Not all calories are created equal: The misconception that avocados, fruit, and some healthy oils can make you gain weight has been proven false by studies that show healthy fats and fiber-filled fruits are actually the keys to losing weight naturally. The foods on this list will keep you fuller longer and help your body burn fat and shed unwanted winter weight gain. Certain high-fat, caloric foods, when eaten in moderation, provide nutrients that support a healthy metabolism and keep your blood sugar low, boosting natural weight loss, studies say. Some nutritionists even suggest that to lose weight and keep it off, ditch diets altogether and instead focus on adding more of these whole plant foods to your plate.
If one of your personal goals for the springtime is to get in shape or simply eat cleaner to be healthier, you might be surprised that it’s as easy as adding these foods to your regular daily diet: Ginger to your water in the morning; matcha powder to your daily smoothies, chili peppers to your taco night dish; or citrus to your snacking routine. Learn how the ways these seven foods can help you burn fat, increase satiety and lose weight. Then, explore creative, healthy plant-based recipes to find ways to use them daily that are nutritious and delicious.
If you love guacamole, here’s good news: Eating avocado may help lose weight due to its high fiber and healthy fat content. One cup of sliced avocado contains 10 grams of fiber, almost one-third of your daily recommended intake. (The American Heart Association suggests adults should consume 35 grams of fiber from food daily, not supplements.)
Fiber and weight loss go hand in hand because fiber reduces your appetite, making you feel fuller longer. In fact, after eating an avocado, an NIH study (published last spring) explained that you will feel full for up to six hours afterward, noting that eating an avocado mid-day will help you to avoid reaching for caloric snacks until dinner. The study also concluded that people who eat avocados tend to eat less throughout the day. Even accounting for the calories in an avocado, (230 per cup) when you add avocado to your salad or lunch, you end up eating less, which results in weight loss.
In a different study, researchers looked at avocado intake in relation to changes in body weight and composition over time and found that the more often people ate avocados, the more likely they were to stay fit and not gain weight over an 11-year period The longitudinal study examined two groups of 56-year-olds, one group ate avocados frequently, the others did not. The avocado lovers gained less weight and stayed leaner over time compared to those who did not eat avocados as a regular part of their diet. The report concluded: “avocados contain nutrients and bioactive compounds that may help reduce the risk of becoming overweight or obese.” And concluded with, “habitual consumption of avocados may reduce adult weight gain.” This is even more remarkable given the fact that most adults gain one to two pounds a year, or 10 to 20 pounds per decade, and in the 1-year period of the study, the avocado eaters stayed the same weight.
Avocados are known for their fat content and this heart-healthy fat may also help you lose weight by acclimating your body to burn fat for energy. There’s a third reason avocados are beneficial for weight loss, explains Registered Dietician Lori Meyer. She reports on the health benefits of avocados and notes that her research proved “it’s not just the satiety value of the avocado or the monounsaturated fat, but there is a sugar [in avocados] called mannoheptulose, and it helps the way your body uses insulin, [which] helps to reduce insulin resistance.” So essentially avocado is a perfect combination of fat, fiber, and a plant-based naturally occurring carb that signals to your body to burn more fat, naturally.
Matcha is a Japanese green tea powder made from dried leaves and this tea contains EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), which is a powerful plant compound that has several known health benefits. Studies show that EGCG, which is in green tea more than other teas due to the way tea is processed, helps to reduce inflammation and increases a hormone that helps you fel full called CCK (cholecystokinin).
One study by The Cochrane Systematic Review divided people into two groups and the subjects who were given green tea over 12 weeks lost up to 3.5 kg of weight more than those in the control group who didn’t get given green tea.
The way that green tea gets processed before you even buy it, affects how much EGCG it contains, Green tea generally has the highest amount of EGCG, while oolong and black contain less because they are either partially or fully oxidized according to one report. Green teas are usually made from the Sinensis tea plant, and the stems and veins of the leaves are removed and then the soft part of the leaf is ground into a powder but this process leaves intact the active ingredients, so that is why Matcha is better for you than many other teas that are more processed on their way to being packaged and sold.
