It can be a daunting task to try and figure out what the healthiest foods for weight loss are.
Mixed messages and conflicting scientific evidence leaves us wondering if what we are putting in our bodies is harmful or healthful.
For this list, I painstakingly researched 25 of the most promising and well studied of the healthiest foods for weight loss I could find.
I tried to stick to foods that were perhaps, under the radar, or more new to the health food scene.
I wanted you you to be able to come away from this list with some clear, science based suggestions for weight loss friendly foods you can add to your diet — whether your goal is weight loss or just to eat healthier and improve your nutrition.
We will cover five basic categories (click any to go to that section):
Let’s dig in!
(Read also: 13 Tips for Healthier Eating Habits)
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The Healthiest Foods for Weight Loss: Superfoods
Superfoods are foods that are considered to be especially beneficial for health or well being.
While many of the basic fruits and vegetables you eat every day could be considered superfoods (such as broccoli and tomatoes), typically when people use this term they are thinking of supplemental foods or unique foods that are considered exceedingly valuable in terms of nutrient density and payoff.
Some people are obsessed with finding the best and newest superfood, willing to shell out half a paycheck on the newest supplement that promises a myriad of unproven or grandiose health claims.
For this section of the healthiest foods for weight loss list, I only added foods that were well studied.
I also only discuss benefits that have been shown to be true. In other words, I will not tell you any of these foods will change your life or cure you from all disease.
But they sure will add value to your diet and could be considered a healthy food for weight loss.
Hemp HeartsThe seed of Cannabis sativa L. has been an important source of nutrition for thousands of years in Old World cultures. Technically a nut, hempseed typically contains:
- 25 percent protein
- High in dietary fiber
- Many vitamins and minerals
- Hempseeds are 30% oil and that oil is over 80% in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs)
- An exceptionally rich source of the two essential fatty acids (EFAs) linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid.
- The omega-6 to omega-3 ratio in hempseed oil is normally between 2:1 and 3:1, which is considered to be optimal for human health.
- These oils can help prevent coronary heart disease, some studies suggest.
- The two main proteins in hempseed are edestin and albumin are high-quality storage proteins are easily digested and contain all essential amino acids.
- Exceptionally high levels of the amino acid arginine
- 1 ounce of hempseed contains 47 percent of your daily recommended amounts for magnesium and 26 percent of your daily zinc
- Hempseed is also very high in Tryptophan which, by increasing serotonin levels, can function as an appetite suppressant at low doses, and is sometimes very effective for weight loss.
Moringa PowderMoringa is a perennial deciduous tropical tree, and native to the south of the Himalayan Mountains in northern India. It is rich in proteins, vitamin A, minerals, essential amino acids, antioxidants, and flavonoids, as well as isothiocyanates. This healthy food for weight loss also has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-cancer, hepatoprotective, neuroprotective, hypoglycemic, and blood lipid-reducing functions. Moringa Oleifera leaves are the most widely studied and they have shown to be beneficial for:
- Anti-obesity properties — works directly on visceral fat, the kind that is most dangerous
- Helps treat metabolic syndrome
- Improve insulin sensitivity
- Increase total antioxidant capacity
- Improve immune tolerance
- Improve glucose intolerance
- Help balance high cholesterol
- Improves blood pressure
- Helps improve diabetes
- Combats insulin resistance
- Treats non-alcoholic liver disease
- Reduces inflammation
Chlorophyll is a green pigment found in plants, algae, and cyanobacteria that helps make plants green and healthy through photosynthesis.
When you are eating for weight loss, you can get chlorophyll by eating green fruits and veggies, or by consuming wheatgrass or barley grass which are very high in chlorophyll. Try growing your own microgreens indoors!
Chlorophyll also comes in a more concentrated liquid supplement form.
In a 90 day study, chlorophyll supplementation induced weight loss in women. It also reduced total and LDL (bad) cholesterol within only three weeks. During this study, the women experienced a decrease in desire for high-calorie foods, sweets, and fatty foods.
