The best and worst fruits and vegetables for weight loss
When it comes to foods straight from Mother Nature, you can't go wrong, right? Well, not necessarily. Fresh fruits and vegetables offer a wealth of health perks, such as antioxidant phytochemicals, essential vitamins and minerals, insoluble and soluble fibres, to name a few. These plant-based nutrients and compounds can promote proper digestion, reduce inflammation, and even protect against short-term illnesses and chronic diseases. However, when it comes to weight control, there are a few troublemakers that might trip up or slow down your efforts.
What to pick and what to skip in the produce section? Whether you wish to trim a few inches or put an end to your perpetual fight with the scale, here are some "heavy weights" and "light weights" to keep in mind on your next supermarket visit.
So as to slash overall sugar intake, many dieters opt to forgo all fruit. But rather than toss out this food group altogether, I usually suggest just a single daily serving. Under these circumstances, dark-coloured berries — like blueberries, blackberries, and mulberries — usually stand out as the most sufficient standalone fruits. Gram for gram, they're believed to offer the most potent dose of antioxidants. Likewise, their sugar fructose content is comparatively modest — a mere blip on the overall dietary sugar radar.
SKIP: WHITE POTATOES
In a competition of "whites" — white rice, white flour pastas and breads, and white potatoes — the humble potato is the unprocessed, nature-made winner. However, when compared to its above-ground peers, this root might not be the weight watcher's best veggie choice. The reason? As starches, these carbs are processed rapidly. This cuts short the duration of hunger relief after they're eaten. In addition to their absorption ability, potatoes are absorbent. Their dry, mealy texture and bland flavour makes them less palatable in their simple steamed or baked form. Instead, it's more common to find them deep-fried or served with rich sauces or condiments, which is not what you want when you're trying to lose weight.
Yes, they are higher in fat than most other fruits. That's exactly why you should include avocados in your weight loss regime. In case you haven't heard, fat is back. Compared to protein and carbohydrates, fat is digested slowest. This means when it's incorporated into recipes in modest amounts, blood sugars and cravings are kept in better control than fat-free meals and snacks. The avocado's creamy flesh is rich in heart-healthy plant-based oils, is high in fibre, and contains over a dozen vitamins and minerals. A slice or two is the ideal nutrient-dense stand-in for processed sandwich spreads and salad toppings.
Pick or skip? This fruit is a tricky one. The colour of the peel should dictate your decision-making. When fully mature — usually yellow or beginning to brown — bananas break down within the body in the blink of an eye. Fast fuel before or during exercise? For sure. Support for satiety and glycemic control in other settings? Not so much. On the contrary, green bananas have an opposite effect. While slightly astringent and less palatable on their own, when added to smoothies, porridge, or baked recipes, under-ripe bananas provide a rare source of resistant starches. Unlike other carbohydrate forms, these pass through the GI tract undigested. Their bulkiness keeps you feeling full between eating opportunities and moderates hunger hormones. And research suggests they actually improve fat metabolism, encouraging fat burning rather than storage in the tissues.
When it comes to leafy greens, spinach and kale tend to steal the spotlight. Low in calories and high in volume, these effectively fill empty stomach space without deleting your daily intake allowance. But often overlooked are their olive-hued cousins growing underwater. For weight management, seaweeds deserve far more than an honourable mention. Fucoxanthin, the accessory pigment found in brownish kelps and sea vegetation, is shown to encourage biochemical pathways for fat metabolism and work against obesity. They're perfect as dried snacks and add-ins to warm soups and fresh salads.
SKIP: DRIED & JUICED FRUITS
Compared to candies, sugary treats, and sweetened beverages, dehydrated and cold-pressed fruits are superior selections. But within the fruit family, "whole" beats "concentrated" every time. When we remove the water in dried fruit, we also shrink their size. A bowlful of fresh fruit might reduce to a mere handful of raisins. So, while you might feel satisfied with a single serving of fresh fruit, you might need multiple portions of dried fruit (and double or triple the calories) to appreciate the same physical fullness. A similar reasoning applies for juices. It can take four to five squeezed oranges to yield a 150ml glass of juice. Without the fibre and when consumed in liquid form, these digest quickly and peak blood sugar levels, complicating calorie and appetite management.
About Eve Persak MS RD CNSC CSSD, COMO Shambhala Nutrition Advisor
Eve is a Registered Dietitian (RD) with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She is one of 3,500 medical professionals globally to hold Certified Nutrition Support Clinician (CSNC) credentials with the American Society of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition. Eve's expertise is rooted in science-based knowledge and provides comprehensive anthropometric and biochemical nutritional assessments, personalised therapeutic dietary recommendations, and guidance with meal planning and preparation. With COMO Hotels and Resorts, Eve is the Nutrition Editor and Consultant of COMO Shambhala's newly published cookbook, The Pleasures of Eating Well: Nourishing Favourites from the COMO Shambhala Kitchen. She also serves as Nutrition Advisor to Club21's SuperNature grocery store and leads The Home Kitchen Edit, a bespoke service by COMO Shambhala Urban Escape Singapore that sees Eve making home visits to help clients calibrate their pantry and draw up healthful meal plans.