From ruby red to leafy green, vegetables are a known mealtime necessity for nutritional benefits and to achieve and maintain a healthy weight – but some are better choices than others.
“When it comes to losing weight, it’s important to mentally separate vegetables into two categories: starchy and non-starchy,” said Joseph St. Pierre, DO, a medical weight loss specialist with Hartford HealthCare. “Then, we need to eat more of non-starchy.”
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Non-starchy vegetables contain the right elements for weight loss, Dr. St. Pierre said. This includes:
- Fiber, which takes longer to digest and helps us feel full longer.
- Vitamins, minerals and micronutrients.
- Low glycemic index, making them lower in calories and carbohydrates.
- Water, which helps the body and makes you feel full.
Starchy vegetables, like potatoes, corn, squash and peas, also offer health benefits, but pack in higher amounts of calories and carbs.
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Pick the best
Based on nutritional profiles, Dr. St. Pierre said the best vegetables for weight loss include:
- Zucchini. There are many ways to add zucchini to meals: spiral them into pasta substitutes called zoodles, shred them into breads, grill them and drop them in the air fryer for chips or fries. A medium zucchini contains 58% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C.
- Cauliflower. Substituting shredded cauliflower as pizza crust or rice gives the feel of starchy carbohydrate sides like potatoes without the dietary damage. It’s rich in vitamin C, vitamin K and folate.
- Brussels sprouts. These tiny cabbages are popular crispy restaurant sides, often roasted with just a bit of olive oil and salt. They help decrease inflammation, and contain valuable omega-3 fatty acids.
- Spinach. Another of Mother Nature’s chameleon veggies, spinach goes from salads to sandwiches, into fruit smoothies, lasagna and omelets. It brings magnesium, potassium, B vitamins and vitamin K.
- Cucumber. High in water, cucumber peels contain solid amounts of fiber, vitamin K and potassium. Think outside the salad bowl, slicing one in half length-wise, scooping out seeds and creating a boat for tuna or lean deli meat. Or, make ribbons and wrap them around savory fillings for finger food.
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“We tell patients to make sure they have a serving of non-starchy vegetables at every meal. The nutritional benefits are amazing, and by keeping themselves feeling full, they are able to focus on their weight-loss and exercise goals,” Dr. St. Pierre said. “They’re an important part of a balanced diet.”