According to BodyBuilding.com diet is the most important component in fat loss.
How important? Around 80% to 90% of the success or failure will be attributed to what you put inside your body.
Remember how the saying goes “You are what you eat”.
You’ll lose weight by dieting alone and eating the right kind of food is the most important element.
When people hear the word diet, the first thing that comes to their minds is depriving themselves of certain foods (e.g. low calorie or low carb diet plans) but that shouldn’t be the mindset.
A correct mindset would be looking at diet as a lifestyle change. Changing the food you eat, the frequency and the amount you consume.
Here are the 25 of the best weight loss foods that will help you shed excess fat (not muscle) and the great thing is you don’t have to starve yourself.
When you compare it to other fruits like apple that are high in sugar (particularly fructose), avocados have very low sugar content.
Based on a study done by the Nutrition Journal, people who eat half a fresh avocado decreased their desire to eat by 40% for a few hours.
Now that doesn’t mean you’ll just have plain avocado for lunch but you can add it to a healthy salad or have a fresh guacamole.
Speaking of salads, adding some avocado and avocado-based oil helps the body absorb three to five times more carotenoids.
Avocado can also replace store bought pre-workout supplements because it is rich in monounsaturated fat which is proven to give you an energy boost for a better workout and keep your metabolism going even after you leave the gym .
Some must try avocado recipes:
2. Beans and Legumes
Beans and legumes are a rare food that combines high protein and fiber minus the saturated fat.
This is what makes it great for moderating or losing weight because unlike dietary sugar that goes through the digestive track fairly quickly, protein and fiber goes in at a slower pace that leaves you with a full feeling even hours after a meal.
The slower pace also helps regulate blood sugar balance – preventing hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia.
It also benefits the digestive tract by optimizing the balance of micro-organisms .
Consuming beans increases the production of cholecystokinin, known to be an appetite suppressant .
Healthy recipes with beans or legumes:
Eating berries is a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth minus the guilt.
Just make sure not to add any sugars in them or eat blueberry shortcake and think it’s healthy – that’s called a dessert.
Blueberries in particular are a rich source of antioxidants like vitamin K, C and A.
Compared to other fruits, these have relatively low calorie and sugar content .
Fruit in general is a good source of dietary fiber that helps with satiety and slows down sugar absorption .
Here’s are some ideas how to incorporate berries into your diets:
4. Pear and Apple
Pear and apple are only a handful of fruits that have low calories and high fiber.
A small pear eaten whole has only 86 calories which is less than 5% of the recommended calorie allowance for a healthy diet .
A medium apple only has 95 calories, around 5% of the recommended healthy calorie intake .
Since it is a rich source of dietary fiber, apples and pears will make you feel full without eating too much of it.
In a study done of 49 women between 30 to 50 years old that where give either 3 apples or pears or oat cookies to go with their usual diets to see how it would affect their weight.
After a 10 week period, the women who ate either apples or pears lost weight while the women who ate oat cookies did not .
To get all these benefits, you’ll have to eat these two fruits whole.
Pear or apple juice does not count because it will not have the dietary fiber that is important in filling up the gut and suppressing appetite.
Some creative ways to add apple or pear into your meals
If you want to literally burn fat, you need to add grapefruit to your diet now.
It does this several ways.
First, it stimulates the production of cholecystokinin, a knownhunger suppressant .
Second, grapefruit is known as a “negative calorie” food which means it actually takes more calories to digest this fruit than it contains (grapefruit has 85 calories).
Third, grapefruit actually lowers insulin levels of the body that prevents our body from storing fat .
To get the full benefit from grapefruit, you need to eat it whole. Bodybuilder.com recommends incorporating half a grapefruit during breakfast and lunch .
A warning though for people taking medication, as this fruit might not interact well with these drugs.
Next best option would be buying juice but don’t buy the “artificially sweetened” variety as these contain lots of sugar.
Also look for one with lots of pulp because this is where a lot of the nutrients is.
Other ways to eat grapefruit:
6. Whole Grain
There is massive debate on whether or not whole grains is beneficial to your health, here’s a great article from Built Lean that sheds light on this controversial topic.
Despite the negative press that whole grain has gotten, science has finally confirmed its health benefits.
Researches in Wake Forrest University say that people who consume 2.5 servings a day reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease by 21% .
In terms of weight loss, studies on 50 women who have metabolic syndrome have also proven that eating whole grain will you shed more pounds, particularly in the abdominal area.
Women who ate whole wheat lost 11 pounds while women who ate refine wheat lost only 8 pounds .
In a 12 year study aimed to see how whole grain and refine grain affected the weight gain over time it revealed that women who ate whole wheat weighed less than women who ate refined grain (around 1.5 kg less) .
