Every time you walk into a supermarket, you face a YOLO moment: You Only Live Once. So how do you intend to play it? Do you want to seize excellence—grab the absolute best that life has to offer and take a deep bite, and be on your way to rapid weight loss? Or are you going to settle for something less?
The choice is the most important one you can make. Great food means not just great eating—it can mean a rockin’ body, perfect health and even a sharper brain. And toss some extra money in there, too: A study at the University of Florida found that for American women, gaining 25 pounds results in an average salary differential of $15,572. Eat the best food, and you live the best life.
The next time you drop by the market or order up a food delivery, make sure your grocery list contains as many of these foods as possible. The editors of Eat This, Not That! have crunched the nutritional numbers on every single food known to man to find you the 50 Healthiest Foods on the Planet—the highest in protein, with the best healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. Each will lead to your healthiest and happiest life. And to discover the world’s easiest ways to slim down, don’t miss these essential 50 Best-Ever Weight-Loss Secrets From Skinny People!
For most Americans, tea is tea. However, in places like Japan, the UK, and large swaths of Southeast Asia, tea leaves are as diverse and nuanced as wine grapes. Not only does the flavor profile change dramatically between one tea variety and the next, but so do the health benefits. Not only can certain brews fight off various diseases, select teas have also been shown to rev the metabolism, quell hunger, slash waist-widening stress and shrink fat cells. When Taiwanese researchers studied more than 1,100 people over a 10-year period, they determined that those who drank tea had nearly 20 percent less body fat than those who drank none!
To ensure you brew the best cups for your weight loss goals, we’ve rounded up the most potent waist-whittling teas from around the world.
Get this: Green tea literally blasts away flab! Researchers in The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse attribute the fat-burning properties of green tea to catechins, specifically EGCG — the name of a group of antioxidative compounds that blast adipose tissue by revving the metabolism, increasing the release of fat from fat cells (particularly in the belly), and then speeding up the liver’s fat burning capacity. It gets better: Research suggests that combining regular green-tea drinking with exercise may maximize the weight loss benefits. In one study, participants who combined a daily habit of 4-5 cups of green tea with a 25-minute workout lost 2 more pounds than the non-tea-drinking exercisers. Eat This, Not That! loves tea so much, we made it part of our revolutionary new diet plan, The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse. Test panelists lost up to 10 pounds in one week!
Italian researchers in The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse found that drinking a cup of black tea per day improves cardiovascular function—and the more cups you drink, the more you benefit! Better cardiovascular function means you can breeze through that 5K you signed up for. And a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed that drinking 20 ounces of black tea daily causes the body to secrete five times more interferon, a key element of your body’s infection-protection arsenal.
Rooibos tea is made from the leaves of the “red bush” plant, grown exclusively in the small Cederberg region of South Africa, near Cape Town. What makes rooibos tea particularly good for your belly is a unique and powerful flavonoid called Aspalathin. According to South African researchers, polyphenols and flavonoids found in the plant inhibits adipogenesis–the formation of new fat cells–by as much as 22 percent. The chemicals also help aid fat metabolism. Plus, Rooibos is naturally sweet, so you won’t need to add sugar. It’s also not technically a tea—it’s an herbal infusion. Want to give your metabolism a kick? Check out these 55 Best-Ever Ways to Boost Your Metabolism!
Another star of The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse, this fermented Chinese tea can literally shrink the size of your fat cells! To discover the brew’s fat-crusading powers Chinese researchers divided rats into five groups and fed them varying diets over a two month period. In addition to a control group, there was a group given a high-fat diet with no tea supplementation and three additional groups that were fed a high-fat diet with varying doses of pu-erh tea extract. The researchers found that the tea significantly lowered triglyceride concentrations (potentially dangerous fat found in the blood) and belly fat in the high-fat diet groups. Lose up to 10 pounds, like our test panelists, on The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse!
FRUITS & VEGETABLES
Newsflash: Vegetables can help you lose weight!
Okay, okay, we admit that’s not exactly breaking news, but did you know that when it comes to rapid weight loss some veggies reign supreme while others fall fairly flat in comparison? It’s true! Thanks to their specific nutritional profiles, certain produce-aisle picks can help you trim down by revving your metabolism, turning off belly fat genes and frying flab—and that’s on top of all their other health-boosting benefits.
These powerful veggies remind us a bit of those overachievers you loved to hate in high school—you know, the ones who not only got straight A’s, but also scored the hottest date to prom and got voted soccer captain, too. The primary difference between produce and Mr. Popular? Veggies don’t aim to make you jealous with their superhuman skills, they want you to use them to your advantage so you can reach your better body goals. Read on to learn which delicious picks fit the bill and discover delicious ways to incorporate them into your diet.
Protein Payout: 1 cup (cooked), 41 calories, 5 grams of protein
Popeye’s favorite veggie is a great source of not only protein, but also vitamins A and C, antioxidants and heart-healthy folate. One cup of the green superfood has nearly as much protein as a hard-boiled egg—for half the calories. Looking to get the biggest nutritional bang for your buck? Be sure to steam your spinach instead of eating it raw. This cooking method helps retain vitamins and makes it easier for the body to absorb the green’s calcium content. Add a handful to soups, omelets, pasta dishes and veggie stir-fries, or simply steam it and top with pepper, garlic, olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Or blend some into these 23 Best Protein Shake Recipes!
Protein Payout: 1 cup, 139 calories, 6 g protein
Tomatoes are packed with the antioxidant lycopene, which studies show can decrease your risk of bladder, lung, prostate, skin, and stomach cancers, as well as reduce the risk of coronary artery disease. Just one cup of the sun-dried version will lend you 6 grams of satiating protein, 7 grams of fiber and ¾ of your RDA of potassium, which is essential for heart health and tissue repair. They’re also rich in vitamins A and K. Use them as a pizza topping, a tangy addition to salads, or snack on them right out of the bag.
