If you actually need to lose weight, you’d probably love a magic food that you could eat as much as you want without impacting your weight. Real talk: Anyone who claims they’ve discovered that is basically doling out bullshit.
“There is not a lot of evidence for specific foods speeding up your metabolism,” admits Sheri Zidenberg-Cherr, PhD, a researcher at the University of California, Davis, department of nutrition. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t foods that can contribute to weight loss as part of a reduced-calorie diet and active lifestyle — after all, a girl’s gotta eat.
Here’s what Zidenberg-Cherr advises: Eat foods that make you feel full and satisfied, and your body won’t want to consume as many calories, so you’ll ultimately shed stubborn pounds. Think of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains — particularly ones that taste especially good in summer months, because you’ll want to fill up on them, and those with supposed superpowers, according to science. Here’s what you’ll want to dig into from summer’s bounty:
1. Chilled Soups
Often vegetable-based, chilled soups contain lots of fiber — a macronutrient that’s proven to reduce appetite and total calorie intake, promoting weight loss over time. Because soup is largely made up of calorie-free water, you can consume a large serving — which takes up room in your belly — for a reasonable number of calories. (Depending on the recipe, two cups of tomato-based gazpacho can clock in under 100 calories.)
This summer staple contains the kind of fiber that binds with and carries fat out of your system. But it gets better: Watermelon also contains a high percentage of water, which helps keep you hydrated and thus can increase your overall calorie expenditure, according to several studies. (FWIW, one cup contains fewer calories than any other summer fruit.)
Like many fruits, they’re packed with fiber and other nutrients. But they’re also one of the lower-calorie fruits on the list above — and easier to manage than a whole watermelon when you’re food shopping.
4. Summer Squash
Zucchini has its own merits — i.e., it’s low in calories — but its best trick is standing in for higher-calorie pasta. (Just spiralize and sauté, or swap for noodles in a pasta recipe.)
In season starting in midsummer, kale is already every healthy person’s salad staple. But the nutrient-dense green can also add a solid dose of fiber to a Greek yogurt-based smoothie. This combo makes a super-filling and refreshing summer snack that fends off urges to reach for higher-calorie snacks, according to Zidenberg-Cherr.
6. Grilled Vegetables
Crowd your BBQ plate with grilled veggies — they’re lower in calories and fat, and higher in fiber than the second cheeseburger you’d be craving had you not filled up on eggplant, sweet peppers, and onions.
7. Grilled Seafood
“One of the most satisfying ways to eat and control weight is to include lean protein in every meal,” Zidenberg-Cherr says, and research suggests that just digesting protein can burn a bunch of calories. Grilled fish is a perfect source of summertime protein because it’s lighter and leaner than, say, a steak. (FWIW: Richer proteins such as steak can stick around in your stomach forever — which will keep you full, for sure, but won’t necessarily make you feel your best in the heat.) Here’s how the most common types of seafood stack up:
Don’t shy away from the fattier fish on the list above. They can contain omega-3 oil, which has been shown to reduce abdominal fat when combined with a weight loss program.
The main reasons these bad boys taste refreshing AF is their high water content, which helps the body stay hydrated and stops dehydration from masquerading as hunger, according to registered dietitian Jessica Fishman Levinson of Nutritioulicious.
As if you need a reason to eat summer tomatoes (if you’ve tasted them, you’ve tasted heaven), they’re another great source of water you can eat.
Of course summer can’t happen without avocado (LY, guac 😘 !), but it’s the low-sugar fruit’s unique mix of healthy fats and fiber that gives it a special spot on this list. (Remember: Dietary fat slows digestion so you don’t end up eating more calories than your body needs.)
You’d never guess that one cup of these berries contains less sugar than any other summer berries — and it’s sugar that makes your blood sugar go berserk, leaving you hungry again shortly after eating.
12. Spicy Salsa
Capaicinoids are the naturally occurring chemicals found in hot chili peppers. Research suggests eating small amounts of the ingredient naturally leads you to eat less. There’s also lots of evidence that the stuff goes right to your fat cells, ultimately reducing abdominal fat. And at the very least: Hot salsas tend to contain more nutrient-rich veggies and fewer calories than many dairy and bean-based dips — sorry, hummus!
13. Iced Hibiscus Tea
In a truly genius move, registered dietitian Dawn Jackson drinks this fruity-tasting, sugar-free iced tea from a wine glass to resist the urge to wine it up, mostly because alcohol contributes lots of calories and stokes your appetite, so it pretty much obliterates any efforts to eat healthy. Although there’s not sufficient evidence that the tea actually promotes weight loss, Jackson swears it tastes like Kool-Aid for adults — a hydrating treat.
While technically available are available all year long, the tropical fruit contains two potent enzymes that make it well worth eating in the summertime, according to Haylie Pomroy, celebrity nutritionist and author of The Fast Metabolism Diet. These enzymes help you break down food and metabolize body fat more efficiently.
Grown year-round in tropical climates, this crunchy veggie contains a naturally occurring prebiotic that helps your body metabolize B vitamins — a good thing, considering the nutrient helps produce an amino acid that promotes fat metabolism, according to Pomroy, who adds that this superpower can promote a flat belly, healthy bowel movement, and high energy levels. Registered dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner recommends snacking on jicama sticks dressed with a squeeze of lime and chili powder, which can beat healthy eaters’ baby carrot fatigue.
16. Frozen Fruits
When you eat cold foods, your metabolism increases to warm the foods to body temperature, and burns extra calories from carbs and fat in the process, according to Brian C. Weiner, MD, a clinical associate professor at University of Florida in Gainsville. Because the hardest part is turning frozen-solid foods into liquid, eating frozen foods create the greatest calorie deficit, burning up to 160 calories to digest 1 liter (about the size of a large 7-Eleven Slurpee) of shaved ice, according to Dr. Weiner. Of course it would be crazy to start eating ice by the liter. Instead, try freezing fruit you already eat on the regular and blending it or popping it straight up; frozen grapes and bananas can make an A+ treat. And yes, you should also order your drink on ice. YOLO, it’s summer!