Not all calories are created equal. Different foods go through different metabolic pathways in your body. They can have vastly different effects on your hunger, hormones and the number of calories you burn. Here are the 20 most weight-loss-friendly foods on earth that are supported by science.
- Whole Eggs
Eggs are very filling and nutrient-dense. Compared to refined carbs like bagels, eggs can suppress appetite later in the day and may even promote weight loss.
Once feared for being high in cholesterol, whole eggs have been making a comeback. New studies show that they neither adversely affect blood cholesterol nor cause heart attacks (1, 2).
What’s more, they’re one of the best foods to eat if you need to lose weight, as they’re high in protein, healthy fats and can make you feel full with a very low amount of calories.
One study in 30 overweight women showed that eating eggs for breakfast, instead of bagels, increased feelings of fullness (satiety) and made participants eat less for the next 36 hours (3).
Another eight-week study found that eggs for breakfast increased weight loss on a calorie restricted diet, compared to bagels (4).
Eggs are also incredibly nutrient dense and can help you get all the nutrients you need on a calorie-restricted diet. Interestingly, almost all the nutrients are found in the yolks.
2. Leafy Greens
Leafy greens include kale, spinach, collards, swiss chards and a few others.
They have several properties that make them perfect for a weight loss diet, such as being low in calories and carbohydrates and loaded with fiber.
Eating leafy greens is a great way to increase the volume of your meals, without increasing the calories. Numerous studies show that meals and diets with a low energy density make people eat fewer calories overall (5).
Leafy greens are also incredibly nutritious and very high in many vitamins, antioxidants and minerals, including calcium, which has been shown to aid fat burning in some studies (6).
Leafy greens are an excellent addition to your weight loss diet. Not only are they low in calories but also high in fiber that helps keep you feeling full.
Fatty fish like salmon is incredibly healthy and very satisfying, keeping you full for many hours with relatively few calories.
Salmon is loaded with high-quality protein, healthy fats and various important nutrients.
Fish and seafood in general may also supply a significant amount of iodine.
This nutrient is necessary for proper thyroid function, which is important to keep your metabolism running optimally (7).
Studies show that a significant number of people don’t fill their iodine needs (8).
Salmon is also loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to help reduce inflammation, which is known to play a major role in obesity and metabolic disease (9, 10).
Mackerel, trout, sardines, herring and other types of fatty fish are also excellent.
Salmon is high in both protein and omega-3 fatty acids, making it a good choice for a healthy weight loss diet.
Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts.
Like other vegetables, they’re high in fiber and tend to be incredibly filling.
What’s more, these types of veggies generally contain decent amounts of protein.
They’re not nearly as high in protein as animal foods or legumes but still high compared to most vegetables.
A combination of protein, fiber and low energy density makes cruciferous vegetables the perfect foods to include in your meals if you need to lose weight.
They’re also highly nutritious and contain cancer-fighting substances (11).
Cruciferous vegetables are low in calories but high in fiber and nutrients. Adding them to your diet is not only an excellent weight loss strategy but may also improve your overall health.
Meat has been unfairly demonized.
It has been blamed for various health problems despite a lack of good evidence to back up these negative claims.
Though processed meat is unhealthy, studies show that unprocessed red meat does not raise the risk of heart disease or diabetes (12, 13).
According to two big review studies, red meat has only a very weak correlation with cancer in men and no correlation at all in women (14, 15).
The truth is, meat is a weight-loss-friendly food because it’s high in protein.
Protein is by far the most filling nutrient, and eating a high-protein diet can make you burn up to 80–100 more calories per day (16, 17, 18).
Studies have shown that increasing your protein intake to 25–% of daily calories can cut cravings by 60%, reduce your desire for late-night snacking by half and cause weight loss of almost one pound (0.45 kg) per week (19, 20).
If you’re on a low-carb diet, feel free to eat fatty meats. However, if you’re on a moderate- to high-carbohydrate diet, choosing lean meats may be more appropriate.
