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A plate of pasta and marinara sauceYou want to shed some pounds, and immediately your personal list of no-no’s grows. No bread or potatoes–too many carbs. No chocolate–too fattening. Sound familiar? Well you can throw all those rules out the window. Here’s how your favorite foods can actually help you lose.

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Diets Don’t Have to Be So Strict

In fact, forbidding certain foods can backfire. Thanks to fad diets that aren’t based in solid science, people avoid foods that would help them control overeating or fight belly fat and ultimately lose weight. Worse still, having an off-limits list is like stuffing your cravings into a plastic bag. Eventually it’s going to burst open, unleashing all your food urges at once, which leads to bingeing. The real key to weight loss is to watch portions and choose quality, nutrient-rich foods.

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Bread

Slim-Down Effect: Contains carbohydrates, which boost brain chemicals that curb overeating

Bread is an excellent source of carbs, which your brain needs to produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter that promotes feelings of comfort and satisfaction. As your body digests carbohydrates, it releases insulin, which helps channel tryptophan–an amino acid–into the brain. Tryptophan then gets converted to serotonin. When serotonin levels are optimal, you feel calm and happy and have fewer cravings; when they’re low, you feel depressed and irritable, making you more likely to overeat.

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Pasta

Slim-Down Effect: A high fluid content keeps you satisfied longer

Cooked pasta and rice are about 70% water–and eating fluid-rich foods keeps you fuller longer, compared with dry foods, according to research from the British Nutrition Foundation. Like bread, the carbs in pasta boost serotonin to help curb overeating. The proper portion of pasta is ½ cup cooked, or about the size of an ice-cream scoop.

Choose whole grain varieties for filling fiber, and add grilled chicken and lots of veggies to bulk up your dish even more.

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Potatoes

Slim-Down Effect: Form resistant starch, a fiber that burns fat

These veggies may be one of our most misunderstood foods. Fried or doused in sour cream, they’re not going to help you lose weight. But when boiled or baked, a potato’s starch absorbs water and swells. Once chilled, portions of the starch crystallize into a form that resists digestion–resistant starch. Unlike other types of fiber, resistant starch gets fermented in the large intestine, creating fatty acids that may block the body’s ability to burn carbohydrates. In their place, you burn fat.

A healthy potato serving is about the size of a fist.

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6 “Bad” Foods That Help You Lose Weight was originally published on blackdoctor.org

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