Nature provides all you need to slim down and achieve that healthy body you've always wanted. Not only are these superfoods proven pound melters, but they are also key ingredients to your well being. No need for fad diets or special supplements--eating these foods will help you restore your body's ability to use energy and become your healthy weight naturally. In no specific order, here are 15 superfoods that are a "must have" on your grocery list, not only for weight loss, but for the advancement of your long-term health:
When losing weight, it's important to favor chlorophyll-rich foods, including asparagus. Asparagus is a nutrient-rich vegetable packed with folate, vitamins A, C, and K, and fiber. Asparagus also contains a carbohydrate known as inulin (not to be confused with insulin) that promotes healthy bacteria in the large intestine - which in turn promotes a healthier digestive function which ultimately results in better assimilation of nutrients and weight loss.
INTERESTING: Asparagus Can Ease Your Hangover
Eating a balanced diet to lose weight should include eating fresh fruits, and pomegranates are a wonderful example of a healthy, nutritious fruit that has antioxidant properties and will help prevent cancer. Scientists believe that the superfood has the power to reduce the fat stored round the stomach -- the ‘spare tyre’ in men, or ‘muffin top’ in women. While the benefits of drinking pomegranate juice have gained a lot of attention recently, you will be more likely to lose weight by eating the fruit fresh to increase your fiber intake and keep the calories down.
INTERESTING: Pomegranate: Fruit of the Gods
3. APPLES **Caution Advisory**
This fruit's 4 to 5 grams of fiber not only are filling but also help ferry out some of the fat and calories you take in from other foods. People who ate an apple 15 minutes before lunching on cheese tortellini consumed 187 fewer calories in total than those who snacked on nothing beforehand, a study from Penn State University in University Park determines. How about them apples?
ADVISORY: The genetic code of the apple has been mapped by researchers, paving the way for gene silencing and other manipulations by scientists to soon create genetically modified (GM) apples. Many apples in supermarkets and greengrocers also contain pesticide residues that are above the maximum legal level. For these reasons organic apples are the best choice for the consumer, especially since they contain 15 percent higher antioxidant capacity than conventionally produced apples, according to a study from Germany.
Regarded as a sacred food by the Incas, quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) provides a wide range of vitamins and minerals. A complete protein, it has all the essential amino acids needed to build metabolism-revving muscle. Swapping refined grains for whole grains and whole proteins, such as quinoa is not only more nutritious, it can help you lose belly fat. How? Whole grains contain fiber, which makes you feel fuller on less food. One study, published in The Journal of Nutrition (JON), found that adults who ate about 3 servings of whole grains a day had about 2.4 percent less body fat and 3.6 percent less abdominal fat than those who ate less than a quarter of a serving. Another study from JON found that reduced-calorie dieters eating about 115 g of protein daily lost 22 percent more fat after four months than those who ate 70 g per day.
INTERESTING: Quinoa is higher in calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, iron, copper, manganese, and zinc, and lower in sodium compared with wheat, barley and corn. It the most nutritious gluten-free grain known.
These legumes are rich in resistant starch (RS), a carbohydrate that may encourage fat burning and shrink fat cells. One cup serving of cooked split peas or lentils provides up to twice as much fibre as other fibre-rich foods. When study participants enjoyed a meal with 5 g of RS-about what you get from 3/4 cup cooked lentils-they burned 23 percent more fat over 24 hours than when they had a meal without the starch, researchers at the University of Colorado in Denver say.
INTERESTING: People who consume lentils at least three times a week reduce their risk of developing polyps -- small growths in the lining of the bowel which can become cancerous -- by a third, researchers say.
6. OLIVE OIL **Caution Advisory**
Healthful monounsaturated fats found in olive oil could potentially switch on genes related to fat burning and storage. The only deficiency with olive oil is its lack of polyunsaturated fats, which contains Essential Fatty Acids (EFA). While ounce for ounce, all oils have the same calories, olive oil has a fuller flavor so less is needed for tantalizing taste. Plus research shows that overweight people who eat a diet with some fat -- including olive oil -- are more likely to shed pounds than those who slash fat. Why? Oil's rich flavor makes it easier to stick with the program.
Dieters on a low-cal plan emphasizing monounsaturated fats, protein and complex carbs lost almost double the weight that dieters who ate the same calories but less total fat and protein and more carbs lost, a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine reveals. But the key to maximizing the health potential of olive oil is to NEVER cook with it as it becomes unstable when heated.