The reason why whole wheat grain is so effective is the high fiber content (33%) that helps regulate the gut.
Best source of whole grain includes quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice, barley, whole oats, wild rice, sorghum and whole grain cord.
It would be best to avoid refine grains because the refining process removes the brand and germ – its most nutritious components.
Look for the label “whole grain” on the product before buying it. Foods with the label “multi-grain”, “stone ground”, “cracked wheat”, “bran”, “seven grain” “100% wheat” aren’t necessarily whole grain.
Some samples of healthy whole grain meals
Salmon is a rich source of nutrients that indirectly help in regulating weight.
This nutrient dense fish is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids (4,023mg per 178 grams of salmon) otherwiseknown as brain food as it boosts the function of the brain and improves our mood.
Omega-3 is helps reduce inflammation and helps aid in digestion. Better digestion = better weight regulation = less chance of obesity or metabolic disease [14, 15].
New studies have shown that salmon also contains proteins and amino acids that affect insulin effectiveness and the inflammation of the digestive tract.
Salmon also is a great source of iodine which helps improve the function of the thyroid gland – this is critical in keeping our metabolism at optimal levels .
There are a lot of ways to cook salmon, here are some of our favorites:
Grapes are rich in phytonutrients like phenols and polyphenol, the later has been proven to have anti-inflammatory properties that prevent obesity causing inflammation and metabolic diseases .
Studies by the American Diabetes Association reported that polyphenol content in grape also can improve insulin sensitivity and help prevent fructose-induced oxidative stress .
The key here is portion size, since grapes has a high calorie and fructose content eating too much have the opposite effect, it would be best to limit consumption to around 1 to 1.5 cups of grapes per day.
We would recommend eating this whole and not consuming it in liquid form.
While you can eat grapes as is, that would be quite boring.
So check out these recipes to change things up
9. Sweet Potato
Sweet potato’s inherent natural sweetness make it a staple in a lot of desserts and juices.
In its pure form it is a rich source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients that benefits our eyesight, heart and digestive system.
Compared to its close relative the potato, sweet potato has a lower Glycemic Index which measures how fast it releases sugar into the bloodstream .
While sweet potato is a root crop that is starchy, it can potentially help improve blood sugar regulation because it is rich in dietary fiber which steadies the pace of digestion – enough time for the starches to be converted inside the digestive tract into simple sugars .
To maximize the blood sugar regulating properties of sweet potato, boiling has been proven to be the best option in terms of cooking this root crop.
Ready to eat some sweet potato? Here are some recipes to try
10. Green Tea
Here’s the deal, green tea burns fat.
Green tea is a staple in Asian cuisine and it’s a big reason why you don’t see a lot of obese Japanese and Chinese people.
It contains two substances that help in weight loss – caffeine and EGCG or Epigallocatechin gallate.
Green tea doesn’t contain as much caffeine as coffee (24 to 40mg / cup vs 100 to 200mg) but it is still enough to burn fat and improve aerobic performance [21, 22].
EGCG is an antioxidant found in green tea that burns fat by increasing the amount of norepinephrine, a hormone that breaks down fat cells and converts it into energy .
If you don’t like drink traditional green tea, here are some options for you to try out
When you talk about nutritious fruits, pomegranate has got to rank high on the list.
This sweet tasting fruit is rich in vitamin C, vitamin K, Folate and Potassium. It also helps with digestion thanks to its relatively high fiber content .
People who like to work out should consider adding pomegranate to their pre-workout diet as this is rich in dietary nitrates that improves blood flow and improve exercise performance .
Pomegranate can be eaten whole (the outer shell is not edible but the seeds inside are), consumed in juice form or as an extract supplement.
Remember when you’re buying pomegranate juice avoid ones with artificial sugars because of the high fructose content.
Other pomegranate recipes to try
In the world of nutrition science, egg has got to be one of the most controversial.
That’s because of its high cholesterol content.
To put it in perspective, a medium egg has around 161 mg of cholesterol , a little over half of USDA’s recommended dosage of around 300 mg per day .
While eggs do have high cholesterol content but that doesn’t necessarily affect our cholesterol levels. Our liver actually produces more cholesterol and when we eat eggs it lowers the livers production of cholesterol so that evens out things [28, 29].
High cholesterol aside, eggs is a rich source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids (or healthy fat) and has low carbohydrate and calorie content.
In studies done like this one on 30 overweight women, those who ate egg instead of bagel experienced an increased satiety and ate less for the next 36 hours .
Despite being high in cholesterol eggs can be beneficial to your health and weight loss regimen as it helps you eat less. Just don’t take more than one per day.
Ready to eat those eggs? Check out these yummy options
A hot bowl of soup that contains the right mixture of ingredients can be a nutritious and filling alternative to other types of cooked food.