Protein Payout: 1 medium vegetable, 60 calories, 4.2 g protein
Ghrelin is your body’s “I’m hungry” hormone, which is suppressed when your stomach is full, so eating satiating high-fiber and high-protein foods is a no-brainer. The humble artichoke is a winner on both counts: It has almost twice as much fiber as kale (10.3 g per medium artichoke, or 40% of the daily fiber the average woman needs) and one of the highest protein counts among vegetables. Boil and eat the whole shebang as a self-contained salad (why not add a little goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes?),toss the leaves with your favorite greens and dressing, or peel and pop the hearts onto healthy pizzas and flatbreads and lose belly fat.
Protein Payout: 1 cup, 118 calories, 8 g protein
It’s enough to make Popeye do a spit take: Despite their wimpy reputation, a cup of green peas contains eight times the protein of a cup of spinach. And with almost 100% of your daily value of vitamin C in a single cup, they’ll help keep your immune system up to snuff. Layer them into a mason jar salad or add them to an omelet to boost eggs’ satiating power.
You may have heard that spicy hot peppers can help you scorch calories, but did you know that mild peppers can have the same effect? Thanks to a metabolism-boosting compound, dihydrocapsiate, and their high vitamin-C content, sweet red and green peppers can help you lose weight. A cup of these bell-shaped veggies serves up to three times the day’s recommended vitamin C—a nutrient that counteracts stress hormones which trigger fat storage around the midsection. For fat-blasting ways to cook with any of these best vegetables, don’t miss the 150+ weight-loss recipes in Zero Belly Cookbook!
In addition to warding off prostate, breast, lung and skin cancers, this flowery vegetable can also help you whittle your middle. According to experts, broccoli contains a phytonutrient called sulforaphane that increase testosterone and fights off body fat storage. It’s also rich in vitamin C ( a mere cup of the stuff can help you hit your daily mark), a nutrient that can lower levels of cortisol during stressful situations, helping those abs take center stage. The only downside? It can make some people with sensitive stomachs a bit gassy—which isn’t a good look if you’re planning to hit the beach or rock a tight-fitting outfit. That’s no reason to steer clear of this veggie on a day-to-day basis, though. Whip up our Garlicky Beef and Broccoli with Broccoli Noodles recipe to reap the belly-flattening benefits —just not the day before you need to look your leanest.
Pickles are low-cal, filled with fiber and covered in vinegar—which is all good news for your waistline. In fact, just one large pickle has 15 calories and 2 grams of belly-filling fiber, so eating three or four can actually leave you feeling pretty satiated for less than 100 calories! Every dieter knows that eating filling snacks are paramount to weight-loss success, but how does the vinegar help the fat-fighting cause? Studies show acidic foods help increase the rate at which the body burns off carbs by up to 40 percent—and the faster you burn off carbs, the sooner your body starts incinerating fat, which can help you get that lean look you crave. Add these tangy, pickled cucumbers to sandwiches and burgers or munch on them solo to start feeling more confident in your skivvies.
If you typically eat your potatoes warm out of the oven, you’re missing out on the spud’s fat-fighting superpowers. When you throw potatoes in the refrigerator and eat them cold, their digestible starches turn into resistant starches through a process called retrogradation. As the name implies, resistant starch, well, resists digestion, which promotes fat oxidation and reduces abdominal fat. Since eating cold baked potatoes doesn’t sound too appetizing, why not use the cooled spuds to make a potato salad instead? Here’s how: Bake red potatoes in the oven until they’re cooked through and allow them to fully cool. Then, cut them into small slices and dress them with Dijon mustard, fresh pepper, chopped green onions (more on this veggie next), dill and plain Greek yogurt. Mix everything together and put in the refrigerator to cool before consuming.
Onions are rich in quercetin, a flavonoid that increases blood flow and activates a protein in the body that helps regulate glucose levels, torches stored fat and keeps new fat cells from forming. Not to mention, onions are basically the unsung hero of cardiovascular health—an important area of wellness for everyone, but especially those who hit the gym hard to accelerate their weight-loss efforts. The culinary staple can help lower cholesterol, ward off hardening of the arteries and help maintain healthy blood-pressure levels. The best part? Onions are super low-cal and easy to throw into just about anything, from soups, homemade burgers, sandwiches and tacos to pastas, salads, veggie sides, rice and omelets.
Known as the “chocolate pudding fruit,” black sapote tastes like … chocolate pudding. No wonder it’s an Eat This, Not That! favorite! Deceptively rich and creamy, a 100-gram serving has 130 calories and 191 mg of vitamin C, or twice that of an orange. (That’s a mic drop, chocolate pudding.) A study published in Food Research International found black sapote to be a good source of carotenoids and catechins, which spur the release of fat from fat cells and helps the liver convert fat into energy.
How to Enjoy It: Originating in South America, black sapotes can be found in Florida and Hawaii, and certain growers online will ship them within the U.S. Devotees swear by them for low-cal pies and smoothies. Speaking of smoothies, melt fat with each sip by making the The Best Weight-Loss Smoothie Ever.
Ruby Red Grapefruit
A study printed in the journal Metabolism found the eating half a grapefruit before meals may help reduce visceral (belly) fat and lower cholesterol levels. Participants of the six-week study who ate grapefruit with every meal saw their waists shrink by up to an inch! Researchers attribute the effects to a combination of phytochemicals and vitamin C in the grapefruit. Consider having half of a grapefruit before your morning oatmeal, and slicing a few segments to a starter salad.
Tart cherries have been shown to benefit heart health as well as body weight, in a study on obese rats. A 12-week study by the University of Michigan found that rats fed antioxidant-rich tart cherries showed a 9 percent belly fat reduction compared to rats fed a “Western diet.” Moreover, the researchers noted that the cherry consumption had profound ability to alter the expression of fat genes. Enjoy some along with these 50 Best Breakfast Foods for Weight Loss.
