If you want to have a belly like this, these foods can help. But quick, put down that beer, it can't!

If you want to have a belly like this, these foods can help. But quick, put down that beer, it can't!

If you’re trying to drop a few (or more) pounds, probably one of the first questions you wanted an answer to was “What are the foods that can help me lose weight?” It is an excellent question. Unlike many things you may try to control, food is a necessity, and you’ll need to cross paths with it several times a day. Trying to control something that you cannot avoid completely is extremely difficult for many people, and so it is with food.

If you’re looking for foods that can help you lose weight, you’ll want to look for alternatives to some of the unhealthier foods you may be eating now. The fact is that your caloric intake, more than any other single factor, determines how much you’ll weigh. Recent clinical studies have confirmed this. The most widely publicized was performed by the National Institute of Heath and published in the New England Journal of Medicine earlier this year.

It found that caloric intake was the single largest factor in determining a person’s weight. In the study, test subjects were fed one of four diets, each containing a different nutrient ratio. All the diets contained low levels of calories and saturated fat, and were high in fiber. Participants were asked to exercise a fixed 90 minutes a week. The participants were not specifically asked to do high intensity resistance training however, which has been shown to require higher levels of protein than other exercise regimens.

The diets were based on a calorie intake of 750 less than the participants calculated daily energy needs. All participants lost similar amounts of weight, regardless of their protein / carb / fat percentages. What the study did not address however was weather certain foods help people eat less, and weather certain foods provide all the required daily nutrients without being so caloric. Nutritionally dense, lower calorie foods help you to lose weight by allowing you to eat more, reducing cravings and keeping your daily calorie intake relatively low.

One note here; lowering your calorie intake too much is actually counter productive, as it will cause your body to reduce it’s energy usage, causing you to need even fewer calories each day. Keep in mind the study I referenced in my post How Much Protein Do I Need? That study indicated that protein supplementation helps promote weight loss and muscle retention even if you are not exercising.

Here are some foods that can help you lose weight by filling you up with nutrition, rather than calories.

Broccoli – These green, mini trees are loaded with nutritional content and fiber, but low in calories. Use them steamed or raw to preserve the nutrients they contain. Boiling can remove some of the water soluble vitamins from them.

Protein Powder –  I am partial to whey protein, but protein supplementation is a great way to get the protein you need to lose weight and gain muscle without having to eat lots of meat or fish. If you’re a vegetarian this can really help, although vegans will want to find some soy based protein powder. Getting your protein this way is also effective because you get an easy to digest source of protein that you body can more easily use. You can use it in shakes, or sprinkle it on the next food in the list of foods that can help you lose weight; oatmeal.

Oatmeal – This hearty healthy food is full of dietary fiber, can be flavored to taste like almost anything you’d like and will help you lower you cholesterol as you lose weight. I use it every morning as part of my breakfast and it has helped lower my cholesterol from over 200 to 165. It also helped me lose weight; about 40 some pounds worth. Don’t make the mistake of loading it up with sugar, that is defeating the purpose. You can use a little bit of honey, but it is even better to use protein powder. That will give your oatmeal a shot of flavor and give you that protein you need.

Have oatmeal’s positive health effects been scientifically proven? You bet. Three studies in the 1990’s positively linked oatmeal to lower levels  of blood glucose, insulin, triglycerides and fats found in the blood immediately after a meal. The studies, published in the journals”Circulation,” the “Journal of the American Dietetic Association,” and “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” back in 1996, helped pave the way for the FDA to approve the “heart healthy” labels you see on oatmeal today.

Tomatoes – These fruits masquerading as a vegetable are loaded with anti oxidants and fairly low in calories. They are nutritionally dense too.  Tomatoes are loaded with fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, potassium and manganese. A 6oz serving of tomatoes has less than 30 calories, and gives you one third of your USRDA of vitamin C and a quarter of your recommended  vitamin A. They are fairly high in protein too, but it is incomplete protien, having significant holes in its amino acid profile.

Spinach – Popeye was right on the money with this one. Spinach can help you lose weight, because it is low in calories, fills you up so you eat fewer high calorie foods, and packed with important nutrients. 3oz of spinach has only 12 calories but 2/3 of your daily vitamin A, almost ½ your vitamin C, and 13% of your vitamin B6, so it is a great base for a salad.

Grapefruit – This fruit was at the heart of a diet craze in the 80’s and it still has quite a bit going for it if you’re trying to lose fat. It has a glycemic index of only 25, very low for a fruit, is loaded with vitamin C, and  gives you some potassium, calcium, folate, and vitamin B6. A ½ grapefruit has only about 90 calories. Proponents of the grapefruit insist the fruit has some enzymes that help to metabolize fat, accounting for the grapefruit diet’s effectiveness. Despite scientific study however, this has never been proven and the enzyme has never been found. Suffice to say the grapefruit is just darn good for you, so use it as part of your diet.

Lean, Skinless Chicken Breast –  skinless CHX is a great protein source, and is very low in fat if you’ve purchased the kind with no skin. It is a spectacular low fat protein source, but watch out ,as chicken is relatively high in sodium too. Eat it in 4oz portions once or twice per day, and combine that with other sources of protein, such as fish and/or protein powder.

Salmon – This is a wonder fish. It is relatively high i fat, but it is the good kind of fat. You need some fat to optimize your fat metabolization and overall health. Just make sure you get the right kind. Salmon has that good fat and high protein too. It’s protein has a very complete amino acid profile. So good in fact, that salmon could be your only protein source. The grapefruit / salmon diet, anyone?  Pacific wild salmon’s only real knock is that it is high in cholesterol, so limit your portions to about 4 or 5 a week, if you have cholesterol problems, maybe 2 or 3.

These foods will help you lose weight by giving you nutrition without all the calories. Remember, you still have to eat a completely balanced diet, so expand your food horizons. Keep your calorie count at the recommended level, not below, or you risk slowing your body’s metabolic rate, and hurting your fat loss efforts. Trade some of your “bad” foods for these in your quest to lose fat. Your belly (fat) will thank you.