Top 30 spring foods for weight loss
Snow peas have flat, edible pods (no shelling required!), plus a sweet flavour and crisp texture that make them great for snacking.
And since almost 25 per cent of a snow peas' calories come from sugar-stabilising 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 saute dishes too.
Butter (Boston bibb) lettuce
As the name suggests, it has a slightly sweet, buttery flavour. And if you're looking for a slimming side dish, butter lettuce (known in the US as 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 flavour.
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.
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 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 fridge for up to two weeks.
Sweet, juicy plums are packed with soluble fibre. 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 per cent, 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.
Spring's sweet, tender baby lettuce variaties 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 nutirent that's essential for keeping bones strong and break-resistant, say researchers at the University of North Carolina.
They're not the prettiest things, but they have a rich, smokey flavour that works beautifully in meat dishes, soups and stews and more.
According to the National Institute of Health, shiitakes are rich in selenium - a mineral that helps ramp up your ability to burn fat for fuel by "converting thyroxine (T4) - your body's weakest thyroide 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.
Sometimes called scallions or green onions, these mild young shoots wont 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 flavour and colour.
Spring onions are rich in sulphur - a nutrient that helps your pancreas burn carbs for fuel before they can be stored away as fat, say Standford Unviersity researchers.
Sulphur 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.
Also called Asian pears, these tasty treats combine the shape and crispness of an apple with the texture, flavour and golden-yellow hue of a pear. 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 flavour of these unusual pears, soothes the hypothalamus - the region of the brain that fuels powerful hunger pangs and cravings, say Stanford University researchers.
If you've never been a fan of spinach because of it's strong taste, give baby spinach a try. It's surprisingly mild, plus much easier to prepare, since there are no stems to trim off.
Baby spinach is also 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.
If your weight loss plans keep getting derailed because of snacking, garden peas could be the secret to slimming. They put the kibosh of 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 contain five times that much!).
This purple powerhouse is actually a berry, not a vegetable. 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.
Thanks to their crispy texture and almost non-existant flavour, 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.
They're also so rich in fibre and water that researchers at Austrailia's University of Sydney say they can shut down a ravenous appetite as quickly as higher-cal treats like peanut butter and full-fat yoghurt do.
Pick small zucchinis whenever possible - the larger ones tend to have a woody texture.
To lose weight at a steady pace, you need to keep your blood sugars low, since your body will only dip into your fat stores if it's 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 absorbtion 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 per cent, the study authors say.
These auromatic leaves add a cool burst of flavour to warm weather salads and drinks. 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.
They look like tiny tomatoes, but they've got a bit more of a kick. Gold and amber coloured tamarillos have a slightly tart flavour - and the red ones can make you pucker! Tamarillos contain just 30 calories each, plus they're loaded with anthocyanins - powerful antioxidants that can dquash cancer cells, plus lower your liver's production of artery-clogging cholesterol by as much as 10 per cent, according to University of Nebraska researchers.
Use sliced tamarillos to add a spash of colour to your salads, and try them poached, fried, grilled or baked (discard the skin for the tastiest flavour).
Bok choy, napa cabbage, Chinese mustard greens, choy sum... Asian greens are now showing up in supermarkets nationwide, and experiemnting 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 energises 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.
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 Austrailia's University of Sydney, this crispy herb (often dubbed 'chicory' or 'endive') 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.
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 per cent of your day's supply of appetite-taming fibre.
And there's more - a tasty cup of guavas contains more immunity boosting vitamin C than any other fruit or veggie (including oranges), plus over 1,000 International Units of vitamin A - a vitamin that cuts your risk of skin cancer by as much as 40 per cent, according to studies at the University of California, San Francisco.
Okra's a bit of a mystery. According to USDA researchers, it's a 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 in is Okra's mucilage - a gel-like substance that quickly expands to fill your tummy as you munch. Unfortunately, mucilage is often what 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.
Skip the canned stuff (which is usually soaked in waist-widening syrup) and opt for fresh pineapple, which is at it's peak in Spring. "Although pineapple is slightly higher in fructose (natural fruit sugar) than most produce, it's still light. One cup of cubed chucks 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.
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 Vitamin C and A, 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.
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, D, E 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.
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 fibre, 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.
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 add thickness and flavour,"
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.
"The beauty of an artichoke is that it takes a while to eat, so it's almost impossible to overindulge," explains Wendy Bazilian, registered dietition and author of The SuperFoodRx Diet. One medium bulb contains a mere 64 calories and a whopping 10 grams of filling, appetite reducing fibre. Half a cup of artichoke hearts (which are a great addition to salads and pasta) has 45 calories and seven grams of satiating fibre.
This spring pick is also packed with a compound called cynarin, a substance that naturall 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, yoghurt based dressing to make sure you don't consume excess fat and calories," advises Bazilian
This spring herb, which can be added to anything 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 flavour with zero guilt."
In fact, a study from Virginia State University showed that subbing slimming herbs and spices such as cilantro for fattier flavourings helped people lose ten pounds over the course of a year.
"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 fibre. 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.
With a cup of slices at 16 calories, what's not to love about cucumbers? "Because cukes are high in fibre and contain lots of water, they also fill you up, so you'll be less likely to spoon up high-fate 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 per cent.
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." Like all peas, sugar snaps are rich in fibre, folate, and are especially potent in vitamin K, a bone and blood-building nutrient, she says.
Next Up: 95 healthy snacks under 200 calories
We’ve got snacks for work, home, to eat on the go and to satisfy your sweet tooth.
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