When the weather warms up, thoughts turn to trimming waistlines.
Here are a few effective weight-loss strategies: Reduce portion sizes, drink lots of water and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
To maximize health and weight loss, try eating powerhouse foods that can accomplish both.
My top six are quinoa, chia seeds, cruciferous (green leaf) vegetables, berries, beans and mushrooms.
Here's what makes them super:
Nutritional value: Quinoa has nine of the essential amino acids that our bodies are not able to produce. It’s also an excellent low-fat, gluten-free alternative to processed grains. A serving size of quinoa contains half of the recommended daily amount of manganese, which has a direct impact on hormones and digestive enzymes, aiding in digestion and energy production. In addition, quinoa can help reduce plaque build-up in the arteries, helping to lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Why it’s good for weight loss: With 7 grams of protein per serving and 6 grams of dietary fiber, quinoa is low-fat yet satisfying, which in turn helps with weight loss. In comparison to other grains, quinoa has twice as much fiber and it’s relatively low on the glycemic index, meaning it won't raise blood sugar as fast as other carbohydrate-rich foods will, making it a good choice for shedding pounds.
How to prepare: Soak and rinse quinoa before cooking to help with the absorption of nutrients. You can toss cooked quinoa into soups and salads or use it as substitute for pasta or rice. You can also eat it for breakfast by preparing it as you would oatmeal.
Nutritional value: Two tablespoons of chia seeds deliver about 10 grams of fiber, or around 40 percent of the recommended daily intake of fiber. In addition, they’re a good source of minerals, including magnesium, calcium and iron. Chia seeds are also an excellent source of heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids.
Why they’re good for weight loss: They deliver a lot of fiber in one small serving. Diets high in fiber have been linked to weight loss.
How to prepare: They can be eaten whole by sprinkling on salads, cereal or yogurt. Also add them to water or smoothies, or use them to thicken soups.
Cruciferous (green leaf) veggies
Nutritional value: Cruciferous vegetables such as kale, cabbage, bok choy, broccoli, spinach, Brussel sprouts and cauliflower are all great sources of fiber, calcium, vitamin C and folate. They also contain cancer-fighting phytonutrients.
These vegetables have been shown to support the growth of the healthy gut bacteria that make up each person’s microbiome, which may help prevent chronic conditions such as diabetes and digestive problems.
Different cruciferous vegetables have different nutrients, so be sure to include several servings of each.
Why they’re good for weight loss: They’re rich in fiber to make you feel full and low in calories — one serving of these vegetables has less than 30 calories.
How to prepare: They can be steamed, broiled or added to soups. You can eat raw broccoli and cauliflower as a snack, or add any of these vegetable to a salad.
Nutritional value: Berries are rich in vitamin C and powerful cancer-fighting antioxidants. In fact, they contain more antioxidants than any other fruit.
Why they’re good for weight loss: Whether they are blackberries, blueberries, cherries, goji berries, strawberries or cherries, berries generally contain a large amount of water, so a cup of berries is about 60 calories, making them a perfect low-calorie dessert or snack.
High in fiber, berries are considered a low-glycemic food and may be helpful in controlling blood sugars.
How to prepare: Whether you choose fresh or frozen, they will have the same nutritious benefits. Add berries to yogurt, salads or drinks.
Nutritional value: Beans are an excellent source of protein and fiber — about one cup of beans provides half of the daily recommended dietary fiber. They are also rich in magnesium, potassium and iron. Almost all legumes, including soybeans, black, pinto, kidney and white beans have been shown to have health benefits. When possible, cook your own dried beans or buy low-sodium canned beans.
Why they’re good for weight loss: As a protein, beans fill you up, reducing the likelihood of overeating. Rich in fiber and with a low glycemic index, they are ideal for weight loss. Like broccoli and cruciferous veggies, beans can also help with digestive support by promoting the growth of healthy gut bacteria.
How to prepare: To reduce cooking time and to help eliminate intestinal gas, soak beans overnight and remove the water prior to cooking. (A pressure cooker will reduce cooking time.) Add beans to salads, soups or entrees, or puree them to make spreads or dips.
Nutritional value: They’re a great source of riboflavin, vitamin D and selenium, which may help prevent coronary heart disease by lowering inflammation, increasing blood flow and decreasing oxidative stress.
Why they’re good for weight loss: They are 90 percent water and are low in calories, sodium, fat and cholesterol. On average, a serving — one cup — contains just 30 calories.
How to prepare: Mushrooms can be sautéed, grilled or served raw. Add mushrooms to grain dishes, soups, sandwiches or salads. Because of their unique texture and nutritional values, mushrooms also make a great meat substitute.
All these powerhouse foods pack the one-two punch of being nutritious and aiding in weight loss. Whether you’re looking for a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals, a rich source of fiber or a low-calorie snack that can fill you up, choosing these foods this summer will be great for your waistline and your health.
Contributor: Silvia Delgado, RD