The really cool thing about the finding s in this study is that the decrease in desire for not so weight loss friendly foods occurred on DAY ONE of the study and was still seen on day 9! Pretty cool!
The study used a chlorophyll supplement and also a placebo was given to groups of women who didn’t know which they were getting — the real chlorophyll or a fake placebo. They took the real or fake supplement once per day, before breakfast.
Here are some more results from the study:
- Decreased urge for sweet and chocolate
- Waist circumference decreased
- Body fat lowered
- Leptin (a hormone that controls hunger) decreased
- Weight loss occurred
- Obesity-related risk factors decreased
But that’s not all! In a review of published studies, chlorophyll supplementation was shown to
- Increase satiety (meaning you feel more satisfied and less hunger and cravings)
- Suppress hunger
- Cause weight loss and body fat loss
The researchers say that the effects are caused by the chlorophyll releasing several gut hormones at the same time that reduce hunger. It also reduces blood fats and sugar, helping you metabolize fats and improving insulin sensitivity and keeping your blood sugar stable.
So you can easily see why chlorophyll is one of the healthiest foods for weight loss!
Read more about the powerful benefits of chlorophyll.
Read more about the hormones behind hunger, appetite, and cravings
Pumpkin SeedsPumpkin seeds are packed with protein, fiber, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus, zinc, copper, B vitamins, and iron. They also contain high levels of essential fatty acids that assist in the maintenance of healthy blood vessels and cholesterol levels. Pumpkin seeds are a great health food for weight loss because they help keep you feeling full. They suppress hunger pangs with healthy fats and fiber. One very special property of pumpkin seeds is that they are high in tryptophan. Tryptophan helps to increase serotonin levels in the brain which in turn, helps reduce our hunger and increases satiety. Serotonin deficiency has been implicated in cases of obesity, as it is associated with the brain’s perception of hunger and satiety.
When serotonin is increased through eating tryptophan-rich pumpkin seeds, it acts as an appetite suppressant even at low doses which can be very effective for weight loss.
Spirulina and ChlorellaSpirulina is cyanobacterium, or blue-green algae and has been consumed by different cultures for a long time. It contains a whopping 60 percent protein, making it a great health food for weight loss based on that fact alone (protein is thermogenic and helps burn more calories). Spirulina is also high in beta-carotene, many minerals, and an essential fatty acid called gamma-linolenic acid. Studies have shown that spirulina helps to:
- Decrease body weight
- Lower body fat percentage
- Improve cardio-respiratory health in overweight adults
Maca root is a root native to South America where it has been traditionally used to enhance sex drive and fertility.
Maca works as a healthy food for weight loss because it helps to balance hormones.
These hormones include hunger hormones, especially in those that are post-menopausal but also in people with stress-related hormonal imbalances.
Read more about maca and other adaptogens!
Collagen is a fibrous protein made up of amino acids glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline. It is crucial for the maintenance of tissues and organs.
Marine collagen is especially beneficial as it can be used by the body better. It has the following benefits:
- Anti aging effects
- Combats hypertension
- Anti-ulcer effects
- Aids in bone integrity maintenance
- Anti-wrinkle effects
- Anti-obesity effects
Marine collagen peptide has been shown to have anti-obesity effects by not allowing the fat to accumulate and by regulating lipid (fat) metabolism.
Many spices have been studied and shown to be some of the healthiest foods for weight loss.
The spice investigated most is curcumin derived from turmeric. Curcumin has been studied extensively specifically as a treatment for obesity and obesity-related metabolic diseases such as type-2 diabetes.
It works through anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory mechanisms.
In a 2019 review of 21 studies in Frontiers in Pharmacology, that used 1,604 people says that eating curcumin reduced body mass index (BMI), waist size, leptin levels (a hunger hormone), and increased adiponectin levels (regulates blood sugars and fatty acid breakdown).