Berries—raspberries, strawberries, blueberries—are packed with polyphenols, powerful natural chemicals that can help you lose weight–and even stop fat from forming! In a recent Texas Woman’s University study, researchers found that feeding mice three daily servings of berries, decreased the formation of fat cells by up to 73 percent! A University of Michigan study showed similar results. Rats who had blueberry powder mixed into their meals had less abdominal fat at the end of the 90-day study than rats on a berry-free diet.
Pink Lady Apples
Apples are one of the very best fruit-sources of fiber, which studies have proven to be integral to reducing visceral fat. A recent study at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center found that for every 10-gram increase in soluble fiber eaten per day, visceral fat was reduced by 3.7 percent over five years. Additionally, increased moderate activity (30 of sweating, 2-4 times a week) resulted in a 7.4 percent decrease in the rate of visceral fat accumulation over the same time period. A study conducted at the University of Western Australia found that the Pink Lady variety had the highest level of antioxidant flavonoids.
Watermelon sometimes gets a bad rap for being high in sugar, but the fruit has some impressive health benefits. Research conducted at the University of Kentucky showed that eating watermelon may improve lipid profiles and lower fat accumulation. Better yet, a study among athletes by the Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena in Spain found watermelon juice to help reduce the level of muscle soreness — that’s great news for any Eat This, Not That! warriors working on that six-pack! And staying hydrated with foods like watermelon is just one of the killer 20 Weight-Loss Secrets from Insanity Trainer Shaun T
The humble fruit—botanically, actually a berry!—is perhaps the least-heralded supermarket staple, a superfood more associated with kids, monkeys and slapstick comedy than with steel-cut abs. But its powers are proven, and to investigate just how impactful they can be, Eat This, Not That! consulted our team of nutritionists to determine exactly what eating one banana does to your body. (Cool pro tip: The riper the banana the more nutrients it has!) Click here to see 21 Amazing Things That Happen When You Eat Bananas!
Although the chicken breast is the gold standard of healthy grilling that can aid weight loss—low fat, high protein—the key to any successful eating plan is variety, and research indicates that you now have options. While you still want to steer away from traditional supermarket ground chuck, there are ways to enjoy a beef burger knowing you’re doing right by your waistline. And you can open up your grill to more creative choices, too—all packed with nutrients and protein that’ll keep your fitness goals on track without sacrificing flavor.
Protein Payout: 4 oz strip steak, 133 calories, 26 g protein
When it comes to steak or burgers, go grass-fed. It may ding your wallet, but it’ll dent your abs. Grass-fed beef is naturally leaner and has fewer calories than conventional meat: A lean seven-ounce conventional strip steak has 386 calories and 16 grams of fat. But a seven-ounce grass-fed strip steak has only 234 calories and five grams of fat. Grass-fed meat also contains higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, according to a study published in Nutrition Journal, which have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. (Where do burgers fit in? Find out how to lose weight at MickeyD’s with this essential list: Every Menu Item at McDonald’s—Ranked!!)
Protein Payout: 4 oz, 166 calories, 23 g of protein
While grass-fed beef is an excellent choice, bison’s profile has been rising in recent years, and for good reason: It has half the fat of and fewer calories than red meat. According to the USDA, while a 90%-lean hamburger may average 10 grams of fat, a comparatively sized buffalo burger rings in at two grams of fat with 24 grams of protein, making it one of the leanest meats around. But wait, taking a chance on this unexpected meat will earn you two healthy bonuses: In just one serving you’ll get a full day’s allowance of vitamin B-12, which has been shown to boost energy and help shut down the genes responsible for insulin resistance and the formation of fat cells; additionally, since bison are naturally grass-fed, you can confidently down your burger knowing it’s free of the hormones and pollutants than can manifest themselves in your belly fat. Speaking of belly fat, blast it away with the help of these 11 Eating Habits That Uncover Your Abs.
Protein Payout: 4 oz patty, 194 calories, 29 g protein
Lower that eyebrow you’re raising. Ostrich meat is the rising star of the grill. While it’s technically red and has the rich taste of beef, it has less fat than turkey or chicken. A four-ounce patty contains nearly 30 grams of the muscle building nutrient and just six grams of fat. Plus, one serving has 200% of the daily recommended allowance of vitamin B-12. This exotic meat can also help whittle your middle: Ostrich contains 55 milligrams of choline, one of these essential nutrients for fat loss. And it’s not as hard to find as it sounds—ostrich is increasingly available in supermarkets around the country.
Protein Payout: 4 oz, 124 calories, 24 g protein
A longtime enemy of doctors and dieters, pork has been coming around as a healthier alternative of late — as long as you choose the right cut. Your best bet is pork tenderloin: A University of Wisconsin Study found that a three-ounce serving of pork tenderloin has slightly less fat than a skinless chicken breast. It has 24 grams of protein per serving and 83 milligrams of waist-whittling choline (in the latter case, about the same as a medium egg). In a study published in the journal Nutrients, scientists asked 144 overweight people to eat a diet rich in fresh lean pork. After three months, the group saw a significant reduction in waist size, BMI and belly fat, with no reduction in muscle mass! They speculate that the amino acid profile of pork protein may contribute to greater fat burning.
Fish are confusing.
Was it halibut that you ate last night—or haddock? Was it fluke or flounder? Redfish or whitefish? Bluefin or yellowtail? Snow crab or stone crab? Which one was good for the environment? Which one was good for your waist? And which one was so loaded with mercury it was like chewing on a thermometer?
One thing we do know for certain is that regularly eating seafood as part of a healthy diet can do wonders for your weight loss goals—so long as you choose the right kind. That’s where the waters get murky again. So we had our research team here at Eat This, Not That! dive into the science behind your seafood. Let’s see if we can’t clear things up with this list of the best fish for losing weight.
