When it comes to weight loss, it’s not about cutting out a single food group, starving yourself, or exercising excessively. A healthy diet plan for weight loss is the key to reducing weight successfully. Regular, balanced meals aside, it’s also a great idea to complement your daily diet with healthy “superfoods” for better weight control.
Superfood, or sometimes called “power food”, is a nutrient-dense food containing various vitamins and essential nutrients. A good diet would be a balanced one, where foods are consumed in appropriate combinations according to their nutritional components.
“The term “superfood” refers to food that benefits our health. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), however, there isn’t this concept of superfood. Instead, we believe in eating the right food that is suitable for your own body constitution. The same superfood may be beneficial for some individuals but not the others,” says TCM Physician Ng Qing Xiang from Eu Yan Sang TCM Clinic in Singapore.
For healthy weight loss, here are 5 nutritious superfoods to include in your daily diet.
Need more protein, but prefer a meat-free approach? Quinoa can help you create a meatless healthy diet plan for weight loss without compromising protein. Quinoa (pronounced as “keen-wah”) looks like a grain. However, it is an edible seed that comes in various colours like white, yellow, red, and black.
This tiny seed contains complete protein, including all the nine essential amino acids we need to consume for optimal health. This makes it an excellent meat replacement without saturated fats or nitrogen waste. It is also gluten-free and a good source of iron, magnesium, Vitamin B1, vitamin E, and folate.
Quinoa can be a good substitute if you are on a diet and want to reduce rice consumption. It has a neutral taste and is easy to cook. However, remember to thoroughly rinse off the seeds before cooking to remove any saponins, the seed’s bitter-tasting natural pesticide. You can take quinoa with a well-balanced high-quality, protein drink comprising whey, pea, and soy protein for a protein boost.
TCM Benefits: Quinoa tonifies qi (vital life energy) and yang (active energy). This seed strengthens kidney yang and pericardium functions while nourishing the whole body.
Asian cuisine often includes seaweeds to complement local dishes like soups, broth, and stir-fry meals. It is also a popular appetiser and side dish that most people enjoy due to its unique flavour. Many kinds of edible seaweeds are available – for example, kelp, nori, wakame, kombu, and sea lettuce.
Seaweed also comprises a wide variety of nutritional components, including essential amino acids, dietary fibre, and vitamins A, B, C, and E. It is also an excellent source of trace minerals like iodine. Iodine supports healthy thyroid function, which plays a role in metabolism and helps regulate different body functions.
Low-calorie and power-packed with nutrition, seaweed is a wonderful addition to your weight loss diet. Scientists at Newcastle University suggest that seaweed can effectively prevent fat absorption in our bodies. Their studies show that alginate, a natural fibre in seaweed, helps reduce fat digestion by around 75%.
TCM Benefits: Seaweed tonifies yin and clears heat and dampness. It also resolves water accumulations, eliminates toxins, and relieves phlegm.
3. Flaxseed (Linseed)
The humble flaxseed is a tiny but mighty superfood rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, fibre, protein, potassium, and lignans. Every tablespoon of flaxseed provides 2 grams of protein, and when you combine this with its high fibre content, it helps you stay satiated for longer. This means you will eat less, which helps to keep your weight down.
The seed also helps with regulating bowel movement and managing heart health and cholesterol levels. A study shows that the linoleic acid in flaxseed helps lower systolic blood pressure and reduces the risk of hypertension.
It’s best to consume ground flaxseed as you may not be able to digest whole flaxseeds completely. You can easily add ground flaxseeds into your smoothies, salads, or soups.
TCM Benefits: Flaxseeds (ya ma zi) tonify yin (passive energy) and help replenish qi and blood.
With its unique flavour, parsley is a popular garnish that offers many health benefits. It soothes digestion, ensures regular bowel movements, reduces bloating and water retention, as well as supports healthy blood sugar levels.
Good digestion and optimal glucose levels lead to better weight management, making this herb an excellent complement to your diet plan for weight loss. Additionally, parsley is a good source of vitamin A, C, K and E, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, iron, and zinc. It is also rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and sodium.
In traditional remedies, parsley is a common detox ingredient due to its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory characteristics. Research states that parsley has been used in traditional medicines to treat many diseases, including gastrointestinal disorders, hypertension, cardiac disease, urinary tract infection, diabetes, and dermal diseases.
TCM Benefits: Parsley (zhou ye ou qin) tonifies blood, improves digestion, regulates qi, clear toxins, and relieves dampness.
Are you striking processed sugar off your list but missing something sweet? Stevia may be a good alternative to satiate your sweet tooth without piling on the calories and health risks.
Stevia comes from the leaves of the rebaudiana plant, which contains sweet-flavoured steviol glycosides. While it is about 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar, stevia does not contain any calories, making it an ideal sweetener for those who want to cut out sugar in their diet plan for weight loss. Stevia is also a very versatile sugar substitute that you can add to beverages, baked goods, and other recipes that require sugar.
Thanks to its non-caloric properties, stevia supports a healthy diet plan for weight loss. Replacing sugar with zero-calorie sweeteners like stevia can inadvertently help with weight management while minimising health complications that arise from excessive sugar intake. According to the MyHealth Portal by the Ministry of Health Malaysia, stevia sweeteners play a beneficial role in managing hypertension and blood sugar issues.
TCM Benefits: In TCM, sweet flavours affect the spleen. While small amounts of naturally sweet foods like stevia can benefit this organ, it is best to minimise the intake of sweetened products as too much of them can weaken the spleen.
6. Hawthorn Berry
Hawthorn berry, known for its heart-healthy benefits, is a powerful superfood that can help combat obesity. Studies have also found that hawthorn can address factors contributing to metabolic syndrome, which can be beneficial in treating diabetes, obesity, hyperlipidaemia, and atherosclerosis. The same study also reveals that a combination of hawthorn leaf and Citrus unshia (Japanese citrus) peel extracts offer anti-obesity effects.
In another study, hawthorn has been shown to lower body weight significantly by reversing metabolic alterations that increase the storage of fat.
Hawthorn can be taken as dried fruit or made into jams and jellies. The berries are also used as an ingredient in fruit drinks or confectionaries. Additionally, it is available as herbal supplement pills or tablets for easy consumption.
TCM Benefits: Hawthorn berry is traditionally used in Chinese medicine to improve overall health and well-being. It relieves food stagnation, restores the heart, improves blood circulation, clears heat, promotes urination, and transforms blood stasis.
7. Coix Seed
Coix seed, sometimes called coix barley or pearl barley, is a grain native to Southeast Asia. Due to its hypolipidemic and anti-inflammatory properties, this seed is widely used in Asian herbal medicine to treat various ailments. On top of this, recent studies have found that coix seeds are potential prebiotic agents for weight loss and preventing obesity-related metabolic disorders.
While more than half of a coix seed is composed of starch, it contains up to two times more protein than rice, making it a satiating food. Bland-tasting but palatable, this seed is usually taken with glutinous rice mixed with brown sugar in small quantities.
TCM Benefits: Coix seeds nourish the spleen and stomach as well as ease water retention. These seeds also help with detoxification and relieve swelling and rheumatic pain.
It’s essential to ensure your diet plan for weight loss helps you slim down without compromising your health. Above all, maintain regular, balanced meals daily and complement your diet with exercise, quality sleep, and healthy superfoods!
This is an adaptation of an article, “5 Superfoods To Help With Weight Loss”, which first appeared on Eu Yan Sang website.
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