Okay, okay, we admit that’s not exactly breaking news, but did you know that when it comes to rapid weight loss some veggies reign supreme while others fall fairly flat in comparison? It’s true! Thanks to their specific nutritional profiles, certain produce-aisle picks can help you trim down by revving your metabolism, turning off belly fat genes and frying flab—and that’s on top of all their other health-boosting benefits.
These powerful veggies remind us a bit of those overachievers you loved to hate in high school—you know, the ones who not only got straight A’s, but also scored the hottest date to prom and got voted soccer captain, too. The primary difference between produce and Mr. Popular? Veggies don’t aim to make you jealous with their superhuman skills, they want you to use them to your advantage so you can reach your better body goals. Scroll down to learn which delicious picks fit the bill and discover delicious ways to incorporate them into your diet.
You may have heard that spicy hot peppers can help you scorch calories, but did you know that mild peppers can have the same effect? Thanks to a metabolism-boosting compound, dihydrocapsiate, and their high vitamin-C content, sweet red and green peppers can help you lose weight. A cup of these bell-shaped veggies serves up to three times the day’s recommended vitamin C—a nutrient that counteracts stress hormones which trigger fat storage around the midsection. Dip slices of bell peppers into hummus for a light afternoon snack, add the veggie to omelets and salads, or throw some chicken in a corn tortilla with salsa and slices of avocado, red pepper and onion for a Tex-Mex-inspired fat-fighting dinner.
In addition to warding off prostate, breast, lung and skin cancers, this flowery vegetable can also help you whittle your middle. According to experts, broccoli contains a phytonutrient called sulforaphane that increase testosterone and fights off body fat storage. It’s also rich in vitamin C ( a mere cup of the stuff can help you hit your daily mark), a nutrient that can lower levels of cortisol during stressful situations, helping those abs take center stage. The only downside? It can make some people with sensitive stomachs a bit gassy—which isn’t a good look if you’re planning to hit the beach or rock a tight-fitting outfit. That’s no reason to steer clear of this veggie on a day-to-day basis, though. Whip up our Garlicky Beef and Broccoli with Broccoli Noodles recipe to reap the belly-flattening benefits —just not the day before you need to look your leanest.
It may look pretty unassuming, but Popeye’s favorite veggie can actually help take your calorie-burning potential to the next level. How? The green is overflowing with protein (just one cup of the steamed variety has as much protein as a medium hard-boiled egg), a nutrient that aids post-pump muscle recovery and growth. And remember: The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn at rest! What’s more, the leafy green is also rich in thylakoids, a compound that’s been shown to significantly reduce cravings and promote weight loss. Add the green to your dinner plate to reap the benefits. We like to steam it and flavor it with garlic, olive oil and lemon.
Pickles are low-cal, filled with fiber and covered in vinegar—which is all good news for your waistline. In fact, just one large pickle has 15 calories and 2 grams of belly-filling fiber, so eating three or four can actually leave you feeling pretty satiated for less than 100 calories! Every dieter knows that eating filling snacks are paramount to weight-loss success, but how does the vinegar help the fat-fighting cause? Studies show acidic foods help increase the rate at which the body burns off carbs by up to 40 percent—and the faster you burn off carbs, the sooner your body starts incinerating fat, which can help you get that lean look you crave. Add these tangy, pickled cucumbers to sandwiches and burgers or munch on them solo to start feeling more confident in your skivvies.
If you typically eat your potatoes warm out of the oven, you’re missing out on the spud’s fat-fighting superpowers. When you throw potatoes in the refrigerator and eat them cold, their digestible starches turn into resistant starches through a process called retrogradation. As the name implies, resistant starch, well, resists digestion, which promotes fat oxidation and reduces abdominal fat. Since eating cold baked potatoes doesn’t sound too appetizing, why not use the cooled spuds to make a potato salad instead? Here’s how: Bake red potatoes in the oven until they’re cooked through and allow them to fully cool. Then, cut them into small slices and dress them with Dijon mustard, fresh pepper, chopped green onions (more on this veggie next), dill and plain Greek yogurt. Mix everything together and put in the refrigerator to cool before consuming.
Onions are rich in quercetin, a flavonoid that increase blood flow and activates a protein in the body that helps regulate glucose levels, torches stored fat and keeps new fat cells from forming. Not to mention, onions are basically the unsung hero of cardiovascular health—an important area of wellness for everyone, but especially those who hit the gym hard to accelerate their weight-loss efforts. The culinary staple can help lower cholesterol, ward off hardening of the arteries and help maintain healthy blood-pressure levels. The best part? Onions are super low-cal and easy to throw into just about anything, from soups, homemade burgers, sandwiches and tacos to pastas, salads, veggie sides, rice and omelets.