCLA research, they’re packed with plant proteins -- molecules that stall carb absorption in the intestines, plus help your muscles soak up and burn sugars fast, before they can sabotage your weight loss efforts. Enjoy one cup of button mushrooms daily, and you could speed your weight loss by 50 percent, the study authors say.Paula Thomas/ Flickr Open/ Getty Images
These aromatic leaves add a cool burst of flavor to warm-weather salads and drinks. And according to researchers at Chicago’s Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation, adding one tablespoon of fresh, chopped peppermint to a meal can help you feel genuinely full on 100 fewer calories. “The smell of mint stimulates the satiety center in the brain,” explains lead researcher Alan R. Hirsch, M.D. And here’s the kicker: That one tablespoon serving of appetite-taming mint only contains half a calorie!John E. Kelly/ Photodisc/ Getty Images
They look like tiny tomatoes, but they’ve got a bit more of a kick. Gold and amber colored tamarillos have a slightly tart flavor -- and the red ones can make you pucker! Tamarillos contain just 30 calories each, plus they’re loaded with anthocyanins -- powerful antioxidants that can squash cancer cells, plus lower your liver’s production of artery-clogging cholesterol by as much as 10 percent, according to University of Nebraska researchers. Use sliced tamarillos to add a splash of color to your cheese trays and salads, and try them poached, fried, grilled or baked (discard the skin for the tastiest flavor).Michael Deuson/ Foodpix/ Getty Images
Bok choy, napa cabbage, Chinese mustard greens, choy sum...Asian greens are now showing up in grocery stores nationwide. And experimenting with them could help you reach your weight loss goals a whole lot sooner. That’s because Asian greens are loaded with chlorophyll -- a green pigment that heals and energizes the liver, increasing this organ’s ability to burn fat for fuel, says Susan M. Lark, M.D., author of Dr. Susan Lark’s Hormone Revolution.John Block/ Blend Images/ Getty Images
Heard of the glycemic index? It’s a measure of how badly a food messes with your blood sugar -- and with your ability to lose weight. Lower numbers are better, and that’s where witloof really shines. According to studies at Australia’s University of Sydney, this crispy herb (often dubbed “chicory” or endivce) has a rock-bottom glycemic index of 15 -- and that means it’s as good at keeping your blood sugar steady and helping you lose weight as legumes! Choose witloof bunches with the smallest leaves possible -- this herb becomes bitter as the leaves grow larger.
Try this: Jamie Oliver's Cauliflower Macaroni, Belgian Endive Salad with Insane Dressing and Lovely Stewed FruitPhotolibrary/ Getty Images
These sweet, tropical treats contain 112 calories per cup, but don’t let that scare you off. When women add guavas to their daily diet, it doubles their ability to lose weight and to keep it off long-term, say Stanford University researchers. That’s because one cup of guavas contains 40 percent of your day’s supply of appetite-taming fiber. And there’s more -- a tasty cup of guavas contains more immunity-boosting vitamin C than any other fruit or veggie (even oranges), plus over 1,000 International Units of vitamin A -- a nutrient that cuts your risk of skin cancer by as much as 40 percent, according to studies at the University of California, San Francisco.Frank Rothe/ Getty Images
Okra’s a bit of a mystery. According to USDA researchers, it’s fat-free, cholesterol-free, low-carb and not particularly high in protein. Yet, these edible seed pods are rated as one of the most filling veggies around. The secret is in okra’s mucilage -- a gel-like substance that quickly expands to fill your tummy as you munch. Unfortunately, mucilage is what often gives okra a bad name, since it can make this vegetable feel “slimy.” To avoid that texture snafu, use either a quick-cooking method, like stir frying, or go super-slow, by making a stew. Quick-cooking doesn’t allow enough time for the mucilage to sneak out of okra -- and slow-cooking breaks this substance down so the texture troubles disappear.Anthony-Masterson/ Photodisc/ Getty Images
Skip the canned stuff (which is usually soaked in waist-widening syrup) and opt for fresh pineapple, which is at its peak in spring. “Although pineapple is slightly higher in fructose (natural fruit sugar) than most produce, it’s still light. One cup of cubed chunks contains just 82 calories, making it a much better sweet treat than, say, ice cream,” says Goodson. Bonus: Pineapple is also an excellent source of bromelain, an enzyme that’s been shown to reduce the inflammation that can contribute to diseases like arthritis and cancer, and to aid digestion, too -- which is why it's been used for centuries to soothe stomach woes.Getty Images
One large asparagus spear contains just four calories. Even better? “Asparagus is a water-rich vegetable, and research shows that maintaining proper hydration can improve metabolism, helping your body burn even more calories all day long,” explains Bazilian. Bonus: “This spring veggie is also high in immune-boosting vitamins A and C, and contains potent cancer-fighting phytochemicals, too,” she says. To make asparagus extra tasty, Bazilian recommends roasting it in the oven (drizzle with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper, then cook for about 10 minutes at 400 degrees).