Research has shown that by adding water to food, it lowers the energy density which helps you feel fuller and stave off hunger pangs for longer periods of time .
Now not all soups are created equal, avoid soups with cheese or cream based ones as these are high in calories.
Soups are always great on a cold or rainy day, here are some healthy recipes
14. Leafy Greens
One of the most nutritious meals you can eat is a bowl full of leafy greens sprinkled with some cherry tomatoes and cottage cheese.
Greens such as kale, spinach and romaine lettuce are known for their rich nutrient and fiber content while being low on carbohydrates and calories.
Leafy greens one of the healthiest foods you can add to your diet because it has a lower energy density (it simply means it has lower calories), which means you can eat more without much risk of gaining weight , it helps you feel fuller .
You can eat leafy greens raw or cooked, both are very healthy options
15. Apple Cider Vinegar
If you love to eat salad, instead of using a thousand island dressing, try using an apple cider vinegar based vinaigrette instead.
Or you could dilute it in water.
It has a lot less calories and it is rich in acetic acid that is found to suppress body fat accumulation (at least on animals) in one study .
Acetic acid that is abundant in apple cider vinegar to lower postprandial glycemia thus improving insulin sensitivity on people who have type-2 diabetes.
If mixing apple cider vinegar in water doesn’t please your palate, these recipes can
Nuts in general are a rich source of health fats (omega-3 fatty acids), protein and fiber.
But not all nuts are created equal – almonds, cashews and pistachios contain the least amount of calories .
Macadamia and pecans contain the most calories so avoid these if you want to lose weight .
Almonds in particular are proven to help in weight loss, in a study done on 65 overweight adults (70% have type-2 diabetes), the group that at a 3 ounce almond supplement in addition to the 1,000 calorie/day liquid diet lost 7% more in terms of body weight compared to the other group that had a supplement of complex carbohydates [36, 37].
Some must-try nut recipes
17. Lean Beef
Not all meat is bad.
Beef in particular has been blamed for health problems like coronary heart, stroke and cardiovascular disease but studies have shown otherwise .
It has gotten such a bad reputation that people have been avoiding it like a plague.
The truth is adding beef in your diet is one way to help you lose weight because of its protein content.
Studies have shown that just by adding protein to your diet, cravings can be reduced by up to 60% .
Those cravings for can lead to unhealthy snacks binges that usually happen late at night.
Lean beef in particular is a good source of protein, vitamin B12, iron, zinc, vitamin B6, Niacin and Phosphorus .
When buying meat, choose unprocessed lean meat because these are the ones that have high nutrition content when you compare it to other types of beef.
Based on studies, processed meat does increase the risk of heart disease so it would be best to avoid it .
You must be starving right now, so here are some mouth watering beef meals
18. Chicken Breast
Chicken breast is one of the best sources of protein.
If you look at this document from USDA.gov, per 85 grams minus the skin, it will give you 22 grams worth of protein and only 2 grams of saturated fat.
This is a big reason why chicken breast is a staple of a lot of weight loss diets.
Research has proven that just by adding protein, appetite will be suppressed while increasing metabolism [42, 43]. This is the perfect one-two punch in any weight loss program.
The way you cook chicken breast is important, avoid deep frying it because it adds to the calorie content.
Instead try these
19. Plain Greek Yogurt
Any weight loss meal plan should include Greek yogurt.
This is a healthier alternative to traditional yogurt because it has less sodium, sugar and carbohydrates plus it has a tiny bit more protein [44, 45].
Less carbohydrates means lower lactose content which could benefit people who are lactose intolerant.
Yogurt in general is a rich source of probiotics, a key element in our digestive health that keeps bad bacteria in check.
A healthy gut = healthy body.
Increased dairy consumption also helps in replacing fat with muscle.
In a study done on overweight women shows that increased consumption of dairy products and protein to go along with exercise resulted in reduction of fat mass and an increase in lean muscle mass [46, 47].
Important Tidbit: Make sure to choose plain unflavored and unsweetened Greek yogurt. You can add fruits to sweeten it up naturally or add it to a healthy smoothie recipe.
Aside from adding it to a smoothie or mixing vegetables, there are lots of ways to incorporate Greek Yogurt into dishes.
Here are some of them
20. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is considered as a “super food” by a lot of experts with good reason.
It is a rich source of fatty acids that boosts brain function, lower blood cholesterol and can potential help reduce seizures on people who suffer from epilepsy [48, 49, 50].
Even though it has high amounts of saturated fat, these are mostly medium chain triglycerides (or MCT) that are easily digested by the body (51, 52).
While long chain triglycerides are stored as fat inside the liver, MCTs are immediately converted to energy.
