If you’re like I used to be, you have likely been struggling to release excess weight for a while. And, also like me, you’ve likely tried a number of diets and strategies that haven’t worked.
I know how frustrating this can be, and how confusing it is to try to make sense of all the conflicting nutritional information out there.
I put this guide together so you can start to learn how and why specific foods, and drinks, can help you lose weight naturally. The information I’m sharing is not about the latest fad diet; it’s about adding in nutrient-dense foods that have been proven to both aid in weight loss and improve overall health at the same time.
While some of this may be new to you, with a little bit of practice you will find it is easy to add these ingredients into your diet on a daily basis. In fact, at the end, I’m going to share one simple recipe you can make in under five minutes that incorporates all of these foods. How’s that for healthy eating on the go?
I’m excited to share this information with you, so let’s dig in!
1. Green Tea
Why Green Tea Helps With Weight Loss
When green tea is consumed, it increases thermogenesis or the rate at which your body burns calories. This means that you can do the same level of activity but burn more calories throughout the day.
In one study, participants were given green tea on a daily basis, but made no changes to the food they ate or exercise they did. At the end of 90 days, participants lost an average of 2.64 pounds, ¾ inch from their waistline and reduced their body mass index—not bad considering that no dietary or exercise changes were part of the study.
In another 12-week study, participants were placed on a diet where they were provided three meals per day. All the food was prepared for the participants. Half of the group consumed green tea. Those in the green tea group lost significantly more weight—24 pounds—over the 12-week period.
Aside from weight loss, there are many health benefits to drinking green tea, including preventing cancer, reducing inflammation, and overall heart health.
Selecting Green Tea
Selecting green tea can be confusing because there are several different forms, including matcha, tea bags, and tea leaves. Your best option is to use matcha, which is a more concentrated, powdered form of green tea. You’ll also want to be sure to choose matcha with caffeine, as studies show that green tea containing caffeine is more effective at supporting weight loss.
One cup of green tea made with matcha powder has the same nutritional value as drinking 10 cups of regular brewed tea.
Preparing Green Tea
If you’re using matcha green tea powder, simply add 1 teaspoon of the matcha powder to a tea cup. Then pour hot water that is just under a boil into the tea cup. (You never want to use boiling water when making green tea.) Stir and enjoy. If you would like to sweeten it, add 5 drops of stevia or a bit of raw honey. Drink the tea immediately, as it will get bitter if it sits for a while.
2. Coconut Oil
Why Coconut Oil Helps with Weight Loss
When you think about weight loss, you might think you should minimize fat consumption. This type of thinking may be sabotaging your weight loss efforts. Instead, think about consuming the right types of fat. One of the fats that has been found to be beneficial for weight loss is coconut oil.
Consuming coconut oil is very different than consuming other types of fat, because it reacts differently within your body. Most types of dietary fats contain long-chain fatty acids, but coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are metabolized in a unique way.
When you consume the MCTs in coconut oil, they move from the digestive tract to the liver. Since the MCTs in coconut oil are “thermogenic,” meaning that they require a higher amount of energy to digest and metabolize, they help to boost your metabolism and provide you with additional energy throughout the day.
Since the body processes MCTs in this way, they increase the energy that is expended (compared with other types of fats). When energy is used at higher levels, fat loss occurs.
Researchers at the University of Geneva found that when 1 to 2 tablespoons of coconut oil is consumed each day, energy expenditure increases by about 120 calories each day.
Tips for Buying Coconut Oil
Since coconut oil is becoming more popular, you can find it at most grocery stores. Not all coconut oil is created equal, so you’ll want to be selective about the type you purchase.
When you are shopping, you will see two main categories of coconut oil: refined and unrefined. The refined coconut oil will not have the coconut taste, but it has been altered from its original form.
For the best health benefits, purchase unrefined coconut oil. Since it hasn’t been processed, it contains more antioxidants and polyphenols, which help to combat free-radical activity within the body. Look for labels with words such as “virgin” or “extra-virgin” to make sure that you are buying unrefined coconut oil.
How to Use Coconut Oil
You can start using coconut oil where you might usually use canola oil or butter. For example, if you are using a recipe that calls for 3 tablespoons of canola oil, try using 3 tablespoons of coconut oil instead.
Here are a few ideas of how I like to incorporate coconut oil into my diet:
- Stir fry vegetables in coconut oil
- Add a tablespoon of coconut oil into a smoothie
- Spread coconut oil on your toast instead of butter
- Use coconut oil as a butter substitute in baking
- Fry eggs in coconut oil
- Make popcorn with coconut oil
3. Flax Seeds
How Flax Seeds Help with Weight Loss
Flax seeds are high in both soluble and insoluble fiber, which are important elements of a healthy diet. Fiber is beneficial for weight loss in a few ways.
First, it helps you feel full for a longer period of time, helping you consume less food.
Second, the fiber content in flax seeds helps control your blood sugar levels. Maintaining lower blood sugar levels supports weight loss, because when your blood sugar levels are high, your body is more likely to store fat.
Flax seeds also contain omega-3 essential fatty acids which have been shown to boost metabolism and speed up weight loss. And like fiber, the healthy fats found in flax seeds are beneficial because they slow down digestion and help keep you satiated.
Tips for Buying Flax Seed
There are two types of flax seeds: russet brown and golden yellow. Both types of flax are similar in nutritional value and health benefits, so choose either one.
