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Secret Summer Diet Foods

Slim down by enjoying these low-calorie fruits of summer.

Protein- and Fiber-Packed Beans

The benefits of beans or legumes are as wide as the varieties available. Peas, lentils, black beans, butter beans, lima beans, garbanzo beans (also called chickpeas) -- and that's a very short list. All are nutrient-rich and great sources of fiber, iron, and protein.

These small, tasty treasures can help you feel full longer, while curbing your appetite for foods that are high in fat. They have little or no fat themselves and are usually inexpensive as well. Most are good raw and can be easily mixed with other foods to add flavor, substance, and color.

"Substituting beans for animal protein in a meal can lower calories, saturated fat, and provide zero cholesterol," says Orlansky. She adds they are "particularly high in soluble fiber, which helps blood cholesterol levels."

Cleveland Clinic dietitian Andrea Dunn also notes that most beans are an excellent source of folate. Adequate amounts of folate may help keep the heart strong and are important for expectant moms, since studies show folate helps reduce certain birth defects in a growing baby.

The calorie count for a 4-ounce serving of beans ranges from about 65 calories for frozen peas to 115 for boiled black-eyed peas. The highest count, with just 160 calories, goes to Borlotti beans.

"Time to tango with the mango," Dunn says of this not-well-known summer treat. Mangoes have been a staple of people's diets in Southeast Asia and India for more than 4,000 years.

Mangoes have some big advantages over other fruits. They contain more fiber than most, which helps you curb your appetite. They are low in calories (about 95 for a medium fruit), fat, and sodium, contain no cholesterol, and have more beta carotene than any other fruit.

"Not only a source of one-fourth your vitamin A for the day, the mango is also a great source of vitamin C," Dunn explains, adding that it provides about 76% of your daily vitamin C needs in just one cup and is a nice alternative to oranges.

Mangoes are also high in carotenoids (like beta carotene) and bioflavanoids. These powerful antioxidants are good for a healthy immune system and help repair the cell damage that can lead to disease, such as cancer.

Potassium is another benefit of eating mangoes, which are loaded with this important mineral. Your body needs potassium to help regulate blood pressure and heartbeat, but many people don't get enough.

Last but Not Least, Wonderful Water

Probably the most important "food" of any diet is water. In fact, it's essential. It may have no nutritional value, but it is a catalyst for a majority of bodily functions, including digestion, metabolism, and cell function.

Water is also key for helping those trying to lose weight. It curbs hunger pains, especially when it's included in foods such as fresh vegetables and fruits.

"Research has shown that water-containing foods like fruits and vegetables and soups are encouraged for weight control because of the water," Orlansky says. "The water increases the volume of the food and lowers the amount of calories." Another reason water helps with weight loss is that if you don't get enough water, your body will try to hold on to what it has so it can continue to operate. This will leave you bloated and the only way to get rid of the excess water is to take in more water.

The adult human body is 60% water and on average, loses about one cup or 8 ounces per day from normal activity. On the upside, a typical daily diet includes about four cups of water in the food you digest. Still, nutritionists advise drinking eight glasses of water daily to keep your body functioning like a well-oiled, or hydrated, machine.

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Reviewed on March 12, 2009

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