YES, YOU should eat your veggies for many, many reasons.
“Vegetables should be a staple of your diet because they are naturally high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals and are low in calories,” says Annelie Vogt von Heselholt, RD, founder of DietitianDoc. “They also help prevent chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer.”
Vogt von Heselholt notes that filling half the plate with vegetables is a good goal. “In other words, men should drink more than three to four cups a day. A serving generally means one cup of raw or cooked vegetables, or two cups of raw green leafy vegetables.”
So are vegetables such a boon for weight loss?
Absolutely – and one of the main reasons is fiber.
“Vegetables of almost all varieties can help with weight loss and are incredibly healthy, but still filling, due to their high fiber content, which keeps us fuller longer, their antioxidant content, which is very high and anti-inflammatory, and their high water content, which makes them low in calories,” says Dana Ellis Hunnes, Ph.D., MPH, RD, senior clinical nutritionist at UCLA Medical Center and assistant professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. “You can’t go wrong with weight loss or maintenance by adding more vegetables to your diet.”
Ellis Hunnes points out that dietary guidelines recommend five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily. (You can read more about this breakdown here.)
“Vegetables are naturally very low in calories and fat, which means you can eat lots of them without gaining weight. A cup of vegetables only has between 20 and 50 calories, while a cup of pasta or rice has around 200 calories. Replacing vegetables with high-calorie foods is an easy and safe way to control your weight,” says Vogt von Heselholt, who says vegetables are also high in water and fiber.
“Fiber adds volume, which keeps you fuller for longer and helps suppress your appetite. Fiber also helps prevent changes in energy levels and blood sugar, resulting in less fat being stored,” she says. “While fiber does not provide calories, bacteria in the gut can feed on it, which could potentially affect weight loss. As a result, fiber helps you feel fuller for longer, causing you to eat less and lose weight naturally. Vegetables also take longer to chew and eat, meaning you eat less in general.”
Do you want to reap the benefits of vegetables in your diet? Check out these seven amazing vegetables to eat if you want to lose weight.
If you’re hoping that number on the scale will go down, add this dark leafy green to salads, pasta, and even smoothies right away.
“[Arugula] is a green filled with flavor. It’s spicy and makes a very tasty and interesting salad base. It’s packed with fiber, folic acid, vitamin K, other vitamins and minerals,” says Ellis Hunnes. She adds that arugula helps with weight loss because it’s very low in calories but high in fiber, takes a while to eat, and thus reduces calorie intake and overall calorie expenditure during a given meal.
What better healthy, crunchy snack than some broccoli stalks sprinkled with a little salt?
“Broccoli is low in calories and high in water, fiber and vitamin C, all of which can help with weight loss. Vitamin C in particular is promising as a weight loss aid,” says Vogt von Heselholt. “Researchers believe it’s the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of vitamin C that may be responsible for the beneficial effects.”
Cauliflower is another cruciferous vegetable to consider.
“Cauliflower is not only low in calories, but high in water, fiber and antioxidants, but also very versatile. It can be baked, roasted, or used fresh or frozen in smoothies, soups, and stews. By replacing cauliflower with a regular pizza crust, white rice, or macaroni and cheese, you could save up to 400 calories,” says Vogt von Heselholt.
She adds: “Cauliflower has also been shown to be inversely associated with weight, meaning the higher the intake, the lower the weight. Researchers attribute this association to the high fiber content and its impact on appetite, feelings of fullness, glucose and insulin responses, and fat storage.”
As Vogt von Heselholt explains, spaghetti squash is low in calories, high in water, fiber and antioxidants — just like cauliflower.
“It’s also a great substitute in pasta dishes, gratins and casseroles — and it may help promote weight loss. The fiber in spaghetti squash slows gastric emptying, which can help reduce hunger and appetite,” she says.
For a hefty dose of fiber and vitamin C, stop overlooking this Central American staple. Native to Mexico, jicama can be enjoyed raw or cooked—like in the baked “jicama fries” format.
“Jicama is a deliciously delicately flavored yet crunchy root vegetable that’s low in calories, high in fiber, and high in water,” says Ellis Hunnes. “It takes up volume in your stomach without adding a lot of calories, which can lower the total calorie intake for that meal per day and promote weight loss.”
Whether you sauté cabbage in oil and some sherry vinegar for a healthy side dish or use it as the basis of a salad, incorporate these slimming vegetables into your diet as often as possible.
“Cabbage is low in calories and high in fiber, which helps keep you feeling full without all the calories,” says Vogt von Heselholt. “It is believed that cabbage promotes weight loss by balancing glucose, limiting oxidative stress, inflammation and the insulin resistance seen in diabetes.”
Whether you choose zucchini or any other summer squash, be sure to add this vegetable to your shopping cart regularly.
“Zucchini is another vegetable that’s packed with water and fiber while remaining low in calories,” says Ellis Hunnes. “It can be grilled, baked, fried, sautéed and take on any flavor of the food.” Ellis Hunnes points out that like other vegetables, zucchini adds bulk to a meal without adding a lot of calories — all thanks to fiber.
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