nutritious options with almost zero calories

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low calorie foods

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When hunger strikes, filling up on low-calorie foods – like fruits and veggies – is one of the healthiest ways to sate your appetite. Not only are they high in water, so you can eat more of them, but they contain a far greater variety of vitamins, minerals and other healthful compounds than highly-processed choices.

While there’s no scientific proof for ‘negative-calorie’ foods – those said to burn more calories than they provide – unprocessed ‘whole’ foods, especially those that are high in dietary fibre and protein, require the most energy to break down. In a study by Pomona College, 20 per cent of the calories in a whole-food meal were burned during digestion, compared to only 10 per cent in a processed meal.

If you’re trying to lower your daily calorie intake, incorporating our pick of whole foods can help you reach your weight loss goals and live a longer, healthier life. Add these 40 low-calorie foods to the menu for the sake of your health, as well as your waistline:

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1

Spinach

This dark leafy green veg is loaded with nutrients and contains just 23 calories in every 100g. Spinach is packed with soluble dietary fibre, which keeps your blood sugar levels stable and has various metabolic health benefits.

2

Scallops

Packing 115 calories per 100g serve, scallops are one of the leanest protein sources going. Along with 14g of the muscle macro, this same portion provides 67 per cent of your daily vitamin b12 intake, and a decent helping of omega-3 fatty acids.

3

Shirataki noodles

Also called ‘miracle’ or ‘konjac’ noodles, Shirataki noodles are made from the powdered root of the Asian konjac yam plant. They’re incredibly low in calories – nine per 100g serve – and made up primarily of fermentable fibre called glucomannan, which is known to be beneficial for weight loss.

4

Cucumber

Cucumbers are 96 per cent water, which doesn’t leave much room for calories – just 15 kcals in every 100g portion, along with small amounts of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients and electrolytes.

5

Grapefruit

This citrus fruit contains 43 calories per 100g, equivalent to around half a fresh grapefruit. In one study, people who ate half a grapefruit before meals lost significantly more weight than those who didn’t.

6

Cottage cheese

Packing 25 calories, 3g of protein, and a little of every single mineral into every 30g serve, cottage cheese is a healthful addition to any diet. Eat it half an hour before bed to improve your muscle quality, metabolism and overall health – with no gain in body fat, researchers from Florida State University found.

7

Strawberries

Each 100g portion of strawberries contains 32 calories, plus 65 per cent of your vitamin C requirements. Keeping your stocks topped up is beneficial, since deficiency reduces the body’s ability to synthesise L-carnitine – a compound required to burn fatty acids.

8

Mushrooms

Mushrooms are extremely low in calories, with 22 calories per 100g. Since mushrooms can synthesise vitamin D when exposed to UV light, enriched mushrooms are the only non-animal food that contain substantial amounts of bioavailable vitamin D. If you can’t find them, buy regular mushrooms and leave them out in the sun for a while before chowing down.

9

Watermelon

There’s just 30 calories in every 100g portion of this refreshing, electrolyte-replenishing fruit. Watermelon is also unusually high in an amino acid known as citrulline, which helps your muscles recover after exercise.

10

Celery

Celery is more nutrient-dense than many people realise. While low in calories – 14 calories per 100g – this crunchy veggie contains at least 15 antioxidant nutrients in every stalk. It’s also a source of gut-healthy fibre, with pectin-based polysaccharides that soothe the stomach.

11

Eggs

Your average medium-sized egg contains around 66 calories – plus 6.3g of protein, 20 per cent of your daily B12 needs, one third of your selenium RDI – a powerful antioxidant – and five per cent of your vitamin D requirements.

12

Raspberries

Raspberries are the ultimate healthy breakfast topping, packing just 52 calories in every 100g bowl. They get their bright colour from plant compounds called anthocyanins, which offer protection against certain cancers, heart disease and age-related degenerative diseases.

13

Asparagus

There’s 20 calories in every 100g of asparagus, plus around 2.1g of roughage. Asparagus is so good for your gut, it probably helps protect against bowel cancer, researchers at the University of Strasbourg in France concluded.

14

Tomatoes

You’ll find just 18 calories in 100g of this salad staple. Eating 300g of tomatoes every day for a month boosts the ‘good’ HDL cholesterol in your blood by 14 per cent, researchers at the Salvador Zubirán National Institute of Health Sciences and Nutrition found.

15

Greek yogurt

Despite its thick, creamy texture, Greek yogurt only contains 73 calories in every 100g serving. As well as providing a huge protein hit, it’s loaded with gut-healthy probiotics that support your immune system and can even boost your mood.

16

Cantaloupe

As well as containing a mere 34 calories per 100g portion, this musky-flavoured fruit is an excellent source of vitamin A – providing 112 per cent of your daily intake – which plays a vital role in maintaining your immune system.

17

Courgette

Hailing from the same family as cucumber, squash and melon, courgette racks up just 17 calories per 100g portion. Consumed fresh, it’s a solid source of both vitamin C and beta-carotene — two nutrients important for eye health.

18

Onion

Can you imagine cooking up a dinner recipe without this bulb-shaped veggie? One medium onion contains 44 calories, and around 10 per cent of your daily vitamin B6 needs – which helps to create neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine.

19

Blueberries

These phytonutrient-rich super-berries contain just 57 calories per 100g. Like raspberries, they’re a potent source of anthocyanins, which enhance the effect of insulin in muscle cells rather than in fat cells – reducing body fat and boosting lean mass, scientists found.