Protein Payout: 3 oz, 77 calories, 16 g protein
You already knew fish was rich in protein but you might be surprised to learn that halibut tops fiber-rich oatmeal and vegetables in the satiety department. The Satiety Index of Common Foods, an Australian study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, ranks it the number two most filling food—bested only by boiled potatoes for its fullness factor. A separate Australian study that compared the satiety of different animal proteins found a nutritionally similar white fish (flake) to be significantly more satiating than beef and chicken; satiety following the white-fish meal also declined at a much slower rate. Study authors attribute the filling factor of white fish like halibut to its impressive protein content and influence on serotonin, one of the key hormones responsible for appetite signals. Just make sure you read Why Tilapia is Worse Than Bacon!
Protein Payout: 3 oz, 121 calories, 17 g protein
Don’t let salmon’s relatively high calorie and fat content fool you; studies suggest the oily fish may be one of the best for weight loss. (In fact, it makes our list of the fatty foods that will help you lose weight.) In one study, participants were divided into groups and assigned one of three equi-caloric weight loss diets that included no seafood (the control group), lean white fish, or salmon. Everyone lost weight, but the salmon eaters had the lowest fasting insulin levels and a marked reduction in inflammation. Another study in the International Journal of Obesity found that eating three 5-ounce servings of salmon per week for four weeks as part of a low-calorie diet resulted in approximately 2.2 pounds more weight loss than following an equi-calorie diet that didn’t include fish. Wild salmon is leaner than farmed, which is plumped up on fishmeal; and it’s also proven to be significantly lower in cancer-linked PCBs. So go wild — literally. But first read this special report: 8 Reasons to Never Order the Salmon!
Light Canned Tuna
Protein Payout: 3 oz, 73 calories, 16 g protein
Tuna or to-not? That is the question. As a primo source of protein and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), canned light tuna is one of the best and most affordable fish for weight loss, especially from your belly! One study in the Journal of Lipid Research showed that omega 3 fatty acid supplementation had the profound ability to turn off abdominal fat genes. And while you’ll find two types of fatty acids in cold water fish and fish oils—DHA and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)—researchers say DHA can be 40 to 70 percent more effective than EPA at down-regulating fat genes in the abdomen, preventing belly fat cells from expanding in size. But what about the mercury? Mercury levels in tuna vary by species; generally speaking, the larger and leaner the fish, the higher the mercury level. Bluefin and albacore rank among the most toxic, according to a study in Biology Letters. But canned chunk light tuna, harvested from the smallest fish, is considered a “low mercury fish” and can–and should!–be enjoyed two to three times a week (or up to 12 ounces), according to the FDA’s most recent guidelines.
Protein Payout: 3 oz, 70 calories, 15 g protein
Fish and chips won’t help you lose weight, at least not out of the fryer. But research suggests a regular serving of Pacific cod, the fish that’s typical of fish sticks, may keep you stick thin. One study in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases found that eating five servings of cod per week as part of a low-calorie diet for eight weeks resulted in an extra 3.8 pounds of weight loss compared to a diet with the same amount of calories but no fish. Researchers attribute the satiating and slimming properties to cod’s high protein content and amino acid profile, which can help regulate the metabolism. No wonder Captain Birdseye looks so smug!
POULTRY & EGGS
Although there are numerous sources of protein available, ranging from beans and veggies to fish and beef, chicken is by far one of the most popular sources—and it’s easy to see why: it’s affordable, easy to prepare and lower in fat than many other types of meat. But here’s the dilemma: There’s only so many grilled chicken breasts you can eat before you get bored and turn to more flavorful recipes that comes with a slew of unwanted calories. That’s why we searched the web for the the most delicious, slimming poultry recipes out there, and we’re pretty excited about what we’ve found! Add some of these delicious, filling recipes to your weekly lineup to lose weight and ditch chicken boredom once and for all. And to get your stomach supertight, don’t miss these 30 Foods That Melt Love Handles!
Protein Payout: Quarter-pound turkey burger, 140 calories, 16 g protein
Lean and protein-rich, turkey is no longer an automatic substitute for red meat–this bird deserves props on its own. A quarter-pound turkey burger patty contains 140 calories, 16 grams of protein and eight grams of fat. Additionally, turkey is rich in DHA omega-3 acids—18 mg per serving, the highest on this list—which has been shown to boost brain function, improve your mood and turn off fat genes, preventing fat cells from growing in size. Just make sure you buy white meat only; dark contains too much fat. And know that you’re doing your health a double solid by grilling at home: Restaurant versions can be packed with fatty add-ins to increase flavor. Not your problem, since it’s going straight from the grill to your plate (ideally with the best spices to burn fat and peppers mixed in).
Protein Payout: 3 oz. cooked breast, 142 calories, 26 g protein
A 3 oz. cooked chicken breast contains only 142 calories and 3 grams of fat, but packs a whopping 26 grams of protein — more than half of the day’s recommended allowance. But the go-to protein can be a fail on the taste front. (Our casual poll on the taste of plain breast elicited answers ranging from “air you cut with a knife” to “wet sock.”) The good news: With just a little creativity, you can make it a savory post-gym dinner or an impressive date-night meal. And read on for 40 Ways to Lose 4 Inches of Body Fat!
Protein Payout: 1 egg, 85 calories, 7 g protein
Eggs might just be the easiest, cheapest and most versatile way to up your protein intake. Beyond easily upping your daily protein count, each 85-calorie eggs packs a solid 7 grams of the muscle-builder! Eggs also boost your health: They’re loaded with amino acids, antioxidants and iron. Don’t just reach for the whites, though; the yolks boast a fat-fighting nutrient called choline, so opting for whole eggs can actually help you trim down. When you’re shopping for eggs, pay attention to the labels. You should be buying organic, when possible. These are certified by the USDA and are free from antibiotics, vaccines and hormones. As for color, that’s your call. The difference in color just varies based on the type of chicken—they both have the same nutritional value, says Molly Morgan, RD, a board-certified sports specialist dietician based in upstate New York.
