In an age of expanding waistlines, where more than one in four UK adults are considered obese, people are becoming more aware of the dangers of being overweight, but a real solution to the problem remains elusive.
Cancer Research UK says bowel, kidney, ovarian and liver cancers are more likely to have been caused by being overweight than by smoking tobacco, and millions of Britons are at risk because of their weight. So-called “sin taxes” can help in nudging people away from chocolate bars and soft-drinks, but what foods should we be eating instead?
Researchers agree that, in general, we should all be eating more fruit and vegetables as they can be nutritious, filling, and relatively low in calories – an helpfully most supermarkets regularly feature weekly offers on fresh produce in “wonky veg” boxes and similar.
If you are looking for something sweet to replace that chocolate biscuit or slice of cake then fruit will be a healthier choice. Some fruit can contain relatively high levels of fructose (sugar), but in general replacing your favourite chocolate bar with an apple, orange, or a portion of strawberries then you will be saving at least 50% of the calories. And you will have the added bonus of various vitamins and other nutrients.
How do fruits compare?
A whole grapefruit is just 70 calories, has a very low Glycemic Index (GI) score, and offers 65% of the reference daily intake (RDI) for vitamin C. The slightly sweeter pink grapefruits also provide 28% RDI for vitamin A.
Adding grapefruit to your reduced-calorie diet can even result in “significant decreases in waist circumference”, according to a number of studies.
Apples are high in fibre and filling when compared to the “empty calories” of unhealthy foods such as chocolate bars, which should reduce your desire to snack between meals.
In one study, researchers found that by eating apples (or pears) instead of oat cookies in a calorie-controlled diet, participants lost around 30% more weight.
Berries are great source of vitamins and minerals for your body. For example, half a cup (72g) of blueberries contains 42 calories yet packed in is 12% RDI for vitamin C and manganese, as well as 18% for vitamin K.
Similarly, a cup (152g) of strawberries offers 3 grams dietary fibre together with 150% RDI for vitamin C and just under 30% RDI for manganese.
This small furry fruit is teeming with vitamins A, C, and E, and contains folate and fibre in abundance.
In one study, researchers found that eating two kiwis per day for twelve weeks resulted in reduced blood pressure, heightened vitamin C levels, and a waist reduction between 1-2 inches for participants. Another study found that eating the fruit improved sleep quality and length.
Melons are a great fruit to eat if you are trying to lose weight as they have a high water content, which means they will fill you up without adding too many calories. They contain high levels of fibre, potassium, and antioxidants, beta-carotene, and lycopene.
Oranges are fibre rich and packed with vitamin C. They are also packed with fibre and a study shows they will satiate hunger far better than a croissant or muesli bar.
Do note, however, that orange juice does not offer the same amount of fibre, and a glass of juice can contain as many calories as a can of Pepsi.
Despite their relatively high sugar and calorie content bananas contain a range of nutrients, including potassium, magnesium, manganese, and fibre, and are a good source of vitamins A, B6, and C.
Research suggests they help control insulin levels and eating one banana a day helps to reduce blood sugar and cholesterol.