Fruit tends to be high in fiber and low in calories, making it a great food for weight loss or maintenance.
Skip the cake, cookies, and candy. Going au naturale with your treats boosts fiber intake, supporting weight loss, and gives you additional health benefits.
When it comes to losing weight, a big challenge for many people is giving up dessert, which is seemingly ubiquitous. Maybe your coworker brought donuts in for the team or candy bars seem to beckon you from the grocery checkout aisle. And, well, when the holidays roll around, all bets are off. It’s like an obstacle course for your goal setting.
Meet your weight loss training buddy: fruit. Not only does fruit have the sweetness you’re craving, but unlike processed treats, it boasts plenty of nutrients as well. No wonder some people call it Mother Nature’s candy.
In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that you fill half of your plate with fruit and veggies for optimal health. Yet while whole fruits are healthy, all food has calories, and you’ll want to keep that in mind when losing weight. If you’re on the popular ketogenic diet, some fruits are also better than others on this plan, due to the tight carbohydrate restrictions. Also, for people with type 2 diabetes, while it’s a myth that fruit is unhealthy, you’ll still want to monitor your intake due to their carb count, or else risk a blood sugar spike.
The amount that’s right for you may differ, but the fact remains: Fruit is a healthy addition for your weight loss plan. “When you’re trying to lose weight, an important aspect is feeling full for longer, but also enjoying what you eat — that’s a huge part of sustainable, healthy weight loss,” says Martha Lawder, RDN, president of the California Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, who is based in Roseville, California. “Fruit can give you that fullness because of the fiber, but also it’s delicious. That makes it a great go-to option.”
Here’s a look at some top choices, along with ideas on how to enjoy them if you’re looking to maintain your weight or simply do your body some good.
Atlanta-based Kristen Smith, RDN, spokesperson for Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and registered dietitian for Piedmont Healthcare, says apples are high in fiber but low in calories, which, like many fruits, makes them a wise food choice if you’re trying to lose weight.
“Foods with increased fiber can help slow digestion and keep you feeling satiated for longer periods of time,” Smith says. “For optimal satiety and fiber intake, keep the skin on.”
One medium-sized apple provides 4.37 grams (g) of fiber, which offers 16 percent of the daily value (DV), along with 96.4 calories, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Past research established the connection between consuming fiber-rich foods and managing weight.
Smith recommends topping your favorite salad with apple slices, dipping them in Greek yogurt as a snack, or adding them to oatmeal for natural sweetness.
Protein-rich Greek yogurt provides a whopping 14.9 g in each 150-g container of the plain, low-fat variety, according to the USDA. What’s more, thanks in part to its protein, Greek yogurt can make for a good weight loss companion, noted a review published in July 2015 in Nutrition Reviews. And pairing your apple with oats is also smart for your waistline, considering they offer an extra helping of fiber. According to the USDA, each ½ cup of oats serving provides 4 g, which is 14 percent of the DV.
If you prefer a no-frills snack, simply grab an apple and go. Their portability is part of their appeal.
Because of their sweetness, raspberries can help satisfy a sugar craving, Smith says. These offer fiber as well as antioxidants, which combat harmful substances called free radicals in the body, research has shown. According to the USDA, 1 cup of raspberries has 8 g of fiber, offering 28 percent of the DV and making them an excellent source.
Berries, in particular, are often categorized as superfoods because their high levels of vitamin C and vitamin E, which are antioxidants that help fend off chronic disease, according to a March 2018 article in Frontiers in Pharmacology. A cup of raspberries gives you 32 mg of vitamin C — 35 percent of your DV — and 1.07 mg of vitamin E, 7 percent of your DV, according to the USDA.
Though raspberries make good additions to salads and yogurts, too, Smith points out that these make a great snack on their own. Take a break, have a handful, and eat them slowly. You’ll boost your mindful eating, plus get your sweetness.
A medium-sized orange provides 3.14 g of fiber, or 11 percent of your DV, per the USDA. But that only applies if you’re eating the fruit itself, so keep this in mind if you’re eating to trim your waistline.
“Avoid orange juice and eat a whole or cut-up orange instead,” she says. “Also, oranges are packed with vitamin C, which offer several health benefits, like boosting your immune system, helping your body make collagen, and aiding with iron absorption.” According to the USDA, a medium-sized orange has 69.7 mg of vitamin C, 77 percent of your DV.