Eating unprocessed lean meat is an excellent way to increase your protein intake. Replacing some of the carbs or fat in your diet with protein could make it easier for you to lose excess fat.
White potatoes seem to have fallen out of favor for some reason.
However, they have several properties that make them a perfect food both for weight loss and optimal health.
They contain an incredibly diverse range of nutrients a little bit of almost everything you need.
There have even been accounts of people living on nothing but potatoes alone for extended periods of time.
They’re particularly high in potassium, a nutrient that most people don’t get enough of and that plays an important role in blood pressure control.
On a scale called the Satiety Index, which measures how filling different foods are, white, boiled potatoes scored the highest of all the foods tested (21).
What this means is that by eating white, boiled potatoes, you will naturally feel full and eat less of other foods.
If you allow potatoes to cool for a while after boiling, they will form high amounts of resistant starch, a fiber-like substance that has been shown to have various health benefits, including weight loss (22).
Sweet potatoes, turnips and other root vegetables are also excellent.
Boiled potatoes are among the most filling foods. They’re particularly good at reducing your appetite, potentially suppressing your food intake later in the day.
Tuna is another low-calorie, high-protein food.
It’s lean fish, meaning it’s low in fat.
Tuna is popular among bodybuilders and fitness models who’re on a cut, as it’s a great way to increase protein intake while keeping total calories and fat low.
If you’re trying to emphasize protein intake, make sure to choose tuna canned in water, not oil.
Tuna is an excellent, lean source of high-quality protein. Replacing other macronutrients, such as carbs or fat, with protein is an effective weight loss strategy on a calorie-restricted diet.
Some beans and other legumes can be beneficial for weight loss.
This includes lentils, black beans, kidney beans and some others.
These foods tend to be high in protein and fiber, which are two nutrients that have been shown to lead to satiety.
They also tend to contain some resistant starch.
The main problem is that a lot of people have difficulties tolerating legumes. For this reason, it’s important to prepare them properly.
Beans and legumes are a good addition to your weight loss diet. They’re both high in protein and fiber, contributing to feelings of fullness and a lower calorie intake.
As mentioned above, meals and diets with a low energy density tend to make people eat fewer calories.
Most foods with a low energy density are those that contain lots of water, such as vegetables and fruits.
But you can also just add water to your food, making a soup.
Some studies have shown that eating the exact same food turned into a soup rather than as solid food, makes people feel more satiated and eat significantly fewer calories (23, 24).
Just make sure not to add too much fat to your soup, such as cream or coconut milk, as this can significantly increase its calorie content.
Soups can be an effective part of a weight loss diet. Their high water content makes them very filling. However, try to avoid creamy or oily soups.
Dairy products tend to be high in protein.
One of the best ones is cottage cheese, which calorie for calorie is mostly protein with very few carbs and little fat.
Eating cottage cheese is a great way to boost your protein intake. It’s also very satiating, making you feel full with a relatively low number of calories.
Dairy products are also high in calcium, which may aid fat burning (25).
Other low-fat, high-protein dairy products include Greek yogurt and skyr.
Eating lean dairy products, such as cottage cheese, is one of the best ways to get more protein without significantly increasing your calorie intake.
Avocados are a unique fruit.
While most fruits are high in carbs, avocados are loaded with healthy fats.
They’re particularly high in monounsaturated oleic acid, the same type of fat found in olive oil.
Despite being mostly fat, avocados also contain a lot of water and fiber, making them less energy-dense than you may think.
What’s more, they’re a perfect addition to vegetable salads, as studies show that their fat content can increase carotenoid antioxidant absorption from the vegetables 2.6- to 15-fold (25).
They also contain many important nutrients, including fiber and potassium.
Avocados are a good example of a healthy fat source you can include in your diet while trying to lose weight. Just make sure to keep your intake moderate.