So add some turmeric to your diet to help combat weight gain and inflammation if you are eating for weight loss.
Watermelon seeds are typically something you consider as messing up a good wedge of the juicy red fruit.
Lately, though, watermelon seeds have gotten recognition for the fact that they have more nutrients than the melon does. They are fairly high in protein and poly-unsaturated fats as well as iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and potassium.
The seeds also have phytochemicals that help protect against free radicals making them a healthy food for weight loss. There need to be more studies done on the claims for obesity, diabetes, and immune system benefits but seeing as how they are a rich source of:
- Omega-3 and 6
- B vitamins
- And filling fiber
— watermelon seeds can help to control blood sugar and reduce insulin resistance.
Kale is a green leafy vegetable that is from the same family as broccoli, cabbage, and brussel sprouts. It can be eaten raw or cooked and is chock full of vitamins.
When you eat kale in its powdered form, all the moisture has been removed and the nutrients have been highly concentrated.
The powdered form is also perfect for people (or unsuspecting kids!) who don’t like the taste of kale. It can be added to smoothies and other treats without a noticeable taste.
Kale and kale powder to an even greater extent contains:
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin A
- Carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin
- Vitamin B6
The properties in kale that help protect it from environmental stressors and insect or fungi also provide benefits to us when we eat it. Studies have shown that these properties — isothiocyanates and indole-3-carbinol — inhibits inflammatory processes, preventing the growth and spread of tumor cells, and protect healthy cells.
What’s more is that an eight week long study showed that with intake of kale powder, a significant decrease was observed in
- blood pressure
- abdominal circumference
- levels of bad cholesterol
- fasting blood sugar
- Improving blood circulation
- Lowering risk of cardiovascular diseases like heart attack and coronary artery disease
- Preventing blood clots
- Reduce risk of clogged arteries
- Providing electrolytes and energy for better exercise results
- vitamin B2 – this helps the body use calories for energy
- vitamin B3 – this can help lower cholesterol, and boost brain function
- vitamin B6 – this promotes healthy nerves, skin and red blood cells
- vitamin B7 (biotin) – this helps the body use calories
- vitamin B9 (folic acid) – helps your body transport blood, and is needed in pregnancy for developing the baby’s spinal cord
- vitamin B12 – this helps produce red blood cells
- calcium – for the maintenance of strong bones, and teeth
- potassium – regulates nerve signals, fluid levels, and muscle contractions
- zinc – boosts the immune system
- iron – works to transport oxygen around the body
- selenium – provides defense from disease
- sodium (salt) – this helps nerves function and regulates fluid levels
Chickpeas and Hummus
We all probably recognize that chickpeas and hummus are healthy foods for weight loss (psst, check out my recipe from the picture above for homemade hummus and bagel chips or my raspberry lemon dessert hummus).
Proof of this is seen in a study in Nutrients that shows people who eat chickpeas and hummus have higher nutrient intakes of:
- Dietary fiber
- Polyunsaturated fatty acids
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin C
— than people who do not eat them.
The same article says that research suggests chickpeas and hummus help with weight management and glucose and insulin regulation. They have also been seen to improve some markers for cardiovascular disease.
Chickpeas and hummus contain:
- Polyphenols such as isoflavones
Chickpea flour is also a great option. It provides much more nutrition and protein than regular wheat pasta. It is gluten-free for anyone that’s an issue for, plus it contains resistant starch and more fiber. When chickpeas are turned into pasta, the anti-nutrient that are present in raw chickpeas are reduced by 82 percent.
The Healthiest Foods For Weight Loss: Flours
With the popularity of diets that are lower in carbohydrates and gluten, more and more types of flours and baking mixes have become available in products and in bulk form for baking at home.
Some of these flours are ancient grains that humans have eaten for a long time and happen to be gluten free.
Others are new creations made from foods that some cultures have been eating, just maybe not in our cookies 🦗🦗🦗🦗🦗…. you’ll see what I mean.
