You might think that all vegetables are good for weight loss. Isn’t the whole point of healthy eating to simply get more veggies in, no matter what?
The reality is, there’s a secret to getting the most bang for your buck when it comes to vegetables. And this article will teach you how to optimize your shopping list for nutrient density while keeping calories and carbs low for more weight loss in a shorter period of time.
11 Best Vegetables For Weight Loss
According to one meta-review, increasing veggie consumption resulted in weight loss, reduced risk of weight gain and obesity, plus a 0.36-centimeter decrease in waist circumference per serving of veggies/day (in women)[*].
And that’s for everyone — whether you’re on a low-carb diet, a low-calorie diet, or keto. After all, losing weight is a numbers game — you have to burn more calories than you consume. So, getting the most nutrients with the least amount of calories is the best way to reach your goals.
Aim for these top veggies for weight loss, all of which are under 5 net carbs and fewer than 40 calories.
Leafy greens are an incredible source of micronutrients and are the #1 vegetable to help you lose weight. Leafy greens are low-carb, virtually calorie-free, and loaded with vitamins, minerals, and water. Some leafy greens (like spinach) even contain amino acids and protein.
Just check out the net carbs per 100-gram serving of each of these to see for yourself:
- Watercress 0.79 grams
- Butterhead lettuce 1.10 grams
- Romaine 1.19 grams
- Collard greens 1.40 grams
- Spinach 1.43 grams
- Arugula 2.05 grams
- Swiss chard 2.14 grams
- Alfalfa sprouts 3.78 grams
- Kale 5.15 grams
Leafy greens provide volume to your meals to fill you up, and they’re super versatile, so you’ll never get bored. Add a serving to your keto smoothies, use them as a salad, saute or cook them in olive oil as a side, or make kale chips (i.e., one of the best healthy snacks for weight loss).
These recipes should give you plenty of options to run with:
Eating just one cup of leafy green vegetables per day could boost muscle function, according to new research published in the Journal of Nutrition[*]. This may make your workouts more beneficial for torching calories and losing weight.
Despite being slightly higher in carbs, broccoli’s high fiber content results in 3.88 grams of net carbs per 100 grams[*]. For 35 calories and 2.38 grams of protein, that definitely qualifies as keto-friendly and broccoli is one of the best vegetables for weight loss because of its high fiber content.
Broccoli raab is even better for keto dieters. There are only 0.32 grams of net carbs per 100-gram serving, fewer calories (just 25), and more protein (3.83 grams)[*].
Grab a bunch of broccoli or broccoli raab for these yummy keto recipes:
Bonus: 100 grams of broccoli contains 148% of your daily recommended value of vitamin C (more than high-sugar fruits like oranges and grapefruit!).
Vitamin C may be essential for torching calories. During a 60-minute treadmill walk in one study, participants with low vitamin C levels burned 25% less fat than participants with adequate levels. When researchers gave the low-vitamin C participants a supplement to increase their levels, they noticed a “significant increase” in their fat-burning capability[*].
Cauliflower is the most versatile cruciferous vegetable. Though it lacks personality on its own, it easily mimics the flavors and textures of your favorite high-carb, high-calorie foods. If you can have healthier versions of mac and cheese and rice on your diet, you may be more likely to stick with your new eating plan and reach your goals.
A 100-gram serving of cauliflower contains just 23 calories, 1.81 grams of net carbs, and 2.3 grams of fiber, which is close to 10% of your recommended daily fiber intake[*]. The dietary fiber in cauliflower may help reduce constipation holding up your weight loss[*].
Plus, studies show that indole-3-carbinol (I3C), a common phytochemical in cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, may trigger fat-burning and prevent obesity[*].
Check out these low-carb cauliflower recipes that prove this veggie isn’t bland or boring.
Does the Cabbage Soup Diet really work? The thinking behind this short-term weight loss diet is that eating tons of cabbage soup can help you lose up to ten pounds in a single week. Though this fad diet isn’t sustainable (and can even be dangerous), adding more cabbage to your meal plans is a fantastic idea.