BEANS & LEGUMES
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. Mixing some into a smoothie is just one of the 25 Ways to Lose Weight in 5 Seconds!
Protein Payout: 1/2 cup, 109-148 calories, 7-10 grams of protein
Beans are good for more than just your heart. They’re loaded with proteins, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that can benefit your brain and muscles, too. Not to mention, they digest very slowly, which can help you feel fuller, longer, and fuel weight loss efforts without causing feelings of deprivation. Look for easy-to-use, pre-cooked BPA-free varieties that come in a pouch or a box. Add them to soups and salads or mix them with brown rice and steamed vegetables to create a hearty—yet healthy—dinner. Big into snacking? Mix black beans with some salsa and corn, and serve with some whole grain crackers (just make sure they are one of our go-to low carb snacks.
Protein Payout: 1 cup, 230 calories, 18 g protein
Here are some pretty amazing proportions: One cup of lentils has the protein of three eggs, with less than one gram of fat! Their high fiber content makes them extremely satiating, and studies have shown that they speed fat loss: Spanish researchers found that people whose diets included four weekly servings of legumes lost more weight and improved their cholesterol more than people who didn’t. Eat them on their own as a side or simmer them into a soup.
Protein Payout: 2 tablespoons, 191 calories, 7 grams of protein
This creamy spread is downright addictive. While eating too much peanut butter can wreak havoc on your waistline, a standard two-tablespoon serving provides a solid dose of muscle-building protein and healthy fats. According to a 2014 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, consuming peanuts can prevent both cardiovascular and coronary artery disease — the most common type of heart condition. Look for the unsalted, no sugar added varieties without hydrogenated oils to reap the most benefits. If you’re tired of plain old PB&J sandwiches, try stirring the spread into hot oatmeal, smearing it on fresh produce, or blending it into your post-workout smoothie. To choose the best one, use this essential list of The 36 Top Peanut Butters—Ranked!
A wise man once said: “A good reputation is more valuable than money.” And in the food realm, the grain that carries the most clout is undoubtedly quinoa. Known for its high protein and fiber content, the ancient grain has been said to aid weight loss and improve health—and Americans can’t get enough of the stuff. In fact, we imported 69 millions pounds of quinoa in 2013 alone. But just because quinoa carries a massive health halo doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the most nutritious grain in the supermarket. In fact, there are a number of grains that pack as many—or more—total health and weight loss benefits.
Sprouted Whole Grain Bread
Protein payout: Two slices, 138-220 calories, 8-12 g protein
Not all breads are carb bombs waiting to shatter your weight loss goals. This nutrient-dense bread is loaded with folate-filled lentils, protein and good-for-you grains and seeds like barley and millet. To boost the flavor of your slices, make a veggie sandwich overflowing with wholesome nutrients. On two slices of sprouted whole-grain bread combine tahini-free hummus, avocado slices, roasted red peppers, cucumbers, onions, spinach and tomatoes, one of the healthiest foods on the planet.
Protein Payout: 1/4 cup, 180 calories, 7 grams of protein
This nutty-flavored gluten-free grain may be small, but it packs a mighty nutritional punch. It’s loaded with fiber, essential amino acids, calcium and vitamin C — a nutrient not typically found in grains. To reap the benefits, trade your morning oatmeal in for a protein-packed teff porridge. Combine a half cup of teff with one a half cups of water and a pinch of salt in a medium saucepan. Let it come to a boil before turning the heat down to low and letting it simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and top with apples, cinnamon and a dollop of natural peanut butter.
Protein Payout: 1/4 cup, 161 calories, 6 grams of protein
While you may have never heard of this hearty whole grain before, it may become your new favorite. This wheat-rye hybrid packs 12 grams of protein per half cup, and is also rich in brain-boosting iron, bloat-busting potassium, magnesium and heart-healthy fiber. Use triticale berries in place of rice and mix it with soy sauce, fresh ginger, cloves, shiitake mushrooms and edamame to make a healthy, Asian-inspired dish. If you prefer to firing up the oven to using the stove, use triticale flour in place of traditional flour in your baking.
The wonderfood: People who eat oatmeal for breakfast feel full longer—even four hours after they put spoon to mouth! That’s sure to keep you out of the snack drawer mid-morning, boosting your weight loss efforts. The instant varieties often have added sugars and artificial flavors and making slow-cooking oatmeal on the stove can add stress to your already rushed morning routine. The solution: overnight oats. All you have to do to whip up a bowl is fill a mason jar or Tupperware container with grains, toppings, add-ins and a liquid like milk or water. Then you throw it in the refrigerator overnight. While you’re sleeping, the flavors fuse together so all you have to do is scarf it down next morning—no cooking required! Check out our favorite mouthwatering combos right here, with the 50 Best Overnight Oats Recipes
Not around your waist, but on your plate: A new report from the Credit Suisse Research Institute found that more and more of us are choosing whole-fat foods over skim, lite, fat-free or other modern monikers of leanness. And while many health organizations like the American Heart Association still want us to cut down on fat—particularly saturated fat—this full-fat trend may be a healthy rebellion against those decades-old credos, according to recent studies. Take a look at our favorite dairy products.
Protein Payout: 1 oz, 117 calories, 8 g protein
Here’s an excuse for a wine-and-cheese hour: The schmancy Swiss cheese (don’t forget the accented ‘e’) contains 30% more protein than an egg in one slice, plus one-third of your RDA of vitamin A. If you’re looking to indulge, keep your serving to the size of four dice, and moderate your vino to one glass for women, two glasses for men, to get the bad-cholesterol-lowering benefits of the antioxidant resveratrol. And better yet, stick to the #1 wine for rapid weight loss.
