April Daniels Hussar, SELF magazine
Memorial Day weekend heralds the official start of bathing suit season -- but it doesn't have to mean the end of delicious meals and snacks! There are tons of yummy foods that will actually help you lose weight, rather than sabotaging your efforts. Here are three stay-slim foods that just might surprise you.
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Do you love a great Indian or Thai curry? Good! Because those dishes are prepared with hot chili pepper, which contains a metabolism-revving ingredient called capsaicin. According to SELF contributing editor Janis Jibrin, a registered dietician, capsaicin offers a "double boost" to your weight-loss efforts.
Research from Aarhus University in Denmark, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, shows that capsaicin consumption was associated with an increase in thermogenesis (the process by which cells convert energy into heat), which boosts body temperature and the metabolism. "It encourages your body to burn more calories," Jibrin explains, "and, according to the research, it may also help suppress appetite."
Just make sure to steer clear of creamy curry sauces, because they can defeat the slimming components of the hot chili.
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Jibrin says that although it's calorie-dense (especially full-fat cheeses), studies show that cheese-eaters tend to be thinner! As SELF preciously reported, a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that women who ate an ounce of full-fat cheese daily gained fewer pounds over time than their less-cheesy peers. A possible explanation is that whole dairy contains conjugated linoleic acid, which may stoke your metabolism. But, keep in mind -- that's only eating one ounce -- not a lot.
Jibrin points to other studies that show consumers of ALL dairy products are thinner, which, she says, may be because of the calcium. "One theory," she says, "is that when you're deficient in calcium, your appetite increases in the hopes that if you eat more, you'll take in more calcium." Jibrin says low-fat cheeses are your best bet for weight loss. "Stick to about 2-3 ounces daily," she recommends, "and try to keep the rest of your meal low in saturated fat, which cheese is notoriously rich in."
Related: Shed Pounds Without Starving Yourself
3. Mixed nuts
"Let's count the ways," says Jibrin. "First, relative to other foods, nuts are highly satiating, meaning you feel fuller, longer for the calories," she says. Research from the University of Barcelona, published in the American Chemical Society's Journal of Proteome Research, found that eating mixed nuts increases your serotonin levels (one of your "feel-good" neurochemicals), which improves your mood, decreases your appetite and is good for your heart!
And, a study from Purdue University, Indiana, published in the International Journal of Obesity, found that when study participants added about 500 calories' worth of peanuts to their diets, not only did they eat less at subsequent meals, but their metabolisms revved up by 11 percent. This brings us to Jibrin's second point: "Compared to other foods, nuts tend to increase calorie burn after eating them." She adds, "You don't fully absorb them, so some of the nuts leave your system -- along with their calories."
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