By Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D., EatingWell.com
It’s that time of year when I’m looking for an extra edge to stay slim and get in better shape. I’m already exercising regularly and eating well. So in the interest of further powering up my efforts, I went looking for foods that do a little of the work for me. Here they are: 8 health-food superstars.
If you’re not quite at the point where you’re looking for an extra edge, don’t despair, this list is still for you. Consider it a diet cheat sheet of sorts with 8 secret food weapons to recharge your dieting efforts.
Apples: For a mere 95 calories, a medium-sized apple contains 4 grams of fiber. And recent research, published in the Journal of Nutrition, suggests that boosting your fiber intake may help you to prevent weight gain—or even encourage weight loss.
Oatmeal: Eating a breakfast made with “slow-release” carbohydrates, such as oatmeal or bran cereal, 3 hours before you exercise may help you burn more fat, suggests a recent study in the Journal of Nutrition. Here’s why: in the study, eating “slow-release” carbohydrates didn’t spike blood sugar as high as eating refined carbohydrates, such as white toast. In turn, insulin levels didn’t spike as high and because insulin plays a role in signaling your body to store fat, having lower levels may help you burn fat.
Soup: Research, published in the journal Appetite, has shown that people who start a meal with vegetable soup eat 20 percent fewer calories over the course of their meal.
Low-Cal Desserts: OK, so this isn’t exactly a “health food,” but it really is welcome news that it may be easier to stick to your diet if it includes a little sweet treat. According to a new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, banning sugary foods could lead to overeating. One reason may be that removing access to sweet foods stimulates the release of a molecule in your brain called corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), produced when you’re afraid, anxious or stressed, says Pietro Cottone, Ph.D., lead study author. And increased stress levels may lower your motivation to eat more nutritious foods, making it more likely that you’ll binge on junk food.
Mushrooms: Research reports that when people ate mushroom-based entrees, they felt just as satisfied as when they’d eaten those same dishes made with beef—though they’d taken in a fraction of the calories and fat.
Eggs: In one study, dieters who ate eggs for breakfast felt full for longer and lost more than twice as much weight as those who got the same amount of calories from a bagel for breakfast. Think beyond breakfast, too: eggs boost a salad’s staying power and make for a satisfying snack.
Hot Chile Peppers: In one study, consuming a little hot pepper (in tomato juice or in capsules) 30 minutes before a meal helped study participants feel less hungry and eat about 10 percent less.
Almonds: Chew more to curb hunger. That’s what researchers concluded in a recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in which they asked participants to chew a 2-ounce serving of almonds 10, 25 or 40 times. Participants got maximum satisfaction—they felt fuller longer—from the nuts when they chewed 40 times. Chewing more may cause a greater release of fat from the almonds, which triggers hormones that curb hunger, speculates Rick Mattes, Ph.D., R.D., professor of foods and nutrition at Purdue University, study author and an EatingWell advisor.
Brierley Wright, MS. RD. is an associate editor at EatingWell.