ADVISORY: In a landmark investigative report called "Slippery Business," the New Yorker magazine explained, "Olive oil is far more valuable than most other vegetable oils, but is costly and time-consuming to produce--and surprisingly easy to doctor. Adulteration is especially common in Italy, the world’s leading importer, consumer, and exporter of olive oil."
To boost profits, for example, some producers have been caught adulterating the oil they label as "extra virgin" with much cheaper hazelnut, soy, or sunflower seed oil, among others, as well as mislabeling its country of origin. Bottom Line is to always buy olive oil from very reputable sources. Your local grocery store may not be one of them. See The Great Extra Virgin Olive Oil Hoax.
7. COCONUT OIL
One of the healthiest cooking oils in the world, coconut oil enjoys one of the highest stabilities of all oils when heated. 50 percent of the fat content in coconut oil is a fat rarely found in nature called lauric acid. Your body converts lauric acid into monolaurin, which has anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-protozoa properties. Lauric acid is a powerful virus and gram-negative bacteria destroyer, and coconut oil contains the most lauric acid of any substance on earth! Coconut oil is about 2/3 medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), also called medium-chain triglycerides or MCTs. These types of fatty acids produce a whole host of health benefits. It's nature's richest source of these healthy MCFAs.
Researchers at McGill University, in Quebec, Canada are now advocating the use of a MCT treat and prevent obesity. The reason most people are overweight is because they simply don't eat enough good fats.
INTERESTING: In a recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition researchers reviewed all the published studies to date on MCT and weight management. These studies demonstrated that diets containing MCT result in an increase in energy, a rise in metabolism, increase burning of calories, decrease in food consumption, lower body fat mass, and reduce body weight. Coconut oil is one of the best oils to consume before and after your workout to maximize fat burning.
Millet is a beneficial and delicious staple of any whole grain diet. This non-glutinous grain is over 10-percent protein, has high amounts of fiber and B-complex vitamins, and because it isn't an acid forming food, is easy to digest. A research team led by Charles S. Brennan at Lincoln University, New Zealand found that replacing traditional wheat and maize flours in extruded cereals with flours such as millet could lower carbohydrate digestibility, which is linked to the glycemic impact.
INTERESTING: Millet and is a rich source of magnesium, a mineral that acts as a co-factor for more than 300 enzymes, including enzymes involved in the body's use of glucose and insulin secretion.
Many people are shocked when they first learn that avocados are one of the best foods for weight loss. Avocado is high in monounsaturated fat. Research indicates diets high in monounsaturated fat are more beneficial for weight control because monounsaturated fat exerts beneficial effects on how blood lipid profiles, insulin function and directly affects how the body utilizes blood glucose.
INTERESTING: Avocado contains a unique weight loss friendly carbohydrate called mannoheptulose. Mannoheptulose is a rare form of sugar which has been found to lower insulin secretion. Avocados help to reverse the problems that we see with insulin resistance, by virtue of the presence of mannoheptulose and its high content of good fats. Could Guacamole Be The Ultimate Cancer Fighting Food?
10. EGGS **Caution Advisory**
The breakfast staple is loaded with choline, a compound known to help block fat absorption. Eating protein-rich eggs for breakfast reduces hunger and decreases calorie consumption at lunch and throughout the day. After eight weeks, dieters who ate two eggs, toast and jelly for breakfast five days a week lost 65 percent more weight than those who had a same-calorie bagel breakfast without eggs, according to a study in the International Journal of Obesity.
INTERESTING: While eggs are well known to be an excellent source of proteins, lipids, vitamins and minerals, researchers at the University of Alberta recently discovered they also contain antioxidant properties, which helps in the prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
ADVISORY: An independent report released focuses on widespread abuses in organic egg production, primarily by large industrial agribusinesses. The study profiles the exemplary management practices employed by many family-scale organic farmers engaged in egg production, while spotlighting abuses at so-called factory farms, some confining hundreds of thousands of chickens in industrial facilities, and representing these eggs to consumers as "organic." Bottom Line is that even "organic' eggs are not always safe. Know your source for organic eggs and don't even think of purchasing conventional brands from grocery retailers.
11. BLUEBERRIES **Caution Advisory**
Researchers found that blueberries can break down existing fat cells and prevent new ones from forming, making them a potentially powerful weapon in the fight against rising obesity. Essentially, blueberry polyphenols fight adipogenesis, which is the development of fat cells, and induce lipolysis, which is the breakdown of lipids/fat.
Blueberries also have a low concentration of glycemic carbohydrates that mildly and gradually change into sugar. This sugar does not occur in an amount that is high enough to raise insulin levels.
