Wouldn’t it be nice if every pound of chocolate you ate would make you lose a pound of flab? Well, perhaps chocolate won’t do the trick, but new research is showing that there are certain foods that can help make you thin and actually can help you drop pounds.
“A pound of carrots will fill you up, with only a smattering of calories -- or you can have a pound of cheeseburger, and you’ll gain weight faster than you can jump on a scale,” says Elizabeth Somer, MA, RD, author of 10 Habits That Mess Up a Woman's Diet and Age-Proof Your Body. “People don’t gain weight on carrots and blueberries; it would be almost impossible to eat enough of them,” Somers says. “We fill up on the volume of food.”
But fear not, you are not destined to a steady diet of carrot sticks and bird food. In fact, a wide assortment of the right “thin” foods can help you lose weight. The key things to look for: Foods with high water content, high-fiber foods, and calcium. All of these will help you feel full longer and thus eat fewer calories in the long run. Sorry, until Godiva starts filling their truffles with water instead of chocolate cream, they don’t make the list. But lots of other luscious foods do.
A good rule to bear in mind is to avoid processed foods, which tend to be higher in fat and salt. “If you eat real food, minimally processed, for instance plain nuts instead of those processed with fat, or 100% whole-wheat bread instead of white bread, that alone will help you manage your weight,” Somer says.
Here are other tips on foods to help you lose weight.
Eat Your Water – Drink Your Meals
But that’s not the only way water can help you lose weight. “If water is incorporated into food, it tends to fill us up,” Somer says. Most fruits and vegetables are 80% to 90% water.
Another tip: Try a bowl of soup before each meal. “Make sure it’s broth-based, not cream-based,” Somer says. She also suggests, “a thick beverage like V8 before a meal so you’re less likely to overeat. You’re likely to consume fewer calories. Brown rice or oatmeal, which have incorporated the water into them, also work.”
Load the Fiber – Fill Up Before You Fill Out
“People who eat whole grains have an easier time managing their weight,” Somer says. “Fiber fills you up before it fills you out.” Whole grains have the added benefit of generally being lower in calories than refined (think white flour) grains and carbohydrates.
Most Americans get less than half the 30 to 35 grams of fiber most health organizations recommend for adults. The high fiber content of most fruits and vegetables makes them good sources of foods that make you thin – in addition, they are comparatively low in calories. What else can you do?
Look for breads that say 100% whole wheat to make sure you getting the real deal. Ann Kulze, MD, of Charleston, S.C., author of Dr. Ann’s 10-Step Diet, A Simple Plan for Permanent Weight Loss & Lifelong Vitality, also recommends incorporating beans such as soy, lentil, chickpeas, and black beans into your diet. “They are high in fiber and protein so they’ll keep you full longer,” Kulze says.
Got Milk? Calcium Fights Fat
“Preliminary evidence suggests that if someone is already eating a low-fat, portion-controlled diet and then they get three servings of nonfat milk a day, they lose more weight than someone who eats the same number of calories but doesn’t have the milk,” Somer says. The theory is that calcium may inhibit the storage of fat, and it seems that the weight loss comes largely from the midsection.
Though Somer says the research is not yet conclusive, she points out, “You need the milk anyway for your bones, so it certainly won’t hurt.” The research has been strictly on food, not supplements, so even if you take calcium supplements, you need to drink up, too.
Women who got the largest amount of calcium from dairy foods lost the most weight and body fat over two years, even if they didn’t change their exercise habits, according to a study in the December 2000 Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Although the recommended calcium level for young women is 1,200-1,500 milligrams daily, the study showed that the average woman's daily intake of calcium was under 800 milligrams per day.
Here are the calcium levels recommended for adults by the USDA:
Ages 9 to 18: 1,300 mg
Ages 19 to 50: 1,000 mg
Ages 51 and over: 1,200 mg
Soy Good – The Other Calcium Source
Not a milk lover? You may be able to get similar benefits from soy (and no, we’re not talking soy sauce here.) An article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in December 2002 says soy contains many of the same properties as calcium. Stay tuned for further studies. In the meantime, eat your tofu!
Go Nuts – Good Fat, Fiber and Protein
Yes, nuts are high in calories, but they are also a great source of protein, fiber, and the “good” (monounsaturated) fat -- all of which can help in weight loss. A small handful (10-to-12 nuts) of walnuts or almonds can actually help you “lower your risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes,” says Somer. Try some in your salad, with a piece of fruit, or sprinkled in your cereal – oatmeal, of course.