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The Skinny On Vegetables and Weight Loss

We recently published a blog about fruit and its role in weight loss.  Now it’s time for vegetables and weight loss to take center stage.  We did a Q & A session with two of our doctors and got the scoop.

Dr. Taylor Arnold, PhD and RDN here at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and Medical Center answered the first round:

Which vegetables, if eaten too much of, can make people gain weight? 

Truly anything eaten in excess can cause weight gain.  I generally like to have my patients focus on non-starchy vegetables (like leafy greens) rather than starchy vegetables (like potatoes, yams, and squash).  It is important to note, however, that starchy vegetables are an excellent choice and can be a part of any diet, even for those looking to lose weight.

What are the best vegetables that will keep people dieting full for longer?

The nutrients that contribute to feeling full for longer include fiber, protein, and fat.  So vegetables high in (some or all of) these nutrients, like avocados, are great choices.  Pairing vegetables (which are usually high in fiber) with a source of protein and fat (like nut butter or hummus) will help contribute to that feeling of fullness.  The best vegetables that will keep people full for longer are… the ones they want to eat!  Satisfying your cravings and your desire to eat contributes significantly to the satisfaction that will keep you full for longer.

What are the best vegetables to eat to lose weight?

Vegetables should not be viewed as a tool to lose weight.  I emphasize to my clients that food is used to nourish our bodies and make us FEEL better.  The research tells us that, for weight loss, a patient’s ability to adhere to recommendations matters much more than the recommendations themselves.  

Dr. Taylor added, “A more updated way to approach these questions is through looking at the diet as a whole, rather than demonizing specific foods.  There is no one food or one type of food that causes weight loss or weight gain.  Moderation allows all foods to be included in a healthy diet.  By looking at food as “good” or “bad” we are contributing to the obsession with diet culture that is present in our society.  This, then, gives rise to the body dysmorphia and rising rates of eating disorders that we continue to see in the clinical setting.

Next, we asked Dr. Shaun Kennedy, ND at SCNM some of the same questions:

Which vegetables, if eaten too much of, can make people gain weight? 

Vegetables that fall into the root and tuber categories such as potatoes, yams, beets, and carrots (cooked) should be eaten in moderation. Also, some members of the seed family like sweet corn and peas should also be limited in a diet if weight loss is the primary goal.

 

Are these vegetables high in calories or sugar? Why does an excess of eating them make people gain weight?

These vegetables are higher in sucrose and starch, both of which are broken down in the body into readily absorbed forms of sugar. The cooking process for these vegetables can increase the availability of the sugars making it them easier to absorb and thus causing a spike in the blood sugar. This spike causes a proportionate release of insulin that may lead to increased fat storage. 


What are the best vegetables that will keep people dieting full for longer?

Foods that contain a high amount of fiber without a corresponding spike in blood sugar are ideal for satiation. Your best bet is to stick with foods that have a high level of micronutrients to accompany the fiber like kale, spinach, arugula, watercress, broccoli, and cauliflower, as examples. These types of vegetables are ideal for weight loss because when eaten in large quantities they can help to activate the stretch receptors in your stomach that will tell your brain you’re full. At the same time, they provide very few calories while providing a substantial amount of nutrition. The goal here is to feel full, receive appropriate amounts of nutrition, and cut the calorie count without feeling the hunger pangs typically associated with dieting. 


Which fruits should people looking to lose weight eat? Are there fruits that can make people gain weight?

Most fruit should be consumed sparingly when looking to lose weight. Again, the goal should be to maximize nutrition while limiting the amount of sugar (fructose). Fruits that are higher in fiber have less readily available sugar and should be used preferentially (examples include green apples, grapefruit, and watermelon). Typically, you'll want to stick primarily with berries like blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries as you begin your weight loss journey until you can selectively add in other fruits. Weight loss is not a "one size fits all" approach and some people will be better able to tolerate fruit in the diet while still achieving their weight loss goals. Ideally, you should have removed all refined carbohydrates and processed foods from the diet before considering limiting your fruit or vegetable intake. Lastly, try to eat the fruits and vegetables either raw or minimally steamed. Overcooking or juicing can make the sugar more available and can negatively impact the wonderful micronutrient and antioxidant properties. 

Thank you to our amazing physicians for taking the time to provide this valuable information.