Green Banana Flour
Green banana flour is high in resistant starch and low in soluble sugars.
Resistant starch is fantastic for feeding the good bacteria in your gut. Resistant starch is prebiotic, helping your microbiome flourish.
Green banana flour can reduce glycemic load and insulin release, helping to stabilize blood sugar.
Resistant starch is a type of fiber that may aid in managing weight and type 2 diabetes. The flour is high in fiber, 58.6 grams of fiber per 100 grams of flour.
Green banana flour is also high in important minerals:
- Magnesium — improves muscle recover, helps combat stress and anxiety and aids in sleep and contributes to healthy weight management.
- Zinc — contributes to skin health, including acne. Boosts immune system and brain health.
- Phosphorus — helps with cell turn over and heart health
Cassava is a tuber, like sweet potatoes and yams.
This means that it is packed with vitamins and minerals. It has plenty of vitamin C, thiamine, niacin, and riboflavin.
These nutrients occur naturally and are not artificially added like in most bread and cereals. Our bodies can absorb and use these nutrients much more efficiently.
Cassava flour is used most often for gluten-free baking but it is a super nutritious and eco-friendly option for any diet.
Like green banana flour, it is a source of resistant starch, and can boost a person’s gut health by helping beneficial gut bacteria thrive. Resistant starch foods are very weight loss friendly foods because a healthy gut biome is linked to healthy weight.
Cricket Flour (or Protein)
You may have heard about cricket protein being an economical, healthy, eco-friendly source of protein.
Especially when it comes to looking at the future of protein consumption with more and more people concerned about the impact of traditional animal protein sources on the environment.
Cricket protein is an excellent source of protein and nutrition but it also has another superpower. It can improve your gut microbiota.
That’s right, cricket protein has been shown to support the growth of the probiotic bacterium, Bifidobacterium animalis, which increased 5.7-fold!
It also reduces signs of inflammation. These data suggest that eating crickets may improve gut health and reduce systemic inflammation.
The processing of cricket powder has gotten to the point where it can be added to smoothies and baked goods without too much of a taste. It is often compared to a nutty flavour. Give it a try!
The popularity of Teff flour has boomed from the gluten-free trend. It is a naturally gluten free grain and is very high in nutrition.
The grain is small and packed with amino acids (all eight essential amino acids included). Teff is made into whole grain flour that includes the bran and germ, which makes it very high in fiber and nutrition. Because of this, it improves haemoglobin levels and so is used to help treat anaemia and diabetes.
Teff flour is a healthy food for weight loss, it contains:
- Amino acids
Diets high in calcium help to prevent weight gain and fat accumulation. For those that avoid dairy, teff flour can be a godsend. Teff is higher in calcium, by far, than other cereals. It also is higher than other cereals (besides sorghum) in magnesium.
All of this means leads to one amazing fact — recent studies show that teff flour is believed to contribute to the resistance and good fitness of Ethiopian sport people. They are often top performers in long distance running. Teff flour is thought to be one of the main contributors to this due to the nutrition and iron it provides in their cultural diet. Pretty incredible!
Try teff in your diet to help with exercise performance and iron levels.
The Healthiest Foods For Weight Loss: Syrups and Sweeteners
There are all kinds of replacements for traditional sweeteners.
Stevia, sucralose, and sugar alcohols like xylitol and erythritol are popular. However, many people are searching for sweetener replacements that are safer or do not result in gastrointestinal issues that some sugar alcohols are known to cause.😝
It is worth trying to find a weight loss friendly foods version of a sweetener.
Studies show that when you you replace calorific sweeteners with low calorie alternatives, you can lose weight.
A review has shown that if you consume low calorie sweeteners and drinks, you are more likely to also consume less empty calories from fat, sugar, and alcohol, helping you to lose weight.
