No one food magically melts away fat, but some studies show there are eats that can help you maintain a healthy weight—and even lose a few pounds.

We're not talking baby carrots and celery sticks, either. Thanks to their nutritional makeup, hearty foods such as nuts and whole grains can be key weapons in the battle of the bulge.

What's more, they're among the best disease-fighting foods. Try including one or more of these in your meals every day.

Whole Grains

In a recent study published in the American Clinical Journal of Nutrition, 81 volunteers agreed to eat only the food provided by researchers at Tufts University. For six weeks, half followed a typical American diet that included refined grains such as white bread, white pasta, and white rice.

The other half ate an identical diet—except whole grains replaced refined grains.

The researchers monitored the participants’ metabolic rate and measured the weight and calorie count of their stool. Those on the whole grain diet had an uptick in their resting metabolism—the number of calories the body burns at rest—and excreted more calories than those eating refined grains, according to Phil Karl, Ph.D., nutrition scientist at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine and the study’s lead author. 

"This may mean people were absorbing a little less carbs, protein, and fat from the diet," Karl said.

He cautions that whole grains are "only one piece of a puzzle," when it comes to weight loss. But this study provides evidence that they may work for you, rather than against you, if you're trying for a healthy weight.

Healthy eating means frequently choosing combinations of better-for-you foods and in appropriate quantities,” Karl says—and whole grains are proven to be a better-for-you food. 

Get them ideally in their natural state—barley, brown rice, bulgur, quinoa, or wheat berries, for instance. In the Tufts study, participants ate whole grain bread, cereals, pastas and tortillas.

Bonus: Popcorn counts as a whole grain. Just remember to go light on the salt and butter. Here’s a recipe for making your own easy stovetop popcorn.


Since 2012, a team of scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture has studied the calorie count of nuts. For almonds, pistachios, and walnuts, they found people don’t actually absorb as many calories as are listed on nutrition labels, according to David Baer, Ph.D., research leader in the Food Components and Health Laboratory at the USDA.

There are about 170 calories in an ounce of almonds, but Baer’s research shows people only retain about 129 calories, or about three-quarters of the total.

That’s important, says Baer, because nuts’ relatively high calorie counts on their labels may dissuade some people from eating them. 

Other research has shown that nuts have many other health benefits, reports Baer, such as being linked to a reduced risk of heart disease and cancer. 

Get them for an afternoon snack, toss them into a salad, use them to coat lean pork or poultry, or sprinkle over cooked vegetables. An ounce is about 23 almonds, 18 cashews, or 14 walnut halves. Opt for unsalted nuts to keep your sodium intake down.

Beans and Lentils

Adding pulses (aka beans and lentils) to your diet could help you lose weight and reduce body fat, according to a 2016 analysis of 21 studies. The research team from the University of Toronto found eating pulses led to weight loss, even in people who weren’t trying to lose weight.

Among the 940 overweight or obese adults in the study, those who ate about a daily serving of pulses—from about half a cup to around a cup and a half—weighed on average about three-quarters of a pound less than those who didn’t: a “small-but-significant” difference, according to the scientists.

Another analysis from 2014 found those who added pulses to meals felt about 30 percent fuller compared with people who ate meals without them.

Get them by adding them to salads, soups, tacos, even smoothies


Blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries are low in calories and high in fiber, so they help you feel full on less. A cup of whole strawberries, for instance, has just 46 calories; a cup of blueberries has 84.

But a 2016 study published in the British Medical Journal suggests the weight loss benefits go beyond simple calorie counting. That's because berries are rich in flavonoids—a group of antioxidant compounds found in the pigment of many plant foods.

In the study, researchers at Harvard tracked 120,000 men and women for 24 years. They reported on their weight every two years and their eating habits every four years. The study found those who ate the most flavonoids were better able to maintain their weight as they got older. Anthocyanins, the type of flavonoids in berries, appeared to have the most powerful effect.

Maintaining a healthy weight grows increasingly important as we get older, says Consumer Reports' chief medical adviser Marvin M. Lipman, M.D. "As we age we burn calories more slowly. That can result in weight gain," he says, unless we offset the tendency by making better dietary choices and by exercising.

Flavonoids provide other perks, including a reduced risk of heart disease and neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Get them with yogurt for breakfast in the morning or for an after-dinner treat, or buy them frozen to use in a smoothie.