2% Greek Yogurt
Protein Payout: 7 oz, 150 calories, 20 g protein
Yogurt may be one of your key allies in weight-loss efforts. A study printed in the Journal of Nutrition found that probiotics like the ones found in creamy, delicious yogurt helped obese women lose nearly twice the weight compared to those who did not consume probiotics. Both sets of subjects were on low-calorie diets, but after 12 weeks, the probiotic poppers lost an average of 9.7 pounds, while those on placebos lost only 5.7. Bonus: the subjects who were given the good bacteria continued to lose weight even after an additional 12 weeks, an average of 11.5 pounds to be accurate! The group that didn’t get the probiotic boost? They maintained their 5.7 pound initial loss, but didn’t trim down further. The good bacteria in probiotics can help ramp up your metabolism and improve your immune system, but it pays to be picky about your sources. Yogurt’s a great way to get a.m. protein and probiotics, but to get the healthiest yogurt you’ll have to read labels; most are packed with added sugars that exceed their protein levels. To speed up the process, use our indispensable guide to the 25 Best Yogurts for Weight Loss!
1% Organic, Grass-Fed Milk
Protein Payout: 8 oz, 110 calories, 8 g protein
Organically raised cows are not subject to the same hormones and antibiotics that conventional cows are; no antibiotics for them means no antibiotics for you. Grass fed cows have been shown to have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids (good) and two to five times more CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) than their corn and grain fed counterparts. CLA contains a group of chemicals which provides a wide variety of health benefits, including immune and inflammatory system support, improved bone mass, improved blood sugar regulation, reduced body fat, reduced risk of heart attack, and maintenance of lean body mass. While skim milk may be lowest in calories, many vitamins are fat-soluble, which means you won’t get all the benefits of the alphabetical nutrients listed on your cereal box unless you opt for at least 1%.
NUTS & SEEDS
Hang out at a local bar and you’re sure to come across a variety of nuts (the food, not the people hanging out in the corner)—and guys popping them like they’re diet freebies. It’s the perfect example of good food gone bad. Nuts, like avocados, are loaded with heart-healthy fats. But healthy doesn’t always mean lean. A couple of beers and a few handfuls of nuts and you’ve racked up some serious calories—and diet damage. “A one-ounce serving of nuts contains 135 calories, and how many nuts you get in a serving will depend on your nut of choice,” says Tanya Zuckerbrot, RD. “Think about it: Would you rather have 12 cashews or 22 almonds?” Here’s our favorite nuts and seeds.
Protein Payout: 1 oz, 138 calories, 5 g protein
One of the hallmarks of a balanced diet is to have a good ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3s. A 4:1 ratio would be ideal, but the modern American diet is more like 20:1. That leads to inflammation, which can trigger weight gain. But while eating a serving of salmon every day isn’t exactly convenient, sprinkling chia seeds—among the most highly concentrated sources of omega-3s in the food world—into smoothies, salads, cereals, pancakes or even desserts is as easy a diet upgrade as you can get. To blast fat fast, whip up these 50 Best Chia Seed Recipes Ever!
Shelled Pumpkin Seeds
Protein Payout: 1 oz, 158 calories, 9 g protein
Dr. Lindsey Duncan, a nutritionist who’s worked with Tony Dorsett and Reggie Bush, is a big fan of pumpkin seeds. “A handful of raw pepitas or dry roasted pumpkin seeds can give you a natural jolt to power through a workout,” he says. “They’re a good source of protein, healthy fats and fiber, keeping you feeling full and energized longer, and contain manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc, which provide additional energy support to maximize gym time.” Throw them into salads, s and rice dishes or eat them raw.
Protein Payout: 1 oz, 164 calories, 6 g protein
Think of each almond as a natural weight-loss pill. A study of overweight and obese adults found that, combined with a calorie-restricted diet, consuming a little more than a quarter-cup of the nuts can decrease weight more effectively than a snack comprised of complex carbohydrates and safflower oil—after just two weeks! (And after 24 weeks, those who ate the nuts experienced a 62% greater reduction in weight and BMI!) For optimal results, eat your daily serving before you hit the gym. Almonds, rich in the amino acid L-arginine, can actually help you burn more fat and carbs during workouts, a study printed in The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found. See how they compare to your usual go-to snack by reading this list of 35 Best-Selling Chips—Ranked.
Protein Payout: 1 oz, 157 calories, 5 g protein
Cashews are good source of protein, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium and copper, and shouldn’t be overlooked as one of your go-to nuts. Magnesium boasts a myriad of health benefits such as helping your body relieve various conditions like constipation, insomnia, headaches and muscle cramps, as well as regulating the immune system and supporting brain function. They also contain a good amount of biotin, which will help keep your locks shiny and lustrous.
Here’s your new mantra: Eat fat to lose fat.
It’s true: Our bodies need dietary fat—particularly healthy oils—in order to lose weight and function properly. The right kinds of fats and oils help quash hunger, maximize your metabolism, and speed nutrients through your body. But not all oils are created equal: Some are downright bad (like trans fats in margarines), while some fats are simply confusing (what’s a canola look like, anyways? And what’s this about an extra virgin?).
To lift the fog from the fats—and set you on the path to quick weight loss—I’ve created this essential countdown compliments of my new book, Zero Belly Diet, ranking oils by their most important quality: their “fat profile.” These oils have the highest levels of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, monounsaturated fats, and lauric acid (all good for you), lower levels of omega-6 fatty acids and saturated fats (not so good for you), and zero trans fats (avoid at all costs).
Enjoy as directed to blast fat immediately—and for a complete and rapid weight loss plan, read this special report: 14 Ways to Lose Your Belly in 14 days.