Yacon syrup is an abundant source of fructooligosaccharides (FOS). FOS intake helps increase the growth of health-promoting bacteria while reducing pathogenic, unwanted bacteria populations in your gut.
A scientific review of studies on yacon syrup also show that glycemic levels, body weight and colon cancer risk can be reduced by consuming it!
This isn’t speculation but actual scientific review — pretty powerful stuff!
Based on these findings, most studies reviewed concluded that due to their functional properties, yacon roots may be effectively used as a dietary supplement to prevent and treat chronic diseases.
Buy it here
Sorghum SyrupAnother resistant starch super star, sorghum is a great source of energy and helps nurture beneficial bacteria in the intestine. It can help limit your risk of obesity and colon issues. A study in Food and Agricultural Immunology indicates that sorghum resistant starch helps to treat and prevent obesity by secreting leptin (hunger hormone) and adiponectin (a protein hormone which is involved in regulating glucose levels as well as fatty acid breakdown) and improved gut flora. The study says that increasing gut hormone signalling with functional foods such as resistant starch in sorghum syrup may be an effective natural approach for the treatment of obesity. Sorghum syrup can contribute to eating for weight loss by:
- Decrease body fat storage
- Increase insulin sensitivity
- Lower plasma cholesterol and blood lipids
- Improve glucose tolerance
- High in manganese – 18 percent of your daily recommended amount in a single tablespoon.
- Vitamin B6
- No fat
- No cholesterol
- Caramelized Banana Protein French Toast
- Blueberry Walnut Protein Pancakes
- Banana Chocolate Chip Protein Waffles (5 ingredients!)
- High Protein Oatmeal
- Cherry Almond Baked Protein Oatmeal
- Almond Joy Baked Oatmeal
Monk Fruit Sweetener
Monk fruit sweetener is a natural sweetener that can be used to replace calorie dense sugar. It contains little to no carbs and zero sugar.
Because of this, it obviously doesn’t raise your blood sugar which is important if you are eating for weight loss. Monk fruit sweetener also has the bonus of containing antioxidants called mogrosides.
The Healthiest Foods for Weight Loss: Milks and Creamers
Although dairy milk offers a lot of nutrition, there are those that would rather avoid animal products or are looking for nutritious alternatives when they are eating for weight loss.
In the US, there is often hormones found in dairy milk which can disrupt your natural hormone levels and contribute to weight gain.
This is not the case in Canada where our dairy is hormone free.
Check out these delicious milk and creamer alternatives!
Oat milk is newer on the scene of milk alternatives but it has risen like crazy in popularity — and for good reason.
Each cup contains a bunch of vitamins and minerals:
- Calcium (even more than cow’s milk!)
Oat milk is low in fat and contains no cholesterol. It’s also low in calories and sugar but high in protein and contains fiber. All of these attributes make it a clear healthy food for weight loss.
Buy it here
Coffee cream is a delicious but calorie dense food.
We’ve already established that hemp is one of the healthiest foods for weight loss. Unflavoured hemp drinks are low in calories and offer more protein than almond milk. It is high in polyunsaturated fats which help to lower cholesterol.
The best part about hemp creamer is that is doesn’t separated in hot drinks like coffee and tea like other non-dairy creamers can!
Walnut MilkWe all know by now that walnuts are super healthy. They contain brain-boosting compounds like vitamin E, fotale, melatonin (helps you sleep!), and a load of antioxidative polyphenols as well as omega-3 fatty acids. Walnuts are shown to even boost your mood! As we already discussed with a ton of the healthiest foods for weight loss, many of these properties contribute to healthy weight loss as well. Okay, now here is one of the coolest studies I’ve read while researching for this massive article. A three month long study published in Food and Nutrition Research had people eating 30 grams of walnuts every day and compared them to a control group who did not. The results show that the group who ate walnuts achieved the greatest weight loss after three months. The walnut eaters:
- Lost weight
- Made healthier food choices
- Decreased intake of unhealthy foods
- Kept the weight off better at 12 months
- Attained weight loss
- Improved cardiovascular disease risk factors better than the non-walnut eaters
- Helped improve LDL cholesterol levels and blood pressure better than non-walnut eaters
Oils and Fats
Long gone are the days where the powers that be and low-fat food advertisers told us that eating fat would make us fat.
