Growing up, you were likely told ad nauseum to “eat your fruits and veggies.” So while you begrudgingly choked down mouthfuls of Brussels sprouts, asparagus, or nectarines, you may have wondered, “why are adults so obsessed with fruits and vegetables?” The answer is clear: Fruits and vegetables are among the healthiest foods in the world. Many are nutritional powerhouses that deliver an array of vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and other essential nutrients vital for good health and longevity. Their health benefits include reduced risk of chronic disease (like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity), improved gut health and digestion, lowered inflammation, increased energy, and healthy weight management.
If you want to lose weight, adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet (and less processed junk food) is non-negotiable. A 2020 study published in Nutrients found that women who increased their intake of whole fruits and vegetables experienced healthy long-term weight loss, reduced risk of becoming overweight or obese, and were better able to portion control and slow their eating speed.
However, with so many delicious and nutritious options to choose from, it can be tricky to know which fruits and vegetables are best for weight loss. That’s why we chatted with Trista Best, RD, registered dietitian with Balance One Supplements, who shares wisdom on the best produce items to add more of to your plate so you can shed pounds healthily and keep them off for good. Read on to learn more, and when you’re done, check out 5 Eating Habits for Weight Loss and Muscle Gain, Experts Say.
In the Nutrients study, researchers found that citrus fruits like grapefruit were among the most effective produce foods for lowering participants’ body mass index (BMI). “Grapefruit can help with weight loss because it’s relatively low in calories and high in fiber, which can help you feel full and satisfied after eating,” says Best. “Grapefruit also contains a compound called naringenin, which has been shown to have anti-obesity effects in animal studies.”
Another top contender for reducing BMI was berries, according to the Nutrients study. In particular, blueberries are associated with less weight gain and reduced risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. “Blueberries are a low-calorie, high-fiber food that may help with weight loss by helping you feel full and satisfied after eating. They’re also a good source of antioxidants and other nutrients that are important for overall health,” Best explains.
Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and Brussels sprouts, are nutritional powerhouses that offer a myriad of health benefits. While they’re known mainly for their cancer prevention benefits, they’re also an excellent food for aiding in weight loss because they’re low in calories, high in fiber, and are nutrient-dense.
“Cruciferous vegetables can aid in weight loss because, like most vegetables, they have a low-caloric density and a significant amount of fiber,” says Best. “These veggies contain powerful antioxidants known to lower cytokines and NF-kB, substances that drive the inflammation process. When these are abundant in the body and allowed to persist, dangerous levels of inflammation can be reached. This reduction in inflammation, along with feelings of satiety from the high fiber content, are helpful in the weight loss process.”
Though avocados are calorie-dense due to their high-fat content (fats provide nine calories per gram, as opposed to four calories per gram from protein and carbs), they’re a fantastic food for helping you reach your weight loss goals. According to the Adventist Health Study, a large cohort study of over 55,400 people, avocado consumption reduced the risk of becoming overweight or obese by 15 percent in high avocado consumers and 7 percent in low avocado consumers, compared to those who abstained from this delicious and nutritious fruit.
“While avocados are high in fat, the majority of the fat is monounsaturated fat, which is considered healthy. Increasing monounsaturated fat intake can help reduce body weight and waist circumference,” Best states.
Potatoes often get a bad rap for being a high-carb food that doesn’t do any favors for weight loss. However, this unfair assumption is far from true. Potatoes are packed with nutrients, healthy carbs, and fiber, making them a healthy addition to any weight loss meal plan. In fact, the results of a 2021 study published in Nutrients found that potato consumption was associated with better diet quality, higher nutrient intake, and improved nutrient adequacy.
“Potatoes are low in calories while being high in fiber and other beneficial nutrients for weight loss,” says Best. “The calorie density of a boiled potato depends on the potato’s size and any toppings or condiments that are added. It’s worth noting that the calorie density of a boiled potato can vary depending on factors such as the variety of potato, cooking method, and any additional ingredients that are added. For example, adding butter or sour cream to a boiled potato will increase the calorie density.”