YES, YOU should be eating your vegetables—for many, many reasons.
“Vegetables should be a staple of your diet because they are naturally packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, and are low in calories,” says Annelie Vogt von Heselholt, RD, founder of DietitianDoc. “They also help prevent chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer.”
Vogt von Heselholt notes that a good goal is to fill half your plate with vegetables. “Put in another way, men should be upwards of three to four cups per day. One serving generally means one cup of raw or cooked vegetables or two cups raw green leafy greens.”
So are vegetables such a boon for weight loss?
Absolutely—and one of the key reasons is fiber.
“Vegetables of nearly all varieties can help with weight loss due to their high fiber content, which keeps us feeling fuller longer, their antioxidant content, which is very high and anti-inflammatory, and their high-water content, which makes them low calorie and incredibly healthy, but still filling,” says Dana Ellis Hunnes, Ph.D., MPH, RD, senior clinical dietitian at UCLA Medical Center and assistant professor at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. “You can never go wrong in weight loss, or maintenance, by adding more vegetables to your diet.”
Ellis Hunnes highlights that dietary guidelines recommend five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily. (See more on that breakdown here.)
“Vegetables are naturally very low in calories and fat which means that you can eat a lot of them without gaining weight.”
“Vegetables are naturally very low in calories and fat which means that you can eat a lot of them without gaining weight. A cup of vegetables only has between 20 and 50 calories while a cup of pasta or rice has about 200 calories. If you substitute high-calorie foods for vegetables, you can easily and safely control your weight,” says Vogt von Heselholt, who says that vegetables are also high in water and fiber.
“Fiber provides volume which keeps you feeling full longer while helping to suppress your appetite. Fiber also helps prevent changes in energy levels and blood sugars which leads to less fat being stored,” she says. “While fiber doesn’t provide calories, bacteria in the gut can feed on it and that could potentially affect weight loss. As a result, fiber helps you feel satisfied longer which makes you naturally eat less and lose weight. Vegetables also take longer to chew and eat which means that you generally eat less.”
Want to reap the benefits of vegetables in your diet? Check out these seven amazing vegetables to eat if you want to drop weight.
If you’re hoping to see the number on the scale go down, add this dark leafy green into salads, pasta, and even smoothies pronto.
“[Arugula] is a green that is filled with flavor. It’s spicy and makes a very delicious and interesting salad base. It’s filled with fiber, folic acid, vitamin K, other vitamins and minerals,” says Ellis Hunnes. She adds that arugula helps with weight loss because it’s very low in calories but high in fiber, taking a while to eat and so it reduces the overall calories eaten during a particular meal.
Is there any better healthy, crunchy snack than a few broccoli stalks cut up with a little bit of salt sprinkled on top?
“Broccoli is low in calories, and high in water, fiber, and vitamin C, which may all help weight loss. Vitamin C, in particular, is showing some promise as a weight loss aid,” says Vogt von Heselholt. “Researchers believe that it’s the anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties of vitamin C that may provide the positive effects.”
Cauliflower is another cruciferous vegetable for your consideration.
“Besides being low in calories yet high in water, fiber, and antioxidants, cauliflower is very versatile. It can be baked, roasted, or used fresh or frozen in smoothies, soups, and stews. By substituting a regular pizza crust, white rice, or mac and cheese for cauliflower, you could save upwards of 400 calories,” says Vogt von Heselholt.
She adds,“Cauliflower has also been shown to be inversely associated with weight, meaning, the higher the intake, the lower the weight. Researchers attribute this association to the high fiber content and its influence on appetite, fullness, glucose and insulin responses, and fat storage.”
As Vogt von Heselholt explains, spaghetti squash is low in calories, high in water, fiber, and antioxidants—just like cauliflower.
“It’s also a great substitute in pasta dishes, gratins, and casseroles—and it may help promote weight loss. The fiber in spaghetti squash slows the emptying of the stomach that can help reduce hunger and appetite,” she says.
For a hefty dose of fiber and vitamin C, stop overlooking this Central American staple. Jicama is native to Mexico and can be enjoyed raw or cooked—like in baked “jicama fries” format.
“Jicama is a deliciously delicately flavored but crunchy root vegetable that is low in calories, high in fiber, and high in water,” says Ellis Hunnes. “It takes up volume in your stomach without adding many calories, which can lower overall calorie intake for that meal per day and promote weight loss.”
Whether you sauté cabbage in oil and a little sherry vinegar for a healthy side dish or use it as a base for a salad, incorporate this slimming vegetable into your diet as much as possible.
“Cabbage is low in calories and high in fiber which helps keep you feeling full without all the calories,” says Vogt von Heselholt. “Cabbage is balancing believed to promote weight loss by glucose, limiting oxidative stress, inflammation, and resistance to insulin seen with diabetes.”
Whether you opt for zucchini or other summer squash, add this vegetable to your grocery cart regularly.
“Zucchini is another vegetable that is filled with water and fiber while remaining low in calories,” says Ellis Hunnes. “It can be grilled, baked, broiled, sautéed, and take on any flavor of the food.” Ellis Hunnes emphasizes that like other veggies, zucchini adds bulk to a meal without adding many calories—and it’s all thanks to fiber.
Perri is a New York City-born-and-based writer; she holds a bachelor’s in psychology from Columbia University and is also a culinary school graduate of the plant-based Natural Gourmet Institute, which is now the Natural Gourmet Center at Institute Of Culinary Education. Her work has appeared in the New York Post, Men’s Journal, Rolling Stone, Oprah Daily, Insider.com, Architectural Digest, Southern Living, and more. She’s probably seen Dave Matthews Band in your hometown, and she’ll never turn down a bloody mary. Learn more at VeganWhenSober.com.