It is well established that fat improves meal satiety, helping us feel more satisfied and full after eating.
If you are eating for weight loss, this is key because scarfing down a bunch of low-fat diet food is bound to make you crave foods and experience increased hunger.
Don’t do that to yourself! Fats are a necessary and healthy part of any diet.
In fact, they are some of the healthiest foods for weight loss!
MCT Oil (medium chain triglycerides)
MCT oil is a high fat diet stand by. People who eat high fat and low carb love this stuff and even add it to coffee.
This is for good reason! Research shows that MCT plays a role in
- Lowering weight
- Decreasing metabolic syndrome
- Lowering abdominal obesity
- Reducing inflammation
- Improves exercise performance
- Boosts mitochondrial metabolism
- Greater energy expenditure (burn more calories!)
MCT oil is one of the healthiest foods for weight loss regardless of whether you eat high fat low carb or not.
Add it to your diet to benefit from its fantastic qualities.
Check out this article on How to Increase Your Metabolism
Hemp CBD Oil
Cannabidiol is one of 113 cannabinoids in cannabis plants and makes up 40 percent of the plant’s extract.
CBD is a rising star in the health and wellness industry. It’s touted as a cure all for everything from anxiety to acne.
Research is also being done on CBD’s ability to help with weight loss and reduce weight related health problems like diabetes and metabolic disorder. Receptors in our body called CB1 and CB2 that react to CBD.
People who are obese often have CB1 receptors spread throughout the body when they are typically only found in the brain and central nervous system.
Researchers believe there is a link between these receptors and obesity.
CB1 receptor antagonists can possibly help to reduce your appetite which helps to lower obesity. So, if you are eating for weight loss, adding CBD oil can help you shut off the receptors and reduce your appetite to prevent overeating, if that’s something you struggle with.
A study in Molecular Sciences says that:
“Cannabinoid receptors (CB) regulate thermogenesis, food intake and inflammation. CB1 ablation or inhibition helps reduce body weight and food intake. Stimulation of CB2 limits inflammation and promotes anti-obesity effects by reducing food intake and weight gain.”
What this means is, supplementing with CBD oil can help turn white fat into brown fat, which actually helps you burn more fat and increase your metabolism!
It also reduces inflammation as well which is a known contributor to weight gain.
Fish oil supplementation can reduce belly fat and is shown to significantly increase lean mass (body weight that is not fat), and decrease fat mass. This is like the holy grail of weight loss.
Typically when you lose weight, you lose fat and muscle, unless you are making sure to strength train. With fish oil though, you can achieve these results as well.
In fact, fish oil reduces a stress hormone called cortisol which can make weight loss pretty much impossible and can also eat away at your muscle mass.
A six week study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition shows fish oil produced:
- Increased lean muscle mass
- Decreased fat mass
- Reduced stress hormone cortisol
- Lower body fat percentage
Whole fish and seafood high in EPA and DHA omega fatty acids are some of the healthiest foods for weight loss. Adding fish oil supplements to your diet can fill in the gaps if you don’t like fish or if it’s hard to afford.
The Healthiest Foods for Weight Loss
Well, there you have it. My personal dissertation on healthy foods for weight loss!
It was really fun researching this post and I hope you find some healthy food for weight loss but also some real solid nutrition advice.
These foods can do so much more than help you lose weight.
They can help you
- reduce risk of diabetes
- increase metabolism
- build lean muscle
- improve exercise performance
- boost your mood
- help you sleep better
- decrease stress hormones
- reduce inflammation
- help you make better food choices
- and more!
Thanks so much for reading and please share with me in the comments which food you plan to try!