10 Surprising Weight Loss Friends

January 9th, 2023 | Posted in Info

When planning a diet for weight loss we often focus on what we can’t have and feelings of deprivation may spring up before we’ve even begun. However, the cabbage soup diet is a thing of the past. We now know a lot more about how foods affect the body; it’s a lot more complex than the number of calories or the fat content of foods. Here are a few foods with surprising weight loss benefits that you may want to befriend this January:


Coffee and other caffeinated beverages have been shown to promote weight loss and reductions in body mass index and body fat in adults and adolescents (1,2).


Although low carb diets decrease insulin secretion and increase fat oxidation, they do not appear to achieve the expected fat loss. Systematic reviews have failed to show the superiority of low-carbohydrate diets on long-term weight loss or that all sources of carbohydrate have the same effects. Eating a diet containing high quality carbohydrates such as whole grains (especially oats and barley), pulses and vegetables with a low glycaemic load and high in fibre decreases cardiometabolic risk factors and is associated with weight loss (3).

Coconut Oil

Research into the effects of coconut oil in men with obesity found that coconut oil appears to aid weight loss and improve metabolic parameters associated with obesity (4). Coconut oil may also increase fat-free mass and improve insulin sensitivity and cardiovascular risk parameters in healthy men with normal BMI (5).


A meta-analysis looking at research into the effects of ginger on weight found that ginger intake reduced body weight, waist to hip ratio and fasting glucose (6). Ginger also has anti-inflammatory properties and may increase nutrient absorption from foods eaten with it.


Although nuts are relatively high in calories, these calories are not well absorbed in the intestines meaning nut intake is inversely associated with weight gain and fat mass (7). This may be because nuts have a high satiety value. Nut consumption may also lead to an increase in resting energy expenditure and an augmentation of fat oxidation (8). In addition studies have associated nut consumption with beneficial effects on cholesterol, oxidative stress, blood pressure, inflammation, gallstones and metabolic syndrome (9).


Consumption of oats helps control hyperglycaemia, lowers blood lipids and reduces weight and body mass index (10,11). Oats are rich in beta glucans and fibre and have good satiating properties meaning they keep you feeling full for a long time.

Olive Oil

Olive oil contributes to a decrease in weight, waist circumference and body mass index (12).


Despite their name, peanuts are actually legumes, although nutritionally they are similar to nuts. Consuming 35 g of peanuts prior to two main meals per day as part of a weight loss diet has been shown to lead to weight loss comparable with a traditional low-fat weight loss diet (13).


One study compared weight loss in people eating vegan diets with those eating an omnivorous diet. At the end of six months, individuals on the vegan diet lost more weight than the other groups by an average of 4.3%, or 16.5 pounds.

Interestingly, given the fashion for low carb diets, the vegan diets were relatively high in carbohydrates but, crucially, they were carbs with a low Glycaemic Index (14,15).

This is backed up by two meta-analysis of over 100 studies which found that vegans have a lower body mass index, a smaller waist and lower LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, fasting glucose and blood pressure than meat eaters (16). And an overall plant-based diet (even if not totally vegan) has also been shown to improve weight management (17).


Tea has been shown to reduce body weight, alleviate metabolic syndrome, and prevent diabetes and cardiovascular diseases in animals and humans. Such beneficial effects have generally been observed when the level of tea consumption was three to four cups or more per day. Green tea is more effective than black tea but black tea is still beneficial. Tea may decrease the absorption of lipids and proteins in the intestine, thus reducing calorie uptake. Tea polyphenols may also trigger mechanisms that decrease gluconeogenesis and fatty acid synthesis and increase catabolism, leading to body weight reduction and alleviation of metabolic syndrome (18). Green tea may also inhibit ghrelin secretion leading to increased adiponectin levels (19).

Weight and the Gut Microbiome

Evidence is emerging that the intestinal microbiome is intrinsically linked to overall health, including obesity risk. The composition of bacteria in the gut is different in obese people than in people who are not obese. The gut microbiome seems to be a major player in modulating whether a weight loss intervention will be successful or not (20).

The gut microbiota affects host metabolism through several pathways involving gut barrier integrity, production of metabolites affecting satiety and insulin resistance, epigenetic factors, influencing the amount of energy that is extracted from the diet and altering genes that regulate energy expenditure and storage (21,22).

The good news is that the composition of the gut microbiota is not fixed and can be influenced by what we eat. This means that if someone has gut bacterial genes that make them resistant to weight loss, altering their diet could shift the composition of the microbiome so that it would help them lose weight.

For inspiration see blog post New Year, New Foods to find out about some newer foods you may not have tried yet.


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  2. 2. Child Obes. 2022 May 30. Effect of Coffee and Tea Consumption on Adolescent Weight Control: An Interventional Pilot Study. Moran-Lev H et al.
  3. 3. Nutr Rev. 2020 Aug 1;78(Suppl 1):69-77. Low-carbohydrate diets and cardiometabolic health: the importance of carbohydrate quality over quantity. Sievenpiper JL.
  4. 4. Food Funct. 2020 Jul 1;11(7):6588-6594. Effect of coconut oil on weight loss and metabolic parameters in men with obesity: a randomized controlled clinical trial. Vogel CE et al.
  5. 5. Clin Nutr. 2019 Dec;38(6):2889-2899. Coconut oil consumption improves fat-free mass, plasma HDL-cholesterol and insulin sensitivity in healthy men with normal BMI compared to peanut oil. Korrapati D et al.
  6. 6. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2019;59(11):1753-1766. The effects of ginger intake on weight loss and metabolic profiles among overweight and obese subjects: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Maharlouei N et al.
  7. 7. 2021 Nov 1;13(11):3916. Adherence to a Plant-Based Diet and Consumption of Specific Plant Foods-Associations with 3-Year Weight-Loss Maintenance and Cardiometabolic Risk Factors: A Secondary Analysis of the PREVIEW Intervention Study. Zhu R et al.
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  10. 10.2016 Sep 7;8(9):549. Short- and Long-Term Effects of Wholegrain Oat Intake on Weight Management and Glucolipid Metabolism in Overweight Type-2 Diabetics: A Randomized Control Trial. Xue Li et al.
  11. 11. Nutr Hosp. 2015 Nov 1;32(5):2111-6. Effects of oats on lipid profile, insulin resistance and weight loss. Schuster J et al.
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  13. 13. 2022 Jul 21;14(14):2986. The Effect of a Peanut-Enriched Weight Loss Diet Compared to a Low-Fat Weight Loss Diet on Body Weight, Blood Pressure, and Glycemic Control: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Peterson KS et al.
  14. 14. J Nutr. 2011 Aug;141(8):1469-74. Decreases in dietary glycemic index are related to weight loss among individuals following therapeutic diets for type 2 diabetes. Turner-McGrievy G et al.
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  18. 18. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2016 Jan;60(1):160-74. Mechanisms of body weight reduction and metabolic syndrome alleviation by tea. Yang CS et al.
  19. 19. Clin Nutr. 2016 Jun;35(3):592-9. Therapeutic effect of high-dose green tea extract on weight reduction: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. I-Ju Chen et al.
  20. 20. Diener C et al. Baseline Gut Metagenomic Functional Gene Signature Associated with Variable Weight Loss Responses following a Healthy Lifestyle Intervention in Humans. MSystems, 2021;
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