Best Salad Ingredients for Weight Loss
By Dana Leigh Smith
Sure, every body and everybody’s diet is different. But if you’re a time-strapped dieter trying to lose weight, you’re bound to eat a lot of salad.
And as long as you stay away from fatty add-ons like bacon bits and crispy noodles, your strategy is sure to pay off–eventually. The road to weight loss success can be slow going, but by throwing ingredients in your bowl that scientists say rev metabolism, bust hunger or burn belly fat, your daily bowl of greens can become an effective vehicle in helping you reach your goals even faster—without sacrificing flavor. Whether you’re whipping something up at home or grabbing a make-your-own variety from the corner deli, our delicious topping picks will deliver the results you’re looking for at lighting-speed. Plus, they’re super tasty, too—especially when eaten with the suggested salad pairing we’ve provided for each.
You may already know that hot peppers can rev your metabolism, but did you know that their sweet-tasting, bell-shaped cousins have similar effects? It’s all thanks to their metabolism-boosting compound called dihydrocapsiate. In one study, participants who consumed dihydrocapsiate experienced a metabolic boost that was nearly double that of the placebo group! But that’s not all: Sweet red and green bell peppers are also rich in vitamin C—a nutrient that fights back against stress hormones that trigger fat storage in the stomach.
Pair it with: Romaine + avocado + onion + black beans + tomato + balsamic vinegar + fresh pepper
Want to save cash, improve your health and lose weight in one fell swoop? Add eggs to your greens in lieu of more expensive protein sources like chicken. In addition to the hunger-quelling effects of the whites, the yellow center is an abundant source of a fat-fighting nutrient called choline. It works by suppressing levels of the hunger-stoking hormone leptin, which fuels between-meal cravings. Yolks also increase your body’s absorption of heart-protecting, cancer-fighting antioxidants called carotenoids, found in popular salad veggies like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, carrots and sweet potato.
Pair it with: Kale + sautéed Brussels sprouts + carrots + mushroom + red wine vinegar + extra-virgin olive oil + fresh pepper
We’ve got some berry good news: According to two recent animal studies, consuming a diet rich in polyphenols–a naturally occurring chemical found abundantly in strawberries, blueberries and raspberries–can decrease the formation of fat cells by up to 73 percent! While we can’t be certain the same will hold true in humans, the sweet fruits are also filled with water and fiber—two nutrients that help ward off hunger—so there are proven benefits to adding them to your plate of greens.
Pair it with: Mixed greens + Gorgonzola + pecans + onions + grilled chicken + balsamic vinaigrette
Trying to lose the last few pounds before hitting the beach this season? Throw slices of a delicious, juicy peach into your greens. According to Texas A&M University researchers, the stone fruit contains phenolic compounds that modulate different expressions of genes to ward off obesity, high cholesterol, inflammation and diabetes—now that’s something to feel just peachy about!
Pair it with: Arugula + red onion + tomatoes + feta + grilled shrimp + poppy seed dressing
From time to time it’s beneficial to replace animal proteins with plant-based sources of the nutrient in your diet—doing so can reduce your risk of chronic conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. In one Spanish study, study participants who ate a calorie-restricted diet that included four weekly servings of legumes lost more weight than those on a calorie-equivalent diet that didn’t include beans—likely due to their belly-filling fiber content. A study published in the journal Obesity backs that assumption: The researchers found that eating 160 grams—or a little more than a half cup—of legumes led people to feel 31% fuller. It doesn’t matter what types of beans you eat (so long as they aren’t re-fried), just be sure to work them into your diet to reap the benefits.
Pair it with: Romaine + radish + orange + scallions + feta + citrus dressing
Pick up a pack of breath mints and ask the deli clerk to pile on the onions. The flavorful, low-cal veggie (a quarter-cup has just 16 calories) breathes new life into bland beds of lettuce, while simultaneously boosting endurance (which can help you burn extra calories at the gym) and torching body fat. The onion’s diverse skill set comes from a powerful flavonoid called quercetin that increases blood flow and mimics the effects of exercise by enhancing the production the energy-producing units in our cells.
Pair it with: Romaine + cucumber + tomato + carrots + chickpeas + red wine vinegar
Sick of grilled chicken? Add some chicken of the sea to your greens. Sure, ounce-for-ounce it has two fewer grams of protein than the classic bird, but its nutritional profile more than makes it for it. Tuna is a primo source of docosahexaenoic acid, a powerful omega-3 fat that can shrink—and eventually kill off—young fat cells in the belly, according to Journal of Nutrition research. Worried about the mercury? Canned tuna is considered a “low mercury fish” and can safely be enjoyed two to three times a week, according to the FDA’s most recent guidelines.
Pair it with: Spinach + tomato + green pepper + cucumber + onion + feta + Greek dressing