7 Best Vegetables for Weight Loss, Say Dietitians
You can't go wrong with eating veggies. In fact, according to the Harvard School of Public Health, a diet that contains plenty of vegetables on a regular basis can help you prevent heart disease, manage blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and even improve your digestive health. Along with these health benefits, vegetables can help you meet your weight loss goals, as well. In fact, one study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that increasing your consumption of vegetables could contribute to increased losing weight.
While almost all vegetables can help support your overall health, you might be surprised to know that the best veggies for weight loss have certain qualities that can help make this possible. Naturally low in calories and high in fiber and water content, many veggies can be satiating enough to replace more calorie-heavy snacks. In addition, the fiber within vegetables can further aid your weight loss efforts by improving digestion, promoting a healthier gut, and helping to manage blood sugar responses. Some vegetables even contain specific antioxidants that are known to help promote weight loss as well.
To learn more, we asked a few expert dietitians to give their takes on which vegetables are best to eat for weight loss. Keep reading to find out what they suggest—and for more healthy weight loss tips, check out 5 Best Breakfast Habits for Belly Fat Loss.
A member of the brassica family along with broccoli and brussels sprouts, cauliflower is low in calories and contains some fiber, a winning combination for weight loss," says Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim and a member of our Medical Expert Board.
Young also points out that cauliflower is so versatile that it's easy to incorporate in many different types of dishes. "For example, you can add cauliflower rice to stews or enjoy steamed cauliflower as a side dish," she says.
Spaghetti squash is a great vegetable for weight loss because it can act as a healthy substitute for traditional pasta.
"For people with diabetes or those needing to watch their carb intake, it's a great low-carb alternative that won't spike blood sugar levels," says Young.
Even if you do not need to monitor your intake of carbohydrates, according to Young, this vegetable is still "low in calories and provides some fiber—making it a weight loss-friendly food."
Broccoli is a versatile vegetable that people love eating whether raw, steamed, or sautéed. Along with versatility, this veggie is also a great addition to your eating plan when you're trying to shed a few pounds.
"Broccoli contains antioxidants, which are known to lower the inflammation in the body, among other things. These nutrients in broccoli are unique in how they work," says Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD, a consultant at Balance One Supplements. Research shows that chronic inflammation can cause weight gain. However, the ability to reduce inflammation can help you lose weight.
"This vegetable also provides the body with sulforaphane, an antioxidant plant compound that gives this vegetable most of its anti-inflammatory benefits," Best adds. "Sulforaphane works by lowering cytokines and NF-kB, the substances that drive the inflammation process. When these are abundant in the body and allowed to persist dangerous levels of inflammation can be reached."
Bell peppers are a delicious vegetable with a mild flavor, so they're great for adding to different types of dishes.
"Bell peppers are ideal vegetables to add to a weight-loss diet. They are low in calories and high in nutrients while also helping to create a sense of fullness after meals. This combination can help to prevent overeating throughout the rest of the day," Best says.
In addition to supporting weight loss, Best notes that "bell peppers are also packed full of nutrients that benefit the body in significant ways, yet most of the general public is unaware of how healthy they actually are."
Red bell peppers, in particular, are higher in vitamin C than oranges, which is an important nutrient for immune support benefits and improves the absorption of iron.
Veggies like onions, garlic, scallions, shallots, leeks, and chives are considered alliums. Packed with favor, they can compensate for other higher-calorie flavor additives you may add to food, making them a great addition to a healthy meal plan.
"These low-calorie, high-flavor vegetables can be used in so many ways from soups to sauces, seasonings and salads, and more," explains Jonathan Isbill, MS, RD, LD, a registered dietitian, holistic health coach, and educator. "One of the easiest ways to reduce total calories is to go for a whole-foods flavor and swap out ultra-processed dressings and sauces, soups, and other packaged foods that may provide you with familiar flavors, but come with very little nutrients and lots of extra empty calories."
"Onions are also a great source of whole food prebiotics to support a healthy microbiome balance and happy digestion," Isbill notes.
If you're someone who can handle a little bit of spice in the kitchen, you may want to try adding some hot peppers to your next meal to support weight loss.
"I love adding hot peppers and chili peppers to someone's meal plan to boost flavor and heat to their dishes," says Isbill. "The interesting thing about veggies that come from the capsicum genus of plants is that they contain capsaicin, which has been known to boost mood and metabolism and reduce inflammation while also promoting an endorphin release and giving some people an extra calorie burn. Capsaicin can heat up the body's temperature and cause you to burn off a few extra calories thanks to this thermic effect of these foods."
If you love beets, you'll be happy to know that they are packed with plenty of helpful nutrients to aid in weight loss.
"Being rich in nitrates, beets have been long appreciated by athletes and high performers as a way to increase nitric oxide in the body. This extra boost of NO can help fuel workouts, support blood flow, maximize recovery, and may even boost performance for some," says Isbill.
When you get more out of your fat-burning workouts, you can support your weight loss goals.
"Many people enjoy beetroot juice. And you can also sauté their greens in stir-fry, add them to a salad, or blend them in a smoothie," he adds.
A previous version of this story was published in June 2022. It has been updated with additional entries and nutritional information.
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