It is no secret that obesity is a common problem that more and more people are suffering from. The solution isn’t a fad diet, a gimmick that can cause your weight to yo-yo up and down, or a weight loss drug with potentially unknown side effects.  It’s simple healthy eating habits that can be maintained over the long term.

In this excerpt from the book The Green Pharmacy Guide to Healing Foods by James A. Duke and Bill Gottlieb, CHC the authors discuss how to start eating healthy to fight obesity and develop a healthy lifestyle.


In America, obesity is a big problem—and big business.

Americans nowadays are spending about $33 billion a year on weight-loss products. That’s a lot of money to waste on pills and gimmicks that don’t work. That’s right— they’re ineffective. I know this because statistics show the problem is getting worse. Over the past four decades, the prevalence of overweight and obesity in the United States has more than doubled—and today, more than 70 percent of American adults are vulnerable to all the health problems that carrying too much weight can bring! That’s really a shame, because the key to losing weight is pretty simple: You have to eat and drink fewer calories than you expend through physical activity.

You can easily do that by eating reasonable portions of meals made up of mostly fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, or nuts and by getting some physical activity every day—or at least on most days. Including the foods that follow can boost your weight loss even more.

Healing Foods for the Overweight

Beans and other high-fiber foods. Losing weight isn’t always a matter of eating less. In fact, sometimes you should eat more. For example, consuming greater amounts of beans, whole grains, and other plant foods can give your weight-loss program an extra edge. Although your body can’t digest the stuff, fiber is helpful in a weight-loss diet for many reasons. First of all, it’s mostly present in plant foods, which are typically low in calories and fat and require more time and effort to eat than low-fiber, processed foods such as french fries, so there’s less tendency to overeat them. Also, fiber is bulky and lingers longer in your stomach, so it helps you feel fuller.

Women should get 21 to 25 grams of fiber daily, and men need 30 to 38 grams. And a new study in the journal Nutrients shows why that’s so important. An international team of scientists investigated fiber intake and risk of obesity in four countries with very different fiber intakes—the USA, Ghana, Jamaica, and the Seychelles. Americans had the highest rate of obesity, at 52 percent. They also had the lowest intake of fiber, with only 3 percent of American adults meeting the guidelines of 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories. Overall, the lower the intake of fiber, the higher the rate of obesity—38 percent of people who got the least fiber were obese, compared to 18 percent of those who got the most. Needless to say, the researchers urge the adoption of “strategies and policies” that increase the intake of fiber.

According to the USDA’s handy-dandy nutrient database, the following are just a few good sources of fiber, measured in grams.

1 cup navy beans—19

1 cup oat bran—14

1 cup lentils—12.5

1 cup dates—12

1 cup raspberries—8

Cayenne. If your food is spicy enough, you’re likely to sweat—and maybe even burn off a few calories—as if you’ve been working out. Research has found that by adding 6 to 10 grams of cayenne pepper to a meal or consuming 28 grams of the hot stuff in a day (6 grams is about a tablespoon), you may burn more calories and feel less hungry after meals. That’s a lot of hot pepper, and it’s possible that if you eat that much, you’ll become so preoccupied with your burning mouth that you’ll be too busy to think about being hungry. But it may be something to try.

Tea. In addition to fat-free milk, another good weight-loss beverage appears to be tea, particularly green tea. In a small study, men who took a green tea extract had greater energy expenditure and burned more fat over the course of a day than those who didn’t take the extract. Taking caffeine didn’t provide these benefits. As a result, the researchers believe that green tea encourages metabolism boosting and fat burning independently of the caffeine it contains. Another study found that men who drank a cup and a half of oolong tea daily for 12 weeks reduced their waist circumference and amount of body fat.

Research has found that green tea extract is thermogenic, meaning that it speeds up your metabolism, leading to more weight loss. This activity may be due to components in the tea, including epigallocatechin gallate, caffeine, myricetin, and quercetin. A study from Thailand found that green tea can reduce body weight in overweight individuals, partly because they’re burning more energy and hence calories.

But what may be even more important is that green tea can help you not only lose weight, but also maintain weight loss. A meta-analysis of 11 studies on green tea and weight, published in the International Journal of Obesity, showed that green tea “decreased body weight and significantly maintained body weight after a period of weight loss.”