Whip up an orange salsa, Smith suggests, and use it to top chicken breast or fish to get your vitamin C and protein fix. Making sure you keep up on your protein requirements is a good strategy for weight loss, according to a June 2015 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, because it helps you feel full for longer. Harvard University notes you need 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight, so a 150-pound person would need 54 g of protein daily.
Talk about a major sweetness superhero — mangoes offer that no-sugar fix you want, and they can even help improve your metabolism and lower inflammation, says Lawder. A small, short-term study published in April 2017 in The FASEB Journal found that mango lowered blood pressure and helped with blood sugar regulation, both of which play a role in metabolism. It also improved inflammation markers, the research noted.
And of course, they offer a nice helping of weight-supportive fiber. In one mango, you get 3.31 g of fiber, which is about 12 percent of the DV, per the USDA.
After cutting into slices or pieces, sprinkle a little chili powder and lime juice on top, Lawder says. This will provide a flavorful snack; plus, the kick may boost this snack’s weight loss potential. A review published in June 2017 in the International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition found that the active ingredient in chile peppers, capsaicin, may accelerate weight loss efforts.
Like tomatoes, you may not think of avocados as a fruit. But while they may look odd in a fruit bowl, avocados can be a top addition when it comes to weight loss goals, says Lawder. That’s because they’re one of the fattiest plant foods available, and the USDA notes that about 77 percent of an avocado’s calories come from fat — the good kind.
“The monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids in avocados have been linked to better heart health, and they increase your satiation level by a large degree,” Lawder says. Fiber also contributes to avocados’ satiating effect: One-half an avocado provides 4.55 g fiber, or nearly 16 percent of the DV, notes the USDA.
A study published in April 2019 in Nutrients showed that overweight and obese participants who ate avocados as part of a meal felt less hungry after six hours compared with those who’d eaten a low-fat, high-carb meal.
After cutting a ripe fruit carefully, throw the pieces into a blender for a green smoothie, Lawder suggests, The texture of the avocado creates a creamy, thicker drink, like a milkshake, and you can add in all sorts of nutritious standouts, like banana, kale, chard, and Greek yogurt.
“Bananas often get badmouthed for being ‘too high’ in carbs,” says Saginaw, Michigan–based dietitian Kelsey Lorencz, RDN. Because fruit is full of natural sugar, which translates into carbs, it’s a common myth that it can contribute to weight gain, she adds. People on a low-carb diet like keto are often advised to avoid fruits like bananas.
“In reality, part of the carbohydrates from bananas are in the form of the fibers pectin and resistant starch. Both of these can actually help regulate blood sugars, not spike it,” says Lorencz. This type of starch earns that label because it is resistant to digestion, previous research notes, and that’s a good thing, because it functions like fiber and slows digestion — which keeps you full for longer, and also keeps blood sugar steady so you maintain energy. That can keep you from a blood sugar slump that has you reaching for a sweet treat to perk back up.
There’s a reason these are a such a go-to ingredient for smoothies. They blend well and add that tropical flavor to any mix. For added weight loss clout, throw in a small handful of nuts. Research has found that nuts can aid in weight loss, mainly because they help keep you full for longer thanks to their healthy fat and protein content.
In addition to another big burst of vitamin C — one cup of chunks provides 78.9 mg, or about 88 percent of the DV, notes the USDA— pineapple has a high water content and hydration has been shown in numerous studies to help with weight loss, says Lorencz.
For example, a prior review noted that several clinical trials have shown that adding water-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables to your diet is associated with weight loss, even when participants were not instructed to restrict calories.
Even if you’re a firm no to the “pineapple on pizza” question, pineapple does pair well with savory foods and dairy, says Lorencz. For example, blend some crushed pineapple into cottage cheese for snack. Cottage cheese is a top choice because it’s high in protein—the amount depends on brand, but the USDA notes that 1 cup of the low-fat variety provides 23.6 grams.
With so many different options when it comes to fruit, it’s easy to play around with flavor combinations, creating a sweet treat when you need it, and enjoying all the fiber and nutrients that make this an ideal addition to your weight loss efforts.