If we are what we eat, what if some foods could help us "be" a little less - a bit smaller in size, that is? Some studies have shown that foods like those listed below can help burn calories and fight the hunger that can lead to less healthy, and more fattening, eating.
We can't say for sure whether these foods will help you lose weight, but they are all part of a good diet, even if you're not trying to slim down. So here's the list, from the health experts at Fox News and Women's Health Magazine:
Low-fat milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese: Some studies show that not getting enough calcium, the vitamin that makes bones strong, may cause our bodies to release something called calcitrol, which makes our bodies store fat instead of using it for fuel. So meeting each day's calcium needs with low-fat milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese might help burn fat.
Another study, by Obesity Research, looked at whether milk and dairy foods can help weight loss. People on lower-calorie diets who had three to four servings of dairy foods each day lost more weight than those who ate a low-dairy diet with the same number of calories. Low-fat yogurt is a rich source of weight-loss-friendly calcium, with about 450 mg - about half of what scientists say women ages 19-50 should eat every day - per 8-ounce serving. It also includes 12 grams of the protein our bodies need.
Berries: Fiber is a big part of weight loss. It makes us feel full sooner and stays in our stomachs longer, so we digest more slowly and feel full longer, too. Berries have lots of it. One cup of raspberries serves up 8 grams of fiber at only 60 calories! Fiber also moves fat through our systems faster, so less of it "sticks around." Strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries are also good fiber sources.
High-fiber cereals: A study from the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that women who ate cereal were 30 percent less likely to be overweight than those who ate other breakfast foods. High-fiber cereals have fewer calories than eggs, bacon, donuts, and muffins, and the fiber helps keep you feeling full all morning so you're less likely to need a snack before lunch. Also, fiber helps keep insulin,which our bodies use to control starch and sugar, at the right level. This in turn slows fat storage.
Oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes: Vitamin C helps metabolize, or burn, fat faster and makes losing weight easier. You only need 60 milligrams (mg) of Vitamin C a day to meet your body's basic needs, but one study says that raising your daily Vitamin C to 500 mg could help your body burn up to 39 percent more fat during exercise. Scientists at the Scripps Clinic found that people who ate half a grapefruit with each meal for 12 weeks lost about 3.6 pounds. The study suggests this Vitamin C-packed citrus fruit lowers insulin, or "blood sugar," which in turn helps weight loss. NOTE: If you are taking medicine, check with your doctor before eating grapefruit since some medicines don't combine well with it.
Green tea: The caffeine in green tea is a natural way to help burn more calories, speed up the heart rate, and free fatty acids stored in the body so they're more ready for energy use. Also, green tea has something caled ECGC, which may help speed the way your body uses food by speeding up the nervous system.
Water: True, water's not usually called a food. However, some researchers say hunger pangs are thirst in disguise, and the signs of dehydration do in fact look like the signs of hunger - weakness, tiredness, crankiness, etc. What's more, water helps clear out things that might slow down our overall calorie-burning. It also reduces bloat and hunger, too. The old "drink 8 glasses a day" rule still holds true for making sure our systems are running smoothly and getting rid of anything that shouldn't be in our bodies.
Another fairly new study suggests that drinking water might speed up weight loss. In the study, scientists saw people raise their metabolic rates, the speed of calories being burned, by 30 percent after drinking about 17 ounces of water.
Frozen or dry-roasted soybeans: Soybeans are sources of lecithin, which can help keep our cells from storing fat.
Salmon, tuna, and sardines: The Omega-3 fatty acids in fish seem to change our levels of leptin, which helps our systems choose whether to burn calories or store them as fat. Fish oil also raises other levels of fat-burning chemicals while lowering the levels of fat-storing ones. In fact, some studies suggest that fish oil can boost peoples' fat-burning levels by as much as 400 calories a day.
Lean beef, chicken, and turkey:All lean meats help speed up calorie use and burn more fat just because it takes so much energy to digest them. Studies have shown that people on high-protein diets burn twice as many calories after a meal as people on high-carbohydrate diets. Also, eating protein helps keep muscle mass during weight loss, which also helps keep your body's engine running at full speed.
Spicy peppers (jalapeños, habañeros, chili peppers, etc.): Capsacin, a chemical in peppers, speeds up the heart rate and with it the body's food use. Some say eating a spicy meal can actually push the metabolism up by about 25 percent for up to three hours. So say hello to that bottle of Tabasco® sauce - besides helping spice up everything from scrambled eggs to soup to pasta, it may help burn calories too.
Peanuts: Several studies show that peanuts fight hunger and weight gain and can slow down spikes in blood sugar. A Purdue University study found that people who ate 500 calories worth of peanuts as part of their diets for three weeks had almost no change in body weight and a drop in triglycerides, the blood fats linked to heart disease.
Pistachio nuts: Like peanuts, studies show that pistachio nuts fight weight gain by slowing down rises in blood sugar levels and also by slowing hunger. Eating nuts in general seems to mean a lower body mass index and has not been linked to weight gain. Pistachios have lots of protein and are among the highest-fiber nuts; by slowing down digestion, fiber keeps you feeling more full longer than low-protein low-fiber snacks. A one-ounce serving of pistachios also gives you a lot of nuts, which helps your mind feel full, too: there are 49 pistachios in an ounce, compared to just 23 almonds or 18 cashews.
Apples and pears: In a State University of Rio de Janeiro study, overweight women who ate three small apples or pears a day lost more weight on a low-calorie diet than women who didn't eat these fruits.
Soup: A Penn State University study shows soup is very good for controlling hunger because it's made up of a satisfying blend of liquid and solid food. Women who ate chicken and rice soup as a snack took in about 100 calories less than women who ate chicken and rice casserole and a glass of water. Of course, cream and pasta or potato-loaded soups don't really apply here: broth-based soups like miso, vegetable, or bean soups are your best bet.
Broccoli:Many studies connect calcium and weight loss. Broccoli is high in calcium and in Vitamin C, which helps the body take in more calcium. Better yet, it's only 20 calories per cup.
The foods listed in this article are being studied for their possible role in weight loss. Humana suggests that you consult your doctor or nutritionist in developing your weight loss diet. Even the Mayo Clinic weighs in with the reminder that portion control, counting calories, and exercising are the basic "musts" for any successful weight-loss program. Your doctor can help you design the weight-loss program that will work for you.
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