20

Silken tofu

Silken tofu contains more water than other types of tofu, so it’s lower in calories, with 44 in every 100g serve. People who regularly eat tofu and other rich sources of isoflavones – a type of antioxidant – have a lower risk of developing heart disease, the American Heart Association states.

21

Sugar snap peas

With 41 calories per 100g serving, sugar snap peas contain fewer calories than regular shelled peas (which contain 81 for the same serve). They also boast 150 per cent more vitamin C, a higher fibre content, and higher vitamin K levels.

22

Beetroot

With 43 calories per 100g, beetroot is a worthy addition to your lunch plate – especially if you’re planning on hitting the gym. It’s a rich source of nitrates, which are known to improve endurance sports performance. In a study by Saint Louis University, athletes ran faster after eating 200g cooked beets.

23

Bell pepper

With 26 calories per 1o0g serving, bell peppers are a delicious low-calorie snack. They’re one of the richest dietary sources of vitamin C – one medium-sized red bell pepper provides 169 per cent of your daily requirements.

24

Black beans

With just 54 calories (and 2.5g protein) per 30g serving, black beans are a solid low-calorie source of plant-based protein. And that’s not all. Gram-for-gram, black beans have greater antioxidant activity than other varieties, the American Chemical Society found.

25

Rocket

There are 25 calories per 100g serving of rocket. This salad leaf is part of the phytochemical-rich Brassica family and contains around 90 per cent of your daily recommended vitamin K intake, which is crucial for bone health.

26

Apple

Your average medium-sized apple contains 95 calories, and the crunch makes it a satisfying snack. Plus, it’s good for your heart – in a study by Ohio State University, eating one apple a day for four weeks lowered levels of a substance linked to hardening of the arteries by 40 per cent.

27

Popcorn

When you think of low-calorie foods, popcorn might not immediately spring to mind – but when plain and freshly-popped, each 20g serving contains 73 calories, 10 per cent of your daily fibre intake, and five per cent of your protein requirements.

28

Cabbage

Cabbage is loaded with vitamin B6 and folate – essential for energy metabolism – and contains just 25 calories in every 100g serve. It also contains glucoraphanin, which transforms into a potent anti-cancer antioxidant called sulforaphane when it’s digested.

29

Passionfruit

Packing 36 per cent of your daily fibre requirements into each 100g portion – along with just 97 calories – bitter-sweet passionfruit deserves a place on your plate. The same serve contains more than a third of your vitamin C needs, plus 10 per cent of your daily vitamin B2, copper and phosphorous recommendation.

30

Carrots

Every 100g of this crunchy orange veg provides 41 calories and 334 per cent of your vitamin-A intake, making it an exceptionally rich source. Unlike many veggies, carrots benefit from being cooked – it ups their antioxidant levels, the University Of Arkansas found.

31

Cherries

These tasty little red fruits contain 63 calories per 100g serving. The high concentration of anti-inflammatory plant compounds in cherries can reduce exercise-induced muscle pain, according to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

32

Lettuce

No salad is complete without lettuce, which contains just 4 calories and 3g of carbohydrates in every 100g. While that means it’s naturally low in fibre, lettuce’s mineral content makes up for it, with calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, and potassium.

33

Feta cheese

There’s 80 calories in each 30g portion of feta cheese, plus 11 per cent of your calcium intake, and an impressive 21 per cent of your B12 needs. This essential vitamin is lacking in plant foods – it helps make DNA, the genetic material in all cells, so it’s pretty important.

34

Peach

Certain compounds in this stone fruit can improve your skin’s ability to retain moisture, so they’re a great summer snack. There are 63 calories in your average peach – go for fresh over canned where possible, as they contain higher levels of antioxidants.

35

Prawns

With 99 calories and 14g protein in every 100g plateful, these cold-water crustaceans are an impressive low-calorie source of protein. Prawns are low in saturated fat and high in heart-healthy polyunsaturated fat, and a very rich source of minerals.

36

Broccoli

It’s got a reputation as one of the healthiest veggies for good reason – this tree-like veggie contains high levels of vitamins C, K, A and B9, plus potassium, phosphorus and selenium. There’s only 34 calories in each 100g portion, so plate up!

37

Brussels sprouts

These miniature cabbage-shaped veggies boast 3g of protein, 4g of dietary fibre and 30 calories in every 100g serving. Eating 300g daily decreases damage caused by oxidative stress by 28 per cent, a study by the TNO Nutrition and Food Research Institute found.

38

Kiwi

There’s 44 calories in each fresh, tangy fruit – and if you struggle to nod off, try doubling up. You sleep better if you eat two kiwis before going to bed, researchers from Taipei Medical University found. This is because kiwi contains serotonin, the precursor for sleep hormone melatonin. Serotonin also regulates your appetite.

39

Wheat bran

If you’re looking for a simple, low-calorie way to boost your fibre intake at breakfast, stir wheat bran into your yoghurt. It contains 65 calories per 30g serving, plus 13g of fibre – equivalent to 46 per cent of your RDI – and 18 per cent of your daily iron intake.

40

Radishes

With 16 calories in every 100g portion, this flavourful root veggie brings a healthy, low-calorie crunch to your lunch. Like other cruciferous veggies, radishes is a concentrated source of the antioxidant sulforaphane, which has powerful health benefits.

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