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.”
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.
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.
“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.”