INTERESTING: A study appearing in ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, found that that although there are over 600 species of blueberries and blueberry-like fruits growing in Mexico, Central and South America, two types of neotropical blueberries were extreme super fruits -- they had significantly more antioxidants than a type of blueberry commonly sold in U.S. supermarkets stores. The researchers say that these neotropical blueberries "have the potential to be even more highly promising edible fruits."
ADVISORY: Based on the 2009 US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Pesticide Data Program, 120,797 tests found 46 different pesticide residues on conventional blueberries. The good news is 17 out of those 46 pesticides were only found on less than one percent of all the blueberries tested. Another 14 of the 46 were found in less than nine percent of all blueberries tested, which means that 31 of the 46 pesticides that were found most likely drifted from other agricultural areas. The other piece of good news that I found in this hunt was that frozen blueberries had less than half the number of insecticides present as the fresh berries. Bottom Line is to make every attempt to buy organic blueberries, but it's not an absolute necessity if they're not available.
12. NUTS **Caution Advisory**
It may seem counterintuitive, but even though nuts are high in calories and fat, eating them can help you lose weight. A Harvard study that examined the eating habits of more than 50,000 women over eight years found that those who ate nuts at least twice a week gained less weight than women who rarely ate nuts. That may be because the combination of protein, fiber and healthy fats (mono- and polyunsaturated) in nuts can help you feel full and satisfied.
INTERESTING: Chinese medicine uses pine nuts to improve gastrointestinal tract and digestive functions, and pine nut oil is even used for appetite suppression. Pine nuts and other nuts are a tasty part of a well-balanced diet intended for weight loss.
ADVISORY: All almonds produced in the state of California (which produces 80% of the world's almonds) are required (mandatory) to be pasteurized. Even organic almonds are required to be pasteurized, even though there has been absolutely no incident of salmonella poisoning among organic almonds. Pasteurized foods can lose more than 80% of many vitamins (A, C, E, K and B complex).
13. SWEET POTATOES
These spuds have RS, the same carbs found in lentils that may turn up the body's fat-scorching furnace. RS may also increase production of peptide hormone compounds that signal the brain to stop eating. After a breakfast and a lunch containing RS, subjects ate about 10 percent fewer calories over the next 24 hours compared with when they had similar meals with a placebo, research from the University of Surrey indicates.
INTERESTING: Recent studies show excellent preservation of sweet potato anthocyanins with steaming, and several studies comparing boiling to roasting have shown better blood sugar effects (including the achievement of a lower glycemic index, or GI value) with boiling. The impact of steaming is particularly interesting, since only two minutes of steaming have been shown to deactivate peroxidase enzymes that might otherwise be able to break down anthocyanins found in the sweet potato.
14. GREEN TEA **Caution Advisory**
Matcha is the most nutrient-rich green tea and comes in the form of a stone-ground powder, completely unfermented. The best Matcha comes from Japan and has up to seventeen times the antioxidants of wild blueberries, and seven times more than dark chocolate. Research has shown that the antioxidants in green tea can help block the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol, increase HDL (good) cholesterol, and improve metabolism and artery function. Green tea can speed up your body's calorie-burning process by almost 10%.
ADVISORY: A study in the January 2005 issue of the Journal of American Medicine found that instant teas appear to contain excessive levels of sodium fluoride. Green tea is one of the worst culprits having double the amount of fluoride as black tea. Tea plants accumulate fluoride in their leaves over time, so the oldest leaves contain the most fluoride, while the youngest contain the least.
A green algae that contains 18 amino acids, magnesium, zinc and other nutrients; over 4,000 studies published in Japan and Taiwan show chlorella helps cut blood pressure and cholesterol numbers down to size, boosts metabolism, and clobbers abnormal cell growth. It’s like a tiny green magician with the power to make you feel and look 20 years younger and help many of your medical concerns simply vanish.
INTERESTING: Chlorophyll neutralizes environmental toxins and pollutants. It helps the blood carry oxygen to all cells and tissues. Chlorophyll plays a part in chlorella's ability to detoxify heavy metals, and is a natural wound healer. There is evidence that chlorophyll reduces the ability of carcinogens to bind with DNA in major organs. Its anti-mutagenic properties even make it protective against toxins such as pharmaceutical drugs.
Natasha Longo has a master's degree in nutrition and is a certified fitness and nutritional counselor. She has consulted on public health policy and procurement in Canada, Australia, Spain, Ireland, England and Germany.