This filling cruciferous vegetable is ultra-affordable and can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, roasted, sautéed, or stuffed. A 100-gram serving of green, white, red, or Savoy cabbage clocks in less than 30 calories and three to five net carbs[*][*][*].
Score some tasty recipes and learn more about the carbs in cabbage later.
Brussels sprouts, the final veggie on Team Cruciferous to make our list, is notable for a few reasons. A 100-gram serving of these tiny cabbage heads delivers 2.55 grams of protein and 2.6 grams of dietary fiber for only 36 calories[*].
Despite that serving clocking in 4.5 grams of net carbs, it provides almost all your daily vitamin C needs (62 milligrams). Studies show higher vitamin C levels correlate with lower BMI, body fat, and waist circumference[*]. Meeting your RDI may also help prevent weight gain and obesity[*].
Chili peppers are one of the best foods for weight loss, thanks to the capsaicin responsible for its spicy heat. Researchers say this compound can trigger satiety, lower your desire to snack, and reduce your intake of calories during the day[*][*]. It may even boost your metabolism, so you can burn extra calories at rest[*]. Those are all wins on a weight loss journey.
What’s interesting about asparagus for weight loss is that it contains a chemical alkaloid and amino acid called asparagine. This natural diuretic may help your body release excess water weight, which may help you feel and look slimmer[*].
Radishes are one of the most underrated vegetables on any diet. A 100-gram serving of these crunchy, peppery veggies clocks in just 16 calories and 1.8 grams of net carbs, so they’ll fill you up without busting your macro goals[*]. Like asparagus, radishes are also a natural diuretic to help get rid of excess fluid retention.
You can snack on them solo to replace your potato chip habit, pair them with a low-carb dip or guacamole, or even roast up a batch to enjoy warm.
Celery has been a staple on weight loss diets for years. One medium stalk of this 5-calorie, practically zero carb food contains 96% water, which will help you feel fuller longer and ward off dehydration[*].
Plus, if you’re stressed and craving high-carb foods or sweets, science says crunching on celery may help you resist those urges and keep you on track[*].
Want a quick snack for weight loss? Pair your celery with nut butter, soft cheese, or ranch dip made with low-sugar Greek yogurt.
Green beans are a legume, just like peas, lentils, and chickpeas. But unlike its high-carb cousins, a 100-gram serving of green beans will only set you back 35 calories and 4.68 grams of net carbs[*]. With its 3.2 grams of slow-digesting fiber, a side of green beans may help prevent overeating during meals and snacking later.
Green beans may also be a natural appetite suppressant. In one small study of 12 volunteers, researchers noticed that green bean extract helped suppress levels of ghrelin (aka the “hunger” hormone) after a meal. This resulted in participants reporting higher satiety and a lower desire to eat[*].
This Keto Green Bean Casserole is just as tasty as your grandmother’s — but much better for your waistline.
There are tons of reasons zucchini noodles (aka “zoodles”) are so popular on low-carb and keto diets. Once spiralized, this Paleo and gluten-free pasta alternative becomes the perfect vessel for all your favorite sauces.
Because a 100-gram serving of zucchini (green) or summer squash (yellow) contains 95% water, it clocks in just 15 calories and less than one net carb (seriously!)[*]. Macros like these will keep you feeling full and easily within your daily carb intake limits.
3 Reasons To Add More Vegetables to Your Diet for Weight Loss
There are plenty of reasons to add more veggies to your diet. Besides weight loss, vegetables contain an array of micronutrients that your body and brain need in order to thrive. Here are just three of the main reasons to load your plate with veggies — especially if you’re trying to shed some excess fat.
Vegetables Increase Your Fiber Intake
The American Heart Association recommends at least 25-30 grams of fiber per day from food, not supplementation[*]. That includes natural supplements like psyllium husk. Unfortunately, most adults in the U.S. only average about half that amount every day.
And the best place to get fiber isn’t from a giant bowl of oatmeal — it’s from nutrient-dense vegetables.
