By Jessica Cassity
Most of the diets I've been on -- and there have been more than a few -- focus on what not to eat, rather than what to eat. But are there foods that need to be added to your shopping list when weight loss is the goal?
The Rumor: Some foods help you burn calories better than others
Could focusing on the foods you add to a diet may be more important than worrying about the foods you eliminate? Are there changes you can make to what you eat that will be beneficial to the number on the scale?
The Verdict: When it comes to weight loss, what you eat is just as important as what you don't
Burn calories by eating? Yes, it's really possible, so long as you're choosing the right foods. Research shows that some foods really do help dieters shed weight faster than others. That's because not all calories all created equal -- some actually speed up your metabolism, helping you to slim down as you chow down, while others help you to stay full for longer. Here are some of the best foods to eat if you want to shed extra pounds:
Protein: According to Paul Arciero, DEP, professor of health and exercise science at Skidmore College, protein takes more calories to digest than any other nutrient. "A full quarter of each bite of protein will be burned as the food is metabolized, compared to just 10 or 12 percent of the calories in carbs and just 1 to 3 percent of the calories in fat," says Arciero. That's why high-protein diets are all the rage -- you actually burn 25 percent of the calories as they come in.
Green Tea: Three cups of green tea each day for 60 days can provide significant changes in weight, body mass and waist circumference, according to Brazilian researchers. One theory as to why this drink -- when served plain, without milk or an added sweetener -- can help you burn more calories than it contains are its catechins (a type of antioxidant) and caffeine, both of which are thought to increase metabolism.
Spicy Foods: What can help you burn more calories throughout the day while also suppressing your urge to eat? Chili peppers like jalapenos, which contain a significant amount of capsaicin, a chemical that is found mostly in the white membrane that holds the seeds in place. One English study found the effects of eating capsaicin are significant enough to recommend the food to dieters.
Rye Bread: Hunger pangs can be a big drawback to dieting. Silence these urges by eating rye bread early in the morning, according to Swedish researchers. In a study that looked at the differences in satisfaction and hunger in people who ate either wheat or rye bread with breakfast, those who reached for rye were less hungry and more satisfied, even as much as eight hours later
Nuts: Nuts like peanuts, almonds and cashews are relatively high in fat and calories -- they're what scientists call "energy dense,"meaning they're have a lot of calories crammed into their small packaging. But, when eaten in moderation, they're good for weight loss. In one UCLA study, people who snacked on pistachios during a 12-week diet lost more weight than those who consumed a similar number of calories from pretzels.
Grapefruit: The grapefruit diet -- where you survive on grapefruit alone until you reach your goal weight -- is seriously lacking in proper nutrition. But grapefruit can help with weight loss. A recent study from Scripps Clinic found that eating half a grapefruit before meals led to more dropped pounds than drinking a small glass of apple juice as an appetizer. In fact, after twelve weeks of pre-meal citrus snacks, participants lost an average of 3 pounds each.