Almost any type of vegetable is good for your health. But these veggies have a competitive edge when it comes to helping you lose weight.
How can vegetables help with weight loss?
If you’re trying to lose weight, you don’t have to eat vegetables alone, and you shouldn’t. However, increasing your vegetable intake can help support a healthy eating plan.
“Non-starchy vegetables support feelings of fullness after a healthy meal and add an abundance of various vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients,” says registered dietitian Yulia Brockdorf, a fellow of the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine in private practice in Hillsboro, Oregon.
They also have a low glycemic load and glycemic index and are lower in calories and carbohydrates. Vegetables are also often nutritious, meaning that these vegetables are high in good nutrients, but relatively low in calories per serving.
Let’s not forget the fiber factor.
Fiber takes a little longer to digest in the body, so you will feel full for longer. In addition, these vegetables are also some of the most hydrating foods you can eat without drinking water.
We asked registered dietitians to share the best vegetables for weight loss. Plus, how you eat them and why they’re a great addition to any meal plan.
Whether you grow your own zucchini, buy them, or have a neighbor leave a dozen on your porch, visions of moist and delicious zucchini bread with chocolate chips come to mind, but there are healthier — and just as delicious ways to eat it.
Zucchini “zoodles” are a great substitute for pasta noodles with higher refined carbohydrates. They have fewer calories and are ideal as a gluten-free option, says registered dietitian Kristine van Workum of Health First Medical Group in Melbourne, Florida.
One medium zucchini (with skin) has about 33 calories, two grams of fiber and 58 percent of the recommended daily value for vitamin C, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
“I often say, what more could you want: a piece of Italian bread or the pasta? It’s kind of all or nothing for many people, which can lead to inconsistency and stress,” she says.
If you’re craving starchy potatoes or higher calorie white rice, consider trying cauliflower.
You can turn cauliflower into a pizza crust, cauliflower rice or replace half of the potatoes in a recipe with ‘mashed potatoes’, says Van Workum.
You’ll save calories and carbs, and get more fiber toward your daily goal by making the switch, making it one of the best vegetables for weight loss. For example, a half cup of white rice has about 100 calories, 23 grams of carbohydrates and zippo when it comes to fiber.
On the other hand, cauliflower has only five grams of carbohydrates and 27 calories and two grams of fiber. In addition, cauliflower is rich in vitamin C, vitamin K and folic acid.
Brussels sprouts are delicious and are increasingly popping up as tempting roasted and crispy snacks on restaurant menus.
And that’s exactly how registered dietitian Melissa Majumdar likes to eat them. She is a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and bariatric coordinator at Emory University Hospital Midtown, Atlanta, Georgia.
“A little olive oil, salt, and pepper goes a long way with Brussels sprouts and makes a great side dish with grilled fish,” says Majumdar. Taste aside, they’re a substantial and hefty veggie, says Van Workum, with a low-calorie price tag of about 38 calories per cup.
“They are loved as cruciferous vegetables [for] helps reduce inflammation,” adds Van Workum. Not to mention their other vitamins and minerals and omega-3 fatty acids.
Try these recipes for Brussels sprouts and other vegetables that make them taste like candy.
You can’t beat the gratifying crunch of jicama. It really makes you feel like you are eating something hearty and filling.
With a water content of 90 percent, one cup of sliced jicama contains 46 calories and a hefty six grams of fiber, according to the USDA. It is an excellent source of inulin, a type of fiber that supports healthy gastrointestinal flora.
“Jicama supports weight loss and helps with improved insulin sensitivity and is an excellent low-calorie snack,” says Brockdorf.
She likes to eat it with paprika and a squeeze of lime juice instead of chips. Try adding jicama for a tasty crunch to salads and coleslaw or dipping in guacamole, suggests Majumdar.
No kidding, beets can curb your sweet tooth. They are a naturally sweet root vegetable that is often overlooked, which is surprising because you can’t “bet” the weight loss and health benefits they provide. In fact, beets can aid in your fat-burning efforts when it comes to exercise.
“There has been some research on beets and athletic performance,” says Van Workum. The nitrates in beets can improve endurance and are high in antioxidants, according to the magazine nutrients.
Although beets are considered a starchy vegetable, they still have seven grams less carbohydrates than potatoes, and half a cup is only 38 calories.
