If you havent heard much about pulses, thats about to change. The United Nations named 2016 the International Year of Pulses. And the research on the health perks of this familiar (and cheap!) food group—which includes beans, lentils, chickpeas and yellow split peas—keeps piling up. (Disclosure: I wrote a book, Slim Down Now, about the weight-loss power of pulses.) One study in the British Journal of Nutrition revealed that having an extra five cups of pulses per week is about as effective at reducing waist circumference as cutting 500 calories a day. The pulse eaters also experienced a boost in protective HDL cholesterol. The high fiber content of legumes is another boon: Previous research has shown that increasing daily fiber intake by about 16 grams leads to a loss of 4.4 pounds over 20 months.
Eat more: You can squeeze in a serving by snacking on roasted chickpeas or lentil crackers. Another simple trick: Toss pea protein powder into a smoothie.
Another reason to heart your daily brew: It spikes your metabolism—and can make a workout extra effective. A 2015 Spanish study found that fit people who consumed caffeine before they exercised torched 15 percent more calories in the three-hour period afterward than those who didnt. The magic caffeine dose for a 150-pound woman: About 300 milligrams, just under the amount in two cups of joe.
Eat more: For an easy slow-cooker meal, combine brewed coffee with chicken breast, veggies (like sweet potatoes, bell peppers and tomatoes), low-sodium broth and a little molasses, olive oil, garlic, pepper, sea salt and chili powder. You can also blend instant-coffee crystals into a smoothie, or stir them into yogurt or oatmeal (1 tablespoon contains about 100 milligrams of caffeine).
It turns out that this furry little fruit may be a potent sleep aid, and adequate shut-eye has long been linked to a leaner midsection. When researchers in Taiwan asked insomniacs to snack on two kiwis one hour before bed, they found that these folks were nodding off faster and snoozing more soundly than before. The scientists speculate that the effect comes from kiwis high levels of antioxidants and serotonin, which helps regulate the bodys internal clock.
Eat more: Whip up a sleepy-time smoothie by blending two kiwis with a cup of warm, unsweetened vanilla almond milk (calorie cost: 119). Or slice and garnish the tart flesh with 2 tablespoons of coconut flour (144 calories).
Cauliflower has always been a belly-shrinking standout. (A 2015 study found that, on average, women weigh 1.37 pounds less per each additional daily serving they consume!) But when this cruciferous veggie is left to ferment in brine, it becomes infused with probiotics that improve the balance of bacteria in your gut—which may have a big effect on the size of your waist. Research on animals and humans has shown that a variety of probiotics can help with weight control. And probiotics commonly found in fermented veggies also show promise in lowering cholesterol, boosting immunity and even fighting cancer.
Eat more: You can buy fermented cauliflower from brands like Wildbrine (look in the refrigerated section). Add a dollop to turkey or salmon burgers, omelets, tacos and baked potatoes.
You already know to get your fill of these shape-shifters. Heres how to enjoy them in delicious new ways.
Make a NUTTY sauce. Thin a few tablespoons of almond butter with vegetable broth and brown rice vinegar. Stir in minced garlic, grated fresh ginger and crushed red pepper. (Try it over steamed broccoli, shrimp and soba noodles—yum.)
Use AVOCADO in salad dressing. Puree it with a little lemon or lime juice, garlic and herbs.
Eat EGGS for dinner. To cook a crustless veggie quiche, sauté spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes and onions with garlic and herbs in coconut oil over low heat. Fold into whisked eggs and bake in a quiche or pie pan at 350°F for 40 minutes.
Because you can't always carry crudites.
Hope Dark Chocolate Hummus When afternoon cravings strike, slather this sweetened (but low-glycemic) pulse spread on a sliced pear and youll sail right past the cookies in the pantry.
Simple Squares Coffee Organic Snack Containing organic cashews, almonds, honey, coconut, vanilla, sea salt, coffee beans and nothing else, one of these bars packs less than a third of the carbs in a Starbucks coffee cake.
Komplete Ultimate Meal Replacement Shake This blend of fruit and veggie concentrates (pea protein! acai!) provides up to 19 grams of protein and 20 percent of your daily fiber for under 350 calories.
Mini Pops A snack-size bag of this organic air-popped sorghum snack will satisfy your “crunch tooth” for just 100 calories. Choose from flavors like Baby White Cheddar and Subatomic Sea Salt.