Foods and medicines for weight loss

The foods you eat can be as important to successful weight loss as the foods you avoid. In this article, I will help you to identify which foods are good for weight loss and which ones are not. I’ll also discuss some prescription medications that are approved for weight loss.

This is the third in my ongoing series of weight loss-focused articles. To read the first, go to The ABCs of weight loss surgery. The second is Weight loss interventions that work.

 Weight loss nutrition

We know that calorie restriction over time has been proven to cause weight loss. However, I have discovered that a focus on calorie restriction only without regard to a food’s nutrient-density is a set-up for unhealthy weight to return. Worse, fewer calories does little for reversing chronic illness. You can starve yourself and lose weight, sure, but long term health requires nutrient rich foods.

Nutrient rich foods are high in fiber, healthy oils, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants and the whole array of plant nutrients (phytochemicals). If you could create a list of foods from highest nutrient concentration to lowest, you’d have spinach and green leafy vegetables at the top. They would be followed (in this order) by:

  • Solid green vegetables (artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, sprouted grains, cabbage, celery, cucumber, peas, green beans, peppers, zucchini)
  • Non-green, non-starchy vegetables (beets, mushrooms, onions, garlic, tomatoes, yellow/red peppers, water chestnuts, cauliflower)
  • Beans and legumes (kidney beans, red beans, black beans, navy beans, lima beans, soybeans, black-eyed peas, lentils)
  • Fresh fruits of all types (bananas, pineapples and dried fruits have a higher glycemic index)
  • Raw nuts and seeds (almonds, English walnuts, flax, chia, sunflower, sesame and pumpkin seeds); real raw butter and coconut oil, and other healthy oils high in omega-3 to omega-6 ratio like walnut oil, extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil and avocados, and flaxseed oil
  • Starchy vegetables (potatoes, squash, pumpkin, turnips, corn, carrots, chestnuts)
  • Whole/cut grains (barley, buckwheat, millet, oats, brown rice, wild grain, quinoa, wheat)
  • Fish, eggs, fowl, wild meats
  • Unpasteurized fresh dairy and spicy cheeses (feta, blue, asiago)

In addition to the fresh and cooked nutrient-rich foods listed above, add in fresh juicing, fresh fruit and nut smoothies and herbal teas often. All this should be 80 percent or more of your meals (and more than half as raw food). Then you can add in a lesser amount of grains (though not bread), fish/eggs/fowl/wild meats, and even beef for most of the remaining percentage of your food. Remember to buy only grass-fed beef, mercury-free seafood, or free-range foul/eggs if at all possible.

Remember also that grains can be sprouted—as much as you can eat. Cooked oatmeal is also OK in moderation. But bread and cold cereals have a high glycemic index. This means they convert quickly to sugar upon digestion and absorption.

Milk products like plain yogurt, kefir, and spicy cheeses (i.e. feta, blue cheese, etc.) are generally great too. I’ve heard again and again from patients and friends that by simply eliminating milk products and bread and they feel much more energy and lose weight quickly—within a month.

At the bottom of the nutrient concentration chart are the foods that will surely promote your unhealthy weight if your metabolism allows. Simply put, the best way to a healthy weight is to reduce or eliminate these inflammatory foods:

  • Fat free dairy, margarine
  • Red meat, pork (especially if containing antibiotics or hormones (xenobiotics)
  • Full fat dairy: cow’s milk, processed and other cheeses you find on pizza
  • Refined white flour products: breads, cookies, cakes, etc.
  • Processed and refined sugars, oils and carbohydrates
  • Synthetic additives, colorings, preservatives or synthetic “food”
  • Any food greatly altered from its natural whole food state

Prescription medications approved for weight loss

There are also some effective prescription medications available for weight loss as an option to go along with healthy eating. There are essentially three FDA approved medications for weight loss that you deserve to know about. These could be used along with proper nutritional and the use of natural supplements:

Orlistat: inhibits lipase enzyme so you don’t absorb fat. In a four-year randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial (RPCCT) among 3,304 overweight subjects, there was an overall 9.6 percent weight loss from baseline (placebo group = 5.6 percent) after the first year. After four years they had 5.2 percent weight loss from baseline (placebo group = 2.7 percent). Most common side effects are oily stool, gas and stool urgency. Orlistat’s safety profile is very good.

Lorcaserin: suppresses appetite and promotes a “full” feeling. It is tolerated well by nearly all users. In three RPCCTs among 7,648 overweight subjects there was an average of 12 pounds weight loss after one year (placebo group minimal). Side effects could be headaches or dizziness; rarely nausea or fatigue. The safety profile is good.

Phentermine/Topiramate extended release: suppresses appetite and promotes a “full” feeling. In three RPCCTs of 4,426 overweight subjects, there was an average of 22 pounds weight loss after one year (placebo group minimal). Most common side effects are dry mouth, constipation or nerve tingling.

In my next article I’ll continue with a discussion on the most effective supplements to help you lose weight. To feeling good because you are at a healthy weight,


Michael Cutler, M.D.

Easy Health Options






Dr. Michael Cutler

By Dr. Michael Cutler

Dr. Michael Cutler is a graduate of Tulane University School of Medicine and is a board-certified family physician with more than 20 years of experience. He serves as a medical liaison to alternative and traditional practicing physicians. His practice focuses on an integrative solution to health problems. Dr. Cutler is a sought-after speaker and lecturer on experiencing optimum health through natural medicines and founder of the original Easy Health Options™ newsletter — an advisory on natural healing therapies and nutrients. His current practice is San Diego Integrative Medicine, near San Diego, California.