While we believe that weight loss is personal and, fundamentally, eating healthy should be about feeling great and nourishing your body, not trying to fit into a certain-size jean, sometimes, losing weight is part of a healthy journey. We consulted some of our favorite functional medicine doctors to see the top food they recommend to patients who are trying to lose weight.
Avocados, Coconut Oil & Dandelion Greens
Two of my favorite foods for weight loss are rich in fats: avocados and coconut oil. Avocados are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and coconut oil is rich in saturated fat and medium-chain triglycerides. The important thing to note about fat is that healthy fats such as these do not cause weight gain; they actually control appetite, balance blood sugar, and reduce insulin resistance—one of the key issues at play with weight-loss resistance.
My other favorite food for weight loss is dandelion greens. They are not only a great source of fiber, which helps fill you up and keeps food moving down the digestive tract (important benefits in any weight-loss food), but they contain trace minerals, B vitamins, thiamine, riboflavin, and vitamin C. Their bitterness is considered a liver and gallbladder chi-balancing tonic in Chinese medicine. We now know that the bitter compound, taraxacin, increases bile flow by promoting gallbladder contraction. Bile carries out hormone metabolites and environmental toxins that can short-circuit weight-loss efforts. Dandelion tea is a great diuretic, helping cleanse the kidneys, thus reducing water retention and bloating. By detoxifying the body of its toxic burden, weight loss is promoted as the body sheds the fat-soluble toxins it was protecting itself from by storing excess fat. Tip: Blanch the greens in boiling water for 20 to 30 seconds to reduce their acrid taste before adding them to a salad."
Cleansing Salad With Protein Dressing
I'm not sure there's one food that works for me and everyone else when it comes to weight loss, but a general approach is to increase the nutrient density of your food, make it less processed and anti-inflammatory, and to reset the metabolic hormones with your fork. One staple from my kitchen when I want to drop a few pounds is to make a large hearty and cleansing salad with thinly sliced kale, cabbage, cucumbers, fennel, and dress with a thick dressing and add seeds. For my body type, nuts and red meat add on pounds, so I prefer to add seeds or fresh fish as my protein. The dressing I love this time of year is a blend of cannelloni beans, capers, garlic, lemon, fresh ginger, apple cider vinegar, and extra-virgin olive oil. This gives me the slow carbs I need to nourish my adrenals and thyroid, plus enough protein to prevent loss of lean body mass.
Starchy Foods & Apple Cider Vinegar
A plant-based diet strong in starchy foods like potatoes and beans without added oils is producing amazing results with examples like comedian Penn Jillette and the Australian Andrew Taylor making headlines repeatedly. Borlotti beans may be especially helpful for weight loss. In addition, an ounce of apple cider vinegar split and taken twice a day, diluted if needed in water, can activate the same pathway as some prescription drugs to lower blood sugar and favor weight loss.
My favorite foods to promote weight loss are healthy fat sources like wild-caught salmon. Research points to fatty fish being able to reduce the fat-storing hormone leptin and also being an awesome source of protein. It will help to reduce your appetite—win-win! Green leafy vegetables like spinach and watercress are also great for so many reasons. One important way they help with shedding the pounds is by feeding your healthy gut bacteria. This promotes your microbiome to make more of the fat-burning short-chain fatty acid butyrate.
Ground flaxseed helps with weight loss by binding up excess hormones (as an imbalance is a common contributor to weight gain). It also reduces cravings and increases satiation through its high amount of fiber and bulking properties, optimizes healthy gut bacteria, and improves integrity of bowel movements. It's also rich in B vitamins (involved in over 500 reactions in the human body), magnesium (nature's relaxer, important for stress reduction as weight gain tends to have a stress component), zinc (good for immune health). It's a rich source of over 20 fatty acids and a great source of alpha-lipoic acid, which helps reduce inflammation. It's high in minerals like selenium (great for thyroid health, which plays a role in metabolism), manganese, and phosphorus. It's best ground, as whole seeds tend to pass right through us.
Chicken Liver Pate
My favorite food for weight loss is chicken liver pate. Weird one, I know. Lemme explain. The body feels comfortable shedding weight and arriving at its optimal set point only when it has reached a state of nutritional abundance. That is, the body wants to know it has all the micronutrients (vitamins, minerals) and macronutrients (fat, protein, carbohydrate) it needs to thrive; otherwise, it will want you to keep eating until you get there. Chicken liver pate, or really all the organ meats, are some of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. They're a great way to tell your body it has everything it needs.
My favorite food for weight loss is a green smoothie. It fills me up, keeps me energized, and keeps my chocolate cravings and salt cravings far away. I am really not picky about what goes in them—usually a cup of greens, frozen fruit, a banana, or avocado and I am good to go!
Bitter melon is a vegetable commonly eaten in India and China (also known as Momordica charantia) that has tons of medicinal uses including aiding in weight loss. It's a rich source of phytonutrients, antioxidants, and high in fiber, all assisting with boosting digestive health. It's also low in calories and filling. This vegetable stimulates the liver, which is a major detox organ. The better your liver functions, the better your body can process fats and keep them from storing on your hips, waist, and other problem areas. Want to enjoy this amazing veggie but can't stomach the bitterness? Simply soak it in chilled salt water for a few hours, then cook it or eat it raw. You can also drink the bitter melon in tea form. Any way you slice it, make sure to consult with your doctor before including bitter melon in your diet.
—Karla Solis, DDS
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is acetic acid, and it dates back to 5,000 B.C., and Hippocrates (the "father of medicine") used vinegar medicinally to clean wounds. In my experience, there are benefits for weight loss and cravings control, and evidence shows that it is really good for its glycemic effects, as it lowers blood sugar after meals. I also include it for all of my patients trying to reset their gut microbiome, as it's fermented, which means it has live bacteria that can help build up the good bacteria lining in the GI tract. Here's my favorite recipe: 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar with the juice of 1 lemon or lime, and 4 ounces of warm water. Drink and enjoy!
My favorite food for weight loss is an omelet! Eggs each have about more than 7 grams of protein each, so an omelet has 14 to 21 grams depending on how many eggs you use, plus significant amounts of B12, biotin, and choline, and up to 400 mg of healthy omega-3 fats. Because of this, I think in many ways, eggs are nature's perfect food. Choose free-range, pasture-raised eggs whenever possible, as they are much higher in nutrients and healthy fats than industrially raised eggs (you can actually tell visibly because their yolks are bright yellow or even dark orange instead of pale yellow!). The best part is eggs take just a couple of minutes to whip into an omelet—even if you have no cooking skills. I love adding in wild smoked salmon, sautéed spinach, and fresh cherry tomatoes, if they're in season. I love this for weight loss because it's carb- and sugar-free, and carbs and sugar cause us to store fat, especially if we are not super active and work at a desk. As a bonus, the protein increases your resting metabolic rate, so you burn more calories even when you're not being active.