Counting calories is only part of the solution to shedding pounds. These ideal super foods will also help you feel full and encourage your body to burn more fat. From The FastDiet by Dr. Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer.
Fruit: As the labs of the world continue in their quest for new antiobesity marvels, the latest to emerge is the humble tangerine. Citrus fruits in general, and tangerines in particular, contain high concentrations of nobiletin, a compound that “protects from obesity and atherosclerosis”—in lab mice at least. If you like tangerines, eat them, perhaps spending time meditatively peeling away the pith. The same group of researchers previously found that grapefruit, rich in a compound called naringenin, encourages the liver to burn fat rather than store it. Grapefruit also contains compounds such as liminoids and lycopene (thought to have anticancer properties), and clocks in at only 39 calories per half, making it a good fast-day food. (You should, however, be aware that grapefruit interacts with a number of common medicines, so if you are taking medication such as statins, consult your doctor.) Alternatively, you could always throw in a watermelon slice (30 calories per 100 grams, about 3.5 ounces) or an apple (around 50 calories per 100 grams) for flavor, crunch, and pectin, a soluble fiber that can’t be absorbed by the body but is useful in fat digestion. Apples are the ultimate convenience food, though they are quite high in calories; eat the whole thing, skin, seeds, and core—you’ll probably want to if it’s one of your fast-day treats. Tomatoes also contain lycopene, which may help guard against cancer and stroke. A handful of cherry tomatoes or strawberries (low GI, low GL) could be your best bet to get you through a tummy rumble unscathed. Check for calorie traps before you eat.
Hear an excerpt from The FastDiet audiobook read by author Michael Mosley
Berries: Blueberries are high in antioxidant polyphenols and phytonutrients. New research has found that these bold little berries may also be able to break down fat cells in the body and prevent new ones from forming. Pretty impressive, eh? Even if you don’t buy the science, blueberries remain a handy source of vitamin C. Once you’re berry savvy, you may want to cruise your local health food store for other super foods: goji, acai, aloe, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and spirulina (a nutrient-rich blue-green algae). All curious, all good.
Vegetables: Again, aim for a wide variety of vegetation—different colors, textures, tastes, shapes. Steamed broccoli contains a whole world of nutrients (including vitamin K). Green beans love a little lemon and garlic. Fennel is great if shaved (invest in a mandoline), perhaps teamed with orange segments and a squeeze of the juice. Edamame is a good source of low-fat protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Starchy veggies, of course, tend to have a higher GL and calorific value, though they are satiating. Proceed with caution and don’t add butter.
Leaves: It goes without saying that green leafy veggies are your fast-day friends. Spinach, kale, chard, mustard greens, salad leaves… a veritable vitamin fest, and agreeably low in calories. Pep things up with chili flakes, ginger, cumin, pepper, lemon juice, garlic. Garlic, by the way, contains allicin, the active ingredient that lends it pungency and is also thought to protect cells and reduce fatty deposits, so be liberal and carry (sugarless) mints.
Herbs and spices: Lo‑cal, high-impact, no brainer. Pickles may work for you too—cornichons, jalapenos, onions (watch the GI values)—or mustard; anything, really, that brings a bolt of fire or flavor to your plate.
Nuts: We’ve established that nuts are a fast-day favorite: filling and low GI. Almonds, though calorific, are high in protein and fiber, which makes them brilliantly satiating; pistachios, too (better yet, they take ages to crack and eat). Cashews and coconut flakes will help animate a salad. But count wisely; nut calories soon add up.
Seeds: Sunflower seeds contain good fats, together with iron, zinc, potassium, vitamins E and B1, magnesium, and selenium—all that goodness in a tiny little packet.
Soup: Scientists at Penn State University have found that soup is a great appetite suppressant. Go for a light broth or a miso soup; choose carrot and coriander over a creamy chowder.
Cereals: Oats are a standby low-GL staple, but mix it up; you could experiment with bulgur, couscous, or quinoa—they’re high in protein and fiber, easy to cook, and a good source of iron.
Dairy: Milk products, though full of protein and calcium, can also be high in fat. Opt for low-fat alternatives—and save the cheese board for tomorrow. Fat-free yogurt will bring protein, potassium, and—if you want them—probiotics along to the party, and like nuts, will help you feel fuller longer.
Whatever you eat on a fast day (or any day), the most important thing is to relish it. Go slow.