Replacing some of your daily sodas—diet or otherwise—with tea would appear to be a good idea if you’re trying to lose weight.

Almonds. Losing weight requires exercising plenty of restraint with food, so sometimes it’s nice to go nuts. Eating almonds may be a tasty way to shed additional pounds. In a study reported in the International Journal of Obesity, 65 overweight and obese adults followed one of two diets for 6 months. Some ate a diet in which they got 39 percent of their calories from fat (most of which was “good” monounsaturated fat) and 32 percent of calories from carbohydrates—and they ate three ounces of almonds daily. The other group got 18 percent of their calories from fat and 53 percent from carbohydrates. Otherwise, each group took in the same low number of calories each day and the same percentage of calories from protein.

The almond group lost 62 percent more weight overall, 50 percent more off their waists, and 56 percent more fat mass than the other group. The nuts may have helped the higher-fat diet keep these people feeling fuller and more satisfied. But if you decide to snack on almonds, don’t go overboard; an ounce (23 almonds) contains 163 calories.

Broccoli and other chromium-rich foods. You may have seen advertisements promoting chromium picolinate as a weight-loss supplement. This is a combination of the trace mineral chromium and picolinic acid, a derivative of tryptophan, and we don’t really know if it works. Various studies of the supplement have been inconclusive. Would eating reasonable amounts of chromium in food form help? Maybe, but it wouldn’t hurt to try. Good low-calorie food sources, from best to good, include red wine, broccoli, grape juice, garlic, and potatoes (without butter or other fatty toppings).

Dairy foods. Not only is calcium important for making your bones thicker, it may make your waist thinner, too. In an analysis of data from a national nutritional survey, researchers found that people with the highest calcium intakes had an 85 percent lower risk of being overweight. Another analysis of previous research found that each 300-milligram increase in daily calcium intake was associated with a five- to six-pound decrease in body weight in adults.

Some clinical studies also show the effectiveness of calcium, though results are mixed. In a study from researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital Weight Center, adding calcium and vitamin D to a weight-loss diet doubled the reduction of belly fat—or what the researchers called “abdominal visceral adipose tissue,” which is the type of fat that increases risk for heart disease and diabetes. In a study published in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, dieters who added either more dietary or supplementary calcium to their daily intake had significantly greater weight loss—with the best results in those who increased their intake of low-fat milk. And in a four-month study published in the Food and Nutrition Bulletin, postmenopausal women who added a calcium-fortified milk to their diets did not gain weight—while women who didn’t add calcium gained weight, including more fat at the abdomen and hips.

Higher calcium intake may encourage your fat-storing cells to put away less fat and break down more of it. That’s good for your weight. Calcium may also help by binding to fatty acids in your colon, keeping your body from absorbing them so the fat leaves your body in your stools.

Research indicates that calcium from dairy foods is more helpful than calcium from supplements, so try to include plenty of low-fat dairy foods in your diet each day. Good sources, measured in milligrams, include…

8 ounces yogurt—415

3 ounces sardines with bones—324

1.5 ounces cheddar cheese—306

8 ounces fat-free milk—302

1 ⁄2 cup firm tofu, made with calcium—204

Plant sources of calcium include soybeans, navy beans, turnip greens, and calciumfortified orange juice.

Plant sources of calcium include soybeans, navy beans, turnip greens, and calciumfortified orange juice.

Eggs and other protein foods. When you have a snack or a meal, be sure to include a source of protein. Have an egg with your toast in the morning or some low-fat cheese with your crackers. Alternatively, load up on soy and beans and rice, which are good plant sources. Protein makes foods seem more satisfying and helps keep you feeling full for hours after you eat—which means you’ll be less tempted to eat again for a while.

A four-week study in the International Journal of Obesity proves the point. Researchers divided 152 healthy but overweight people into two groups—one group ate eggs at breakfast and one ate bagels. At the end of the study, the egg group had 65 percent greater weight loss, a 34 percent greater reduction in waist circumference, and a 16 percent greater reduction in body fat. An “egg breakfast enhances weight loss,” the researchers concluded.

For additional advice on proven natural remedies for common health conditions, purchase The Green Pharmacy from

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