Buy them raw or save preparation time and buy the ready-made variety in the product section. Roasting them brings out the natural sugars, so they’re tasty just the way they are. Or toss them on a bed of spring greens with a little goat cheese, walnuts and vinaigrette.
If you have gout, check with your doctor before eating them, as beets contain oxalate, which can contribute to gout.
Want to cut down on the fat and calories of classic dinners like tacos, meatloaf, and burgers? Go from the meat aisle to the produce sections to pack some mushrooms.
“They’re one of the few vegetables that exhibit umami, that savory taste sensation, so they can be traded in for some cold cuts, like a portobello cap can be traded in for a beef patty in a hamburger,” notes Van Workum.
This flavor profile makes it an easy addition to your meals and one of the best vegetables for weight loss.
In comparison, a cup of crimini mushrooms is about 19 calories. One cup of beef (85 percent lean) contains about 215 calories. You can even make a delicious mushroom jerky to pack for your next hike.
If you want to get more fiber, vitamin K, and potassium, put the peeler away. Cucumbers are one of the vegetables that you should not peel.
Sure, you can go the standard route and eat cucumbers dipped in hummus or tossed into a salad, why not cut calories more creatively? Brockdorf uses cucumbers instead of bread for sandwiches.
Keep the skin on for a firmer “bread” and cut them lengthwise. Fill with lean meats and/or extra vegetables. Or try making a cucumber-fruit salad.
“Think red onion rings, cucumber, tomatoes, and peaches mixed with red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, and a little olive oil,” says Majumdar. While you’re slicing cucumbers, save some refreshing pitcher of water to keep on hand in the fridge.
(Check out these cancer-fighting fruits and vegetables.)
A radish has so much more to offer than being carved into a beautiful flower decoration.
For starters, they’re very low in calories — about 18 calories per cup with about two grams of fiber and a surprising 14 percent of the daily recommendation for vitamin C. Plus, they lend a hand when it comes to metabolic health.
“Radish enhances production of a peptide called adiponectin that modulates glucose and fatty acid regulation,” says Brockdorf. Studies suggest that reduced adiponectin levels may contribute to obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, according to the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.
Toss them on a salad, dip them in hummus, or make savory vegetable chips.
A good pile of spinach is regularly on Majumdar’s lunch plate. She likes to add a cup of spinach to leftovers, layered on sandwiches or in a salad with red bell pepper strips and slivered almonds.
Toss some in lasagna or scrambled eggs to boost your veggie score for the day. You can layer a hearty handful (one cup) and still consume only about seven calories.
Besides the taste, she eats it for magnesium, potassium, B vitamins and vitamin K, which are essential for blood clotting. However, if you’re taking blood-thinning medications, Brockdorf says you should check with your doctor before eating too much spinach.
Here’s another bonus, spinach can help with constipation as it is high in insoluble fiber, absorbs water and other materials to aid in stool formation.
The beautiful deep purple skin is not the only thing the aubergine is going for. Its secret power for weight loss is its versatility.
It can be a flavorful swap for higher calorie foods, making it one of the best vegetables for weight loss.
“They have a kind of meaty texture, like a portabella or aubergine steak,” says Van Workum.
Its meaty texture makes it a good swap for meat dishes, cutting calories and saturated fat. And because it has only about 20 calories per cup and about three grams of fiber, you can eat more and feel fuller.
If you want to make more of eggplant, try something simpler.
“Roast and blend eggplant and blend it into baba ganoush and use it instead of mayonnaise,” says Van Workum. If you’re not familiar with baba ganoush, it’s similar to hummus and makes a thick and tasty dip for veggies.
If you’re not a big fan of bitter greens, you might want to give them another try. These leafy greens are rich in iron and can pump up the amount of food you can eat for very few calories, says Van Workum.
Bitter greens such as kale, watercress, arugula and kale are ideal for smoothies, soups, healthy pasta and stir-fries.
Since they tend to wilt and shrink when cooked, you can toss in handfuls of raw bitter greens to fill up any meal. Meanwhile, you get a lot of vitamins and minerals, antioxidants and even a little protein.
One cup of raw kale has a whopping two grams of protein and about 33 calories, but you can throw in three cups and still stay under 100 calories because it cooks.
Now that you know the best vegetables for weight loss, look for the signs you’re not eating enough vegetables.