Sometimes traditional Chinese medicine doctors suggest to patients wanting to lose weight to eat some grapefruit before every meal. A half, or even a few bites is enough. Grapefruit helps to activate the digestive tract, getting the enzymes ready to go to work and telling the satiety function to be quick in its action. Thus, food is metabolized better and feelings of fullness set in sooner.

Can eating bitter foods before a meal curb appetite and enhance weight loss?

TCM believes that bitter foods, in general, contribute to weight loss, including grapefruit, cucumber, and bitter melon. Thus, where I’ve mentioned grapefruit, feel free to substitute one of these other foods, or any equally low calorie, naturally bitter fruit or vegetable. Bitter helps to purge the bowels. In doing so it contributes to the flushing of toxins, prevents buildup in the colon, and aids weight control. Because it promotes bowel movement, those suffering from diarrhea or loose stools are advised to avoid it.

TCM also talks about the need to balance the Five Flavors. Balancing Five Flavors ensures we get a variety of nutrients, as opposed to over compensating eating only one type, typically too much sweet or salty. Since grapefruit is bitter and we tend not to eat enough bitter foods, grapefruit tells the system, these nutrients and flavors are covered to you can eat less. A better balance is acheived with less calories.

One of the TCM doctors I’ve worked with told me the story of a patient who had a particularly hard time controlling her appetite and losing weight. The doctor advised her to eat grapefruit before every meal, or at least lunch and dinner. The patient tried but just could not stand to eat grapefruit, so the doctor told her to eat an apple instead. Within about 4-6 weeks the patient had noticeable weight loss and was close to reaching her goal weight. The most significant, conscious change she made was eating the apple before every meal.

When Chinese girls are trying to lose weight, sometimes in the summer they will only eat one cucumber for dinner. Although, this is certainly not enough to make them feel full, the bitterness of cucumber contributes marginally more to satiety than sweet or salty foods and contibutes significantly to weight loss efforts. Besides its low in calories.

Since bitter is considered cooling, its best eaten in the summer, not winter nor by people who already have a cold constitution.

Consider adding more bitter foods to your diet, particularly at the beginning of meals, if you’re trying to lose weight.

Photo Credit: Flickr user sophie.z.j.