Why It’s Great: Extracted from the meat of fresh coconuts, this tropical oil is a great source of the medium-chain saturated fat, lauric acid, which converts into energy more easily than other types of fat. Picking coconut oil over other less healthy fats, like lard and margarine, means less flubber is apt to be stored on your frame. (Swapping your standard cooking oil for this exotic version is one of our 20 Weight Loss Tricks You Haven’t Tried
How to Use It: This trendy oil can be used for anything you might use butter for, from frying to baking; use it for cookies, cakes, and pancakes. It’s so healthy, you’ll find it in some of the Zero Belly Diet smoothies. It also tastes great on toast and drizzled over homemade baked sweet potato “fries” with a bit of garlic powder, salt and pepper. Coconut oil breaks down when exposed to super high temperatures, so don’t deep-fry with it.
Why It’s Great: Peanut oil is loaded with a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid (OEA) which can help reduce appetite and promote weight loss. Plus, research out of the University of California, Irvine, found that this particular type of fat boosts memory. Don’t forget it next time you cook.
How to Use It: Because of its high smoke point, peanut oil should be your go-to oil for frying and many high-heat tasks like wok-cooking and pan-searing.
Why It’s Great: Made from pressed avocadoes, this oil is rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats that may help improve cholesterol and ward off hunger. It also contains vitamins B and E and bloat-banishing potassium—it’s no surprise that it’s one of the preferred Paleo diet fats.
How to Use It: Like a salad oil. The oil has a mild nutty taste and a light avocado aroma. It works well drizzled over breads, fish and homemade pizzas. It also pairs nicely with watermelon, grapefruit and oranges. Add some to your fruit salad to create a new twist on a classic dish. And don’t miss this Zero Belly special report: 8 Reasons Why Avocado is the Perfect Weight Loss Food.
Macadamia Nut Oil
Why It’s Great: You’ll have to hunt around in the specialty stores for it, but this bold and buttery oil may be the healthiest you’ll find: Eighty-four percent of the fat in macadamia nuts is monounsaturated, and it has a very high percentage of omega-3s fatty acids. It’s also a source of phytosterols, a plant-derived compound that has been associated with decreased cancer risk.
How to Use It: Due to its medium to high smoke point, macadamia nut oil is best suited for baking, stir frying and oven cooking. For a quick snack, toss slices of sweet potatoes with the nut oil and bake in the oven on 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until crispy.
Why It’s Great: Extra virgin olive oil may increase blood levels of serotonin, a hormone associated with satiety. Plus, olive oil is also loaded with polyphenols, antioxidants that help battle many diseases such as cancer, osteoporosis and brain deterioration.
How to Use It: Expensive extra-virgin, with its robust flavor, should be saved to dress salads, vegetables and cooked dishes. For cooking purposes, regular or light olive oil is sufficient. And check out more 30 Foods to Eat to Never Feel Old!
Why It’s Great: Recently making a splash on restaurant menus and grocery store shelves, this oil has a rich nutty, roasted flavor. A small Pennsylvania State study found that a diet rich in walnuts and walnut oil may help the body respond better to stress and can also help keep diastolic blood pressure levels down. Walnut oil is also rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids which may increase diet-induced calorie burn and resting metabolic rate (the calories we use to keep our heart pumping and body running). And walnuts have more omega-3 fatty acids than any other nut.
How to Use It: Mix with sherry vinegar, olive oil, cumin and a pinch of salt and pepper to make a salad dressing. This oil doesn’t do well under heat, so it shouldn’t be used for hot surface cooking or high temperature baking.
Why It’s Great: Canola, derived from the seeds of a plant in the broccoli family, comes in toward the top of our list with its near-perfect 2.5:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats. According to a study review published last year in Experimental Biology and Medicine, people who achieve a dietary ratio similar to this have been able to battle cancer, arthritis and asthma more effectively. It’s also rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an essential omega-3 fatty acid that may play a role in weight maintenance, according to a recent study.
How to Use It: This is the best option for everyday cooking situations. Canola oil can withstand relatively high levels of heat, and its flavor is fairly neutral, so it won’t dominate a dish. and read on for more of the 30 Foods That Uncover Your Abs—for under $1!
Why It’s Great: Also known as linseed oil—yes, the stuff you used in art class—this fat contains ALA, an an essential omega-3 fatty acid that can aid weight maintenance and may reduce heart disease risks by promoting blood vessel health and reducing inflammation. This oil can also be used topically to fight carpal tunnel syndrome, according to a 2014 Iranian clinical trial.
How to Use It: Flaxseed oil doesn’t hold up well when exposed to heat. Drizzle it on top of salads or use it instead of olive oil or mayo when whipping up pestos, tuna salads and sauces. Or pour into a smoothie!
Wars were fought over them, best-selling pop groups were named after them and new continents were discovered in search of them. But before they were money or symbols of Girl Power, spices were medicines—healers that date back to the world’s first civilizations.
The 21st century brings a new chapter to the spice world story: one of scientific exploration. Today’s researchers are discovering incredible health and nutritional riches in spices. From balancing blood sugar to boosting brain power, and even promoting weight loss, here are five of the healthiest spices on the planet—plus helpful tips for making the best purchase for the ultimate healing spice rack!
How sweet it is! Dozens of studies show that people who consume cocoa–as a hot drink or eaten as dark chocolate–are in much better cardiovascular shape than those who don’t. One nine-year study in the journal Circulation Heart Failure found women who ate one to two servings of high-quality chocolate per week had a 32 percent lower risk of developing heart failure than those who said no to the cocoa. And a second long-term study found that men who ate the most chocolate–about 1/3 of a cup of dark chocolate chips per week–had a 17 percent reduced risk of stroke compared to those who didn’t consume chocolate. Researchers attribute cocoa’s health benefits to polyphenols and flavanols, anti-inflammatory compounds that help protect the heart in a number of ways. In fact, new research shows that, gram for gram, cocoa has an even higher antioxidant capacity than fruit juice! The benefits don’t stop at the heart, though. Studies have shown this sweet spice can help control inflammation-related diseases such as diabetes, liver cirrhosis, and degenerative diseases of the brain like Alzheimer’s.