Try this: 3 Unbelievably Delicious Ways to Eat AsparagusGetty Images
Avocados are higher in fat and calories than your average veggie. They possess about 120 calories and 11 grams of fat per half cup cubed -- but the fat they do contain is the heart-healthy monounsaturated kind, explains Bazilian. Another fat fact: “It not only helps your body fully absorb crucial vitamins like A, E, D and K, it also takes a long time to digest, which helps you feel fuller longer,” she explains. In fact, numerous studies have shown that a Mediterranean-style diet that contains fat from vegetables like avocados is extremely effective for keeping weight off long-term. To tap into this veggie’s waist-whittling powers, Bazilian recommends using avocado in place of cheese and mayo on sandwiches and salads.
Try this: Pan Fried Sesame-Crusted Tuna with Avocado SaladGetty Images
Peaches get good press, but nectarines, which are in season starting in April, deserve equal attention. “They’re super sweet, but at only 60 calories each, you can indulge with zero guilt. Plus, their skin is chocked with satiating soluble fiber, which in addition to being filling, can also lower cholesterol,” explains Bazilian. What’s more, research shows that nectarines are filled with lycopene and lutein, two powerful, natural compounds that have been shown to slash a person’s risk of cancer and heart disease.Getty Images
Need a fast, healthy snack? Nibble on a banana, advises Goodson. “They’re easy to transport, contain around 100 calories each, and are very versatile. For example, bananas can be chopped into oatmeal or cereal, put on a peanut butter sandwich or added to a smoothie to enhance thickness and flavor.” What’s more, bananas are naturally rich in potassium, a nutrient that helps regulate blood sugar, as well as energy-boosting B vitamins, says Goodson, making this fruit a perfect pre- or post-workout food.Getty Images
“The beauty of an artichoke is that it takes a while to eat, so it’s almost impossible to overindulge,” explains Wendy Bazilian, registered dietitian and author of The SuperFoodsRx Diet. Bonus: One medium bulb contains a mere 64 calories and a whopping 10 grams of filling, appetite-reducing fiber. And half a cup of artichoke hearts (which are a great addition to salads and pasta) has 45 calories and seven grams of satiating fiber. Bonus: This spring pick is also packed with a compound called cynarin, a substance that naturally reduces cholesterol. Just don’t pair this veggie with a diet-sabotaging dip: “If you’re eating a whole artichoke, skip the melted butter and instead dip the leaves in a figure-friendly, yogurt-based dressing to make sure you don’t consume excess fat and calories,” advises Bazilian.
Try this: Artichoke SaladGetty Images
This spring herb, which can be added to everything from salsa to salads, is a dieter’s secret weapon, says Bazilian. Why? “Half a cup of fresh cilantro contains just one calorie, so you can add lots of satisfying flavor with zero guilt.” In fact, a study from Virginia State University showed that subbing slimming herbs and spices such as cilantro for fattier flavorings helped people lose ten pounds over the course of a year.Getty Images
“Of all fruit, berries, including strawberries, are the richest in health-enhancing antioxidants, yet ounce for ounce, they’re the lowest in calories, making them a waist-watcher’s best friend,” says Goodson. One cup of strawberries contains just 49 calories and zero grams of fat, but three grams of hunger-fighting fiber. What’s more, studies show that a diet rich in berries helps fight free-radical damage that can contribute to skin woes like wrinkles and cancer.
Try this: Balsamic Strawberry PopsGetty Images
With a cup of slices at 16 calories, what’s not to love about cucumbers? “Because cukes are high in fiber and contain lots of water, they also fill you up, so you’ll be less likely to spoon up high-fat fare later,” says Goodson. This also explains why one recent study from Penn State University found that having a salad filled with water-rich vegetables such as cucumbers helped people reduce their overall calorie consumption by a whopping 12 percent.
Try this: Build Healthy Bones With Cooling CucumberGetty Images
Sugar Snap Peas
These sweet, crunchy pods are only 26 calories per cup, so you can chomp on them until you’re green, says Amy Goodson, a registered dietitian at Ben Hogan Sports Medicine in Fort Worth, TX. “They’re great in a salad, or as a snack with low-fat dressing." Bonus: Like all peas, sugar snaps are rich in fiber, folate, and are especially potent in vitamin K, a bone and blood-building nutrient, she says.
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