Another benefit of the high fatty acid content in coconut oil is appetite suppression .
This study showed that men who added MCTs into their diet ate significantly less calories less afterwards .
The most direct way of consuming coconut oil is eating it like a cough syrup which is through a spoon but there are other ways too.
21. Chia Seeds
Pound for pound, chia seeds are a rich source of nutrition.
It is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and protein.
Compared to most plants chia seeds has very high protein content. A total of 14% of chia seeds weight is protein. In fact, vegetarians use chia seeds as their protein source instead of meat.
While studies have not proven that chia seeds can help in weight loss, I do believe that its high protein, high fiber and low fat content (most of it is omega-3) will help in any individual who wants to shred pounds [55, 56].
Chia seeds can be easily mixed into juices, smoothies, cereal, veggies or yogurt to add a contrasting nutty flavor to these dishes.
Here are samples
22. Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables are one of the brightest nutrition stars we have right now.
Some of the notable characters in this group are arugula, broccoli, Bok choy, collard greens, kale, daikon radish, watercress, radish, turnip and mustard greens.
This vegetable family is rich in “conventional” nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, folic acid (important nutrient for pregnant women), carotenoids and fiber while being low in calories and fat.
Per one hundred calories you consume, you’ll get around 25 to 40% of your daily dietary fiber requirement, this not only help with weight loss but also it aids in improving our digestive health .
Here are some delicious recipes for different cruciferous vegetables
23. Cottage Cheese
According to this Men’s Fitness article cottage cheese contains two important proteins that help burn fat and slow down digestion – whey and casein.
Whey protein is the by-product of the cheese making process and can be isolated.
A lot of bodybuilding supplements contain whey as their main ingredient.
The high protein content of cottage cheese is very satiating which helps in making you feel fuller after eating this.
It is also a very good source of calcium that also helps in the fat burning process .
Avoid full-fat cottage cheese as these contain more calories, fat and cholesterol. Opt for the low or non-fat versions.
One way to incorporate cottage cheese into your diet is by blending it with strawberries, banana and water to make a breakfast smoothie.
Avoid adding any sugars in it!
Here are other ideas
Cinnamon is a spice and has been known for its medicinal uses for centuries (beginning in ancient Egypt).
Science has proven that this antioxidant rich food fights free radicals in the body and has anti-inflammatory properties.
Indirectly cinnamon can have a positive effect on our weight.
Regular consumption of cinnamon (500mg/day in this study) can have beneficial effects in reducing fasting blood glucose levels, lowering LDL and increasing lean muscle mass .
It helps with our body’s digestion by slowing down carbohydrate digestion inside the digestive tract thus greatly slowing down the amount of glucose that goes into the bloodstream after a meal .
Cinnamon can easily be sprinkled on fruits like apple or smoothies and will give a contrasting flavor to any sweet dish. You can also add cinnamon to honey and water as part of a fasting diet, but I would not recommend doing this.
If you need more ideas, check out these recipes
25. Red Pepper
Eating red pepper will literally leave a burning aftertaste in your mouth.
As it turns out, it can also burn fat in your belly.
Chili pepper has one specific ingredient that suppresses appetite and burn fat – capsaicin.
Based on research, consuming capsaicin, a chemical found in chili pepper has been linked to weight loss [61, 62].
Capsaicin is responsible for that burning sensation in our mouth when we eat chili also burns fat through the process called thermogenesis (literally converting food into heat) for more than 20 minutes after consuming it.
However, if you’re used to eating spicy food, it may not be as effective.
Red chili can be eaten whole (if you dare) or added to any dish to add that heat that literally makes you sweat, a perfect meal in my opinion during cold winter months.
Here are some hot meals that you can try
Putting it all together
Again to piggy back on what Rosie Chee wrote in BodyBuilder.com there are 6 principles to a successful diet plan:
- Adequacy – The amount of food you eat should match your activity level during the day .
- Balance – Don’t overconsume one particular type of food (e.g. don’t eat too much fruits!) .
- Energy Control – You need to know exactly how much energy you need without exceeding the calorie requirement. .
- Nutrient Density – Consume more foods that are nutrient dense while decrease consumption of high energy dense, low nutrient dense foods [66, 67].
- Moderation – Moderating portion sizes will help manage weight better as well as reducing consumption of foods that have high sugar and fat .
- Variety – Variety is the spice of life, the same motto goes for weight loss .
To wrap it up
Eating these foods in the right dosages will help you lose weight without needing to go through a crash course diet and depriving yourself.
Remember that too much of one particular food group can be bad for you, yes that includes water.
To quote Swiss scientist, Paracelsus “Poison is in everything, and no thing is without poison. The dosage makes it either a poison or a remedy”.