Get the benefits: The most healthful dark chocolate contains 74 percent or more cocoa solids, but if you’re serious about a healthier heart, don’t buy anything under 60 percent cacao. We like Lindt’s 85% Cocoa Excellence bar. The chocolate in this bar isn’t alkalized–a process that strips out the bitterness at the cost of the cocoa’s natural, healthy compounds–and you can enjoy four indulgent squares for just 230 calories and 5 grams of sugar. The rule of thumb for buying cocoa: The more bitter, the better! (Chocolate is also an aphrodisiac. See more of the 20 Best Supplements for Sex!
Ironically, (or perhaps nature’s way of cutting us some slack) cinnamon–the warm spice that gives sugary baked goods extra flavor–can help control blood sugar and prevent against diabetes. One study found that adding a heaping teaspoon of cinnamon to a starchy meal is as effective as older generation diabetes drugs at stabilizing blood sugar and warding off insulin spikes. And a second study in the Journal of Nutrition found that when a meal contained a spice blend including cinnamon, antioxidant activity in the blood was increased by 13 percent and insulin response decreased by about 20 percent. Researchers theorize that cinnamaldehyde, cinnamon’s active ingredient, works as a blood-sugar balancer by stimulating insulin receptors on cells and allowing excess sugar to move out of the blood. There are other health benefits of cinnamon: studies have shown the spice may improve cholesterol, prevent against food-borne illness, ward off the effects of Alzheimer’s, and provide treatment for women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).
Get the benefits: Will the real cinnamon spice please stand up? Cassia cinnamon is the variety you’re most likely to find at the grocery store, but it’s ceylon cinnamon, a milder, pricier variety that’s touted by health experts. You can find true cinnamon online or in Indian marketplaces and spice shops. It’s an essential part of the 150+ recipes for weight loss in Zero Belly Cookbook!
Once referred to as “Poor Man’s Saffron” because of its deep yellow hue, turmeric is now touted by health experts as the “Golden Spice of Life.” Traditional to Indian cooking, turmeric owes its health benefits to the active ingredient curcumin, a powerful antioxidant shown to release its anti-inflammatory goodness to almost every cell in the body, boosting the immune system and treating a host of maladies from indigestion to cancer. The most recent research shows turmeric may be an effective treatment for brain disease. One recent study found that people at risk of cognitive impairment who added one gram of turmeric to breakfast, showed significantly improved working memory after just six hours. In a separate study, Asian researchers found elderly people who ate the most turmeric-rich foods scored higher on standardized mental tests than those who rarely ate the curry spice. And there’s a growing body of research into the role of curcumin in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
Get the benefits: Turmeric is the only edible source of curcumin, so you want to sneak it into your diet as much as possible. While the spice is typical of curries, it’s not to be confused with curry powder—a blend of spices that includes turmeric. Look for turmeric from Alleppey, which has twice the curcumin than turmeric from Madras. The raw spice is rather harsh, so it’s best enjoyed cooked in dishes like stir-frys and stews, or as a seasoning for meat, poultry and fish.
Used for thousands of years to tame troubled tummies and aid digestion, ginger is mentioned in Chinese medical texts from the fourth century BC! And for the past few decades, scientists have been proving ginger works at quieting that queasy feeling. One study found that ginger helped prevent and treat motion sickness by suppressing the release of vasopressin during “circular vexation,” aka, spinning around in a chair. Vasopressin is a hormone that regulates levels of water, salt and blood sugar. Other research paints ginger as a powerful muscle relaxant, that helps reduce soreness brought on by exercise by as much as 25 percent, as well as banish bloat. Researchers attribute ginger’s health benefits to gingerols, compounds that are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial—and anti-disease. In fact, studies suggest ginger may reduce symptoms of arthritis, improve cholesterol and prevent cancer.
Get the benefits: Fresh ginger is richest in gingerol—the compound that contributes to many of the spice’s health benefits. When buying the dried spice, researchers say you’ll get the most gingerol from organic varieties. Ginger is just one of amazing The 37 IBS Remedies That Will Change Your Life!
It’s funny that the hottest spice in the world is called chile. And while debate over the spelling of the spice wages on—is it chile? or chilli? or chili?—researchers make no bones about the health benefits of the red-hot spice. Studies suggest chili can do everything from reducing blood pressure to clearing up sinus inflammation. But the hottest research revolves around weight loss. Fiery capsaicin, the compound that gives chiles their signature kick, has been shown to increase body heat, boost metabolic rate and decrease appetite. In fact, scientists are currently looking at turning capsaicin into an all-natural anti-obesity supplement for its ability to activate our “good,” calorie-burning brown fat stores. An earlier study by Canadian researchers found that men who ate spicy appetizers consumed 200 fewer calories at later meals than those that did not. And you don’t have to go crazy with the hot sauce. Researchers at Purdue University found just 1 gram of red pepper (about 1/2 a teaspoon) was enough to help manage appetite and burn more calories after a meal. Scientists say capsaicin’s weight loss benefits occur at a molecular level by altering key proteins found in fat.
Get the benefits: The hotter the pepper, the more capsaicin it contains. Habanero and red cayenne chiles are among the hottest at the market. Spice rack cayenne is pure chile, ground from the long, red cayenne chili and it’s also rich in capsaicin. And fiery hot! (Can’t handle the heat? Research suggests you can still get a calorie-burn boost, if not all the health benefits of capsaicin, from dihydrocapsiate, a compound found in milder peppers like poblanos.) Try some on your kale.