The ingredient that gives chili peppers a spicy kick and can make your eyes water and your mouth on fire, is a compound called capsaicin, which is also the active ingredient in cayenne pepper. Capsaicin has been shown to help boost metabolism and reduce hunger by lowering the body’s production of a hunger signal called ghrelin, according to Amanda Nicole, RD.
“The hormone ghrelin increases appetite and plays a role in body weight,” explains Nicole. “A 2017 review published in Bioscience Reports examined the impact of capsaicin in keeping people feeling full for longer. Researchers found that dietary capsaicin consumption could activate brown adipose tissue [also known as brown fat], which transfers the energy from food to heat” meaning it is the body’s master controller that tells it to burn calories and that helps you lose weight. “When brown fat burns, it results in a process called thermogenesis which burns calories and promotes satiety. While further research is needed to establish a clear link between capsaicin and weight loss, it has been studied to support healthy weight management.”
The active ingredient in ginger, gingerol, is a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties that also may lower lipid accumulation in the body, meaning you store less fat, according to studies that show ginger may be a natural weight-loss supplement.
In one study, obese rats were treated with gingerol for 30 days and fed a high-fat diet. Research showed “significantly decreased glucose levels,” as well as body weight, leptin, and insulin, two hormones that help regulate fat storage in the body. Essentially the rats on gingerol had a much healthier response to the food they ate than those not given the gingerol.
In another study, 473 overweight people were placed in randomized controlled groups and half-consumed ginger supplements to see what the effect of ginger would have on weight loss. “Ginger intake reduced body weight, waist-to-hip ratio,” and it also helped improve major health markers such as lowering blood sugar and insulin resistance while at the same time, raising HDL or “good” cholesterol, according to the findings.
Another study looked at the effects of taking dietary supplements for green tea, capsaicin, and ginger extract especially what impact these three supplements would have on weight loss. In a study that followed 50 overweight women for 8 weeks, these supplements “had beneficial effects on weight, BMI, markers of insulin, metabolism.” So while ginger is part of the study, it appears to be beneficial both on its own and taken together with green tea and capsaicin.
We know that all caffeine whether it’s in coffee or tea, is stimulating, increasing your metabolism, and your energy, and has been shown to help people keep weight off, but oolong tea is especially effective because the benefits of caffeine are combined with catechin, a compound that has the ability to breakdown fat quickly in studies.
Drinking oolong tea, a traditional Chinese tea that is in its own category, between black and green tea, could help torch fat while you sleep, according to a study reported on by Karen Asp for The Beet. “Like all teas, oolong contains caffeine, which impacts energy metabolism by increasing our heart rate,” says senior author of the study, Professor Kumpei Tokuyama. “However, studies suggest that tea consumption may also increase the breakdown of fat, independent of the effects of caffeine.
The tropical fruit is high in fiber, containing three grams per cup. If you opt for citrus or tropical fruit, papaya is one of the better choices. Fiber is linked to weight loss because it makes you feel fuller longer and helps your body regulate blood sugar, which is important since when the gut releases energy at a steady pace and avoids the spikes in blood sugar that causes insulin to signal “store energy as fat.”
The soluble fiber in papaya slows down the digestion rate of other nutrients as well (like carbohydrates) therefore you feel full quicker and stay full longer, which makes it easier to lose weight, according to research. And because your body isn’t rapidly digesting food, when you eat high-fiber foods like papaya, you won’t experience a sugar crash or feel hungry soon after eating.
Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides which when sold as MCT Oil is a popular additive to coffee to help boost fat burning. These MCT oils can help your body achieve ketosis, a metabolic state where you burn fat as fuel as long as you keep carbohydrates to a minimum. Research has found that MCTs increase feelings of satiety by helping your body get the message that it is full, releasing appetite suppressor hormones leptin and peptides. Still, like any other oil, use it sparingly since even so-called healthy oils can add to your overall caloric intake. As always the best way to lose weigh and keep it off is by eating a diet of whole plant-based foods and staying active every day.