This is both the beauty and burden of the modern salad matrix: While there are infinite ways for the most novice of chefs to create something delicious and healthy in a matter of minutes with some of the best weight loss foods, some compositions are infinitely kinder on the waist than others. In the very worst case, you could end up something more fattening than a Burger King Whopper (or two or four). But add the right fixings to your bowl of greens, and a walk down the salad bar could do more for your weight loss goals than a slog on the dreadmill.
Avoid creating a salad so poorly dressed even Lady Gaga would shriek in horror, and stick to these 8 science-proven fat-burning salad toppings for weight loss instead:
In case you hadn’t heard, eggs are no long on the dietary blacklist. The latest research out of Purdue University suggests eating whole eggs with your salad can help you absorb more fat-burning nutrients from the veggies. As a bonus, each 70-calorie egg is packed with the B vitamin choline, the deficiency of which is linked directly to the genes that cause the accumulation of belly fat.
Eat This! Tip: If you’re serious about fat loss, the best way to cook your egg may be poaching. While studies suggest cooked egg-white protein is more easily digested, other research has found a raw or runny yolk contains up to 50% more nutrients than a cooked yolk that’s been hard-boiled.
You say tomato, I say 9-oxo-ODA. That’s the name of a compound found in the brilliant red fruits that Japanese researchers recently discovered can effectively activate your DNA to burn more fat. They’re are also brimming in beta carotene and lycopene, potent antioxidants that give tomatoes their rosy hue and mop up harmful compounds that promote fat storage. One study found people whose diets contained the most beta-carotene and lycopene had the smallest waists and the least belly fat.
Eat This! Tip: At only 5 calories apiece, sun-dried tomatoes contain more bioavailable lycopene than raw tomatoes according to research, plus they’re cheaper at the salad bar than in the grocery store. Cha-ching!
Each slice of grapefruit you add to your salad acts like a match to spark your body’s fat-burning ability. The citrus fruit is loaded with flavanoids that recent research shows stimulate the production of a hormone called adiponectin, which is involved in the breakdown of body fat. Other research suggests the juicy fruit can “turn on” calorie-burning brown fat cells, promoting the breakdown of body fat while reducing appetite.
Eat This! Tip: Go easy on the peeling process; in most clinical trials, participants are advised to eat all portions of the fruit including the pith — the white part beneath the skin you normally throw away. It contains vitamins, antioxidants and filling fiber that keep you slim.
Add bulk to your salad but not your bod with a handful of kidney beans. Research suggests the soluble fiber can spot reduce belly fat. A study by researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center found that for every 10-gram increase in soluble fiber eaten per day, visceral fat reduced by 3.7 percent over five years. All beans provide about six grams of slow-digesting fiber per half-cup serving, but kidney beans may be the best bet for fat loss as they contain slightly more protein (8 grams) and less fat (0.5 gram) than others.
Eat This! Tip: If the musical fruits tend to leave you bloated, stick to canned varieties that have soaked long enough to break down much of the gas-causing oligosaccharides.
Referred to by nutritionists as “the skinny nut,” the pistachio packs only 100 calories per 30-nut serving — about half as much as other varieties — plus a healthy dose of vitamin B6 counteracts the stress hormone cortisol, which is directly linked to excess belly fat. In fact, researchers from UCLA Center for Human Nutrition who recently followed two groups of people on identical low-calorie diets for 12 weeks found a group who ate 240 calories worth of pistachios as their afternoon snack saw greater improvements in their BMI (body mass indexes) than a group who snacked on 220-calories worth of pretzels.
Eat This! Tip: Bottom line: If you’re goal is fat loss, adding a little nuttiness to your sensible salad is a wise choice.
Succulent and summery, a few slices of peach piled on top of your salad may be one of the sweetest ways to slim down. Research has shown the stone fruit may help ward off metabolic syndrome—a name for a group of obesity-related risk factors. The fat-burning properties come from powerful phenolic compounds that can effectively “turn off” fat-genes, and from pectin — a gelatin-like type of fiber found in the cell walls of fruits that limits the amount of fat your cells can absorb.
Eat This! Tip: Pick the slightly firmer fruits when you’re shopping for produce. Peaches are one of the best dietary sources of pectin, and research suggests slightly under-ripe fruits pack the biggest pectin punch.
Light Canned Tuna
Top your salad with this lean protein and soon enough all your friends will be asking you to tuna-round so they can compliment your new slimmed down look. As a primo source of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), canned light tuna is one of the best and most affordable sources of lean protein for fat 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.
Eat This! Tip: Canned chunk light tuna, harvested from the smallest fish, is considered a “low mercury fish,” so you can–and should–enjoy a 4-ounce serving two to three times a week, according to the Food and Drug Administration’s most recent guidelines.
A scoop of guacamole is one of the most effective fat-burning, hunger-squashing salad toppings known to man. One research in the journal Diabetes Care found a diet rich in monounsaturated fat — the kind you’ll find in avocados — may actually prevent body fat distribution around the belly by down regulating the expression of certain fat genes. And a second study found people who ate half a fresh avocado with lunch reported a 40% decreased desire to eat for hours afterwards.
Eat This! Tip: At only 60 calories, a 2 tablespoon serving of guacamole can provide the same satiety benefit with even more of a flavor-punch — and the creamy texture means you’ll need less (if any) dressing. Holy guacamole indeed.