There are two types of dietary fiber in foods[*]:
- Soluble fiber turns into a jelly-like substance in our bodies. It helps slow digestion, so you feel fuller and satisfied longer.
- Insoluble fiber never gets digested. As it moves through your digestive tract, it grabs water and other waste material from your intestines to help bulk up your stool. This may reduce the chance of loose stools. And if you’re constipated, insoluble fiber will help get things moving out of your body, which may even result in a scale victory.
Because fiber is eliminated from the body, it gets subtracted from the total number of carbs to determine each food’s total net carbs. So if a veggie has five grams of carbs per serving and three grams of fiber, the result is just two net carbs (5 – 3 = 2).
Upping your fiber content helps control blood sugar levels, reduce your risk of heart disease, lower cholesterol, and provide relief from symptoms of IBS[*]. Yet the biggest reason to add fiber to your diet is to help with weight loss.
Fiber is a natural appetite suppressant. It takes longer for your body to digest, so it stays in your stomach longer and keeps you feeling full, which may prevent cravings later[*]. Adding volume to your meals in the form of low-calorie fiber may also fill up your tummy sooner, reducing the chances of overeating calories during meals. These are all ideal for dropping LBs.
Plus, a study published in Obesity highlighted how fiber may even help reduce belly fat and dangerous visceral fat (i.e., the type of fat that sits between your organs). Every 10 grams of fiber participants added to their diet decreased visceral fat accumulation by almost 4%[*].
Now, you’ll need to ditch the notion that the only way to boost your fiber intake is by eating whole grains, oats, quinoa, and other high-carb foods. There are plenty of low-carb, high-fiber veggies that deliver these perks without sabotaging your chances of reaching or staying in ketosis, as you’ll see today.
Boost Absorption Of Essential Vitamins, Nutrients, And Minerals
Vegetables are rich in vitamins (such as vitamin A, beta-carotene, vitamin C, energy-boosting B vitamins, and vitamin K). They’re also bursting with antioxidants and phytonutrients. Many even tout essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron, and potassium.
These powerhouses are beneficial for your overall health and wellness. Some are even considered “superfoods,” aka the healthiest foods on the planet. Superfoods deliver a plethora of nutrition sans cholesterol, loads of calories, or mounds of sugar. Others even contain beneficial fatty acids and protein.
Most dietitians and nutritionists recommend getting your vitamins and minerals from whole foods like these rather than a chalky, processed vitamin or sugary gummy. Giving your body whole foods means it can use all the vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and other nutrients to optimize absorption.
Increase Water Intake
It’s vital to increase your water intake on a low-carb or ketogenic diet. Besides good ol’ H2O, low-carb fruits and veggies are the best foods to add water to your system. Doing so will:
- Keep your body hydrated. Carbs help your body retain water. When you lower your carb intake, you tend to lose a bunch of water weight (yay!). But you may also find it more challenging to prevent dehydration (boo!) and all the adverse side effects that come with it (such as headaches, lightheadedness, dry lips and skin, etc.).
- Boost energy levels (and maybe burn more calories). Feeling a bit sluggish? Fatigue is another symptom of dehydration. Try drinking a cup or two of water or snacking on a juicy veggie (they exist!), and you may find more pep in your step.
- Reduce snacking. Sometimes when you’re feeling peckish, your body’s really just thirsty. Eating veggies with high water content will quell this craving without damaging your calorie deficit.
So now that you know why it’s a bad idea to skip your veggies, let’s talk about the best ones to add to your low-carb or keto meal plan.
These 11 best vegetables for weight loss are a good source of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and water. A serving of these veggies comes in under 40 calories and less than five net carbs, making them perfect for every keto meal plan. Munch on them raw during snack time or serve alongside your favorite keto proteins during meals.
Besides their health benefits, low-calorie foods like veggies can help you lose weight and may even boost energy. Fiber increases feelings of fullness without forcing you to go over your macro goals. And if you eat fewer calories and stay active, you’ll create a calorie deficit that spurs weight loss and gets you one step closer to your goal weight.