When you shop for flax seeds, you will find them in either the whole form or pre-ground. Always purchase whole flax seeds because the ground seeds turn rancid quickly. You can then easily grind them at home using a coffee grinder or high speed blender, such as a BlendTec or a VitaMix.
Your digestive system is unable to break down flax seeds in their whole form. In order to gain nutritional benefits from flax seeds, always use ground seeds.
I like to grind enough flax seeds for one week and store the ground seeds in an airtight container in the fridge. The unused whole seeds should be stored in the freezer after the bag is opened in order to keep them fresh.
How to Include Flax Seeds in Your Diet
Here are a few ways I like to incorporate flax seeds into my diet:
- Add a tablespoon of ground flax seeds to a smoothie
- Sprinkle ground flax on a bowl of oatmeal in the morning
- Stir ground flax into granola
- Stir a spoonful of ground flax into a bowl of yogurt
- Mix ground flax into meatballs or meatloaf
Though it sounds too simple to be true, there are several reasons why drinking adequate amounts of water throughout the day can help you release excess weight.
How water helps with weight loss
- When you are well hydrated, your organs are able to perform more optimally. This allows your metabolism to speed up, which means you’ll burn calories more quickly. Even mild dehydration will slow down your metabolism.
- Natural waste is produced in your body each day from basic functions such as breathing and digesting food. Getting rid of these toxins can be helpful for weight loss, because toxins are stored in fat cells. Water is a great way to flush toxins out of your body.
- When you are dehydrated, the blood volume in your body is reduced. Decreased blood volume levels results in lower energy levels, which makes it difficult for you to stay active.
- By drinking more water, you’ll naturally end up drinking fewer high-calorie, sugary drinks.
Did you know that 75% of the American population is chronically dehydrated? And in 37% of Americans, the thirst mechanism is so weak that it is mistaken for hunger.
By simply drinking more water, you may notice that you become less hungry.
One glass of water ended midnight hunger pangs for almost 100% of the dieters participating in a University of Washington study.
Brenda Davy, Ph.D., completed a research study at Virginia Tech, and found that drinking water before meals can help you to lose weight and keep it off. In her study, the subjects that drank water before meals lost an average of 4 pounds more than the group that did not drink water before meals.
To supercharge your weight loss, make sure that your water is cold instead of room temperature. Cold water causes thermogenesis, which increases the expenditure of energy and helps you to burn fat faster. Researchers found that your metabolism is boosted within 10 minutes of drinking cold water, and those benefits can remain for at least 30 or 40 minutes.
How Much Water Do You Need Each Day?
A simple rule of thumb is to calculate your water intake based on your weight. Simply divide your total weight in half and drink that number in ounces each day.
So, if you weigh 150 pounds, then you should be drinking 75 ounces of water per day. This number will likely need to be increased if you are in a hot environment, or if you have higher levels of physical activity. Also, pregnant and breastfeeding women often need to drink more water.
You can monitor your water intake based on the color of your urine. If your urine is bright yellow, then it means that you need to drink more water. If it is a pale yellow color, then you are probably getting enough water each day. Keep in mind that there are other factors that can impact your urine color, such as certain supplements, vitamins, and medications.
Making Your Water Tasty
If you are someone who doesn’t enjoy drinking water, then you might consider adding other ingredients to give your glass of water a slight flavor. You can flavor your water with natural ingredients, such as lemon, lime, orange, cucumber, mint leaves, strawberry slices, or pineapple chunks. My favorite is brewing passionfruit tea.
If you want it a little sweeter, try adding a bit of liquid stevia, which is a tasty, non-calorie herbal sweetener. Stevia is very sweet, so 6-8 drops is usually enough to sweeten one glass of water or tea.
5. Dark Leafy Green Vegetables
How Dark Leafy Greens Help With Weight Loss
Leafy green vegetables are one of the healthiest and most nutrient-dense foods you can eat. Eating foods with high nutrient levels will keep you satiated longer thereby reducing cravings, because your body is getting the nutrition that it needs.
Leafy greens are low in calories and they’re a great source of fiber, which digests slowly and therefore keeps your stomach feeling full for a longer period of time.
The fiber in leafy green vegetables also helps regulate your blood sugar levels. Keeping your blood sugar in check will make it easier for you to lose fat and prevent weight gain.
Choosing Dark Leafy Greens
The best way to choose your leafy greens is by looking at the color of the vegetable: the darker, the better. Darker vegetables have higher levels of antioxidants and more nutrients, so they’ll keep you feeling full for a longer period of time.
If you really want to supercharge your weight loss, start adding collard greens, cabbage, kale and bok choy to your diet. These dark, leafy greens are also cruciferous vegetables, so they pack a powerful nutritional boost. They’re heartier and contain more fiber than other greens.
How to Prepare Dark Leafy Green Vegetables
One the easiest ways to get greens in your diet on a daily basis is to add them to a fruit smoothie. This may sound unappealing, but when you add raw greens into a smoothie, such as spinach or chard, you can’t taste them.
Cooking greens is quick and easy. Simply sauté some garlic and onion with coconut oil, add your washed greens to the pan and stir fry until they’re tender. Add soy sauce, gluten-free tamari, or simply sprinkle with sea salt.
If you find the collard greens or kale to taste bitter, like I do, you can blanche them in boiling water for a couple of minutes before sautéing them. To do this, bring a pot of water to a boil, add your greens to the pot, let them cook for two minutes, drain in a colander, and then sauté in a pan with coconut oil.