The most surprising foods Weight Watchers considers zero points - and why

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The most surprising foods Weight Watchers considers zero points - and why

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Weight Watchers has long assigned a point system to foods for dieters.

The idea is to incentivize people to stay away from less healthy foods like a slice of cake by making those items account for more of a person's daily food intake total. Foods that are perfectly healthy to eat in abundance, on the other hand, get a low point value.

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According to the the weight-loss giant's rubric, some vegetables have always counted for zero points. But now Weight Watchers says dieters need not count points anymore when it comes to many other fruits, veggies and nutrient-rich proteins. In December 2017, Weight Watchers released an updated list of more than 200 zero-point foods that followers of the diet plan can eat in unlimited quantities.

That idea might seem counterintuitive, since many people assume that letting dieters eat as much as they want of certain foods could lead to overeating.

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"These foods form the basis of a healthy eating pattern," Gary Foster, Weight Watchers' chief scientific officer and an adjunct professor at University of Pennsylvania's medical school, told Business Insider in December 2017, when the new point system was released. The list of zero-points items even includes things like eggs and fish.

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"Very few people come to Weight Watchers because they've had a problem overdoing it on salmon, legumes, beans, and chicken," Foster said.

In other words, people just don't tend to binge on satiating, healthful foods. And Weight Watchers doesn't want any feelings of guilt to be associated with eating an extra dose of salad or another bite of fish.

The no-points list includes apples, mushroom caps, scallions, and tangerines. Here are some of the most surprising entries on it, and the nutrition research that led them to be included.

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Whole eggs, including the cholesterol-heavy yokes

Whole eggs, including the cholesterol-heavy yokes

Recent research has shown that for most healthy adults, eggs don't have a huge effect on blood cholesterol levels.

And if you like your breakfast eggs topped with a little red salsa, go wild. That's a points-free food now, too.

Many kinds of beans, including black, butter, navy, white, and fat-free refried beans

Many kinds of beans, including black, butter, navy, white, and fat-free refried beans

Beans and legumes are a categorically low-fat, high-protein source of fuel that give you lots of potassium, magnesium and filling fiber.

If you're not a bean lover, lentils are point-free too.

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Caviar and shellfish

Caviar and shellfish

If your wallet can handle it, you can have as much caviar as you like. In fact, most fish and shellfish — like crab and lobster — are fine to eat with abandon.

According to Weight Watchers, people just don't tend to overeat seafood, so it's simply not worth measuring out into gram-specific servings. They'd rather have clients eat these types of proteins until they feel satisfied, then stop.

Most varieties of fish, including anchovies, cod, salmon, tuna, and whitefish

Most varieties of fish, including anchovies, cod, salmon, tuna, and whitefish

Many fish are high in doses of polyunsaturated fats, which can help lower your "bad" LDL cholesterol levels.

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Boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Chicken and fish have less saturated fat per serving than red meat. And both chicken and eggs have omega-3 fatty acids. These "good" fats help repair and build our cells, reduce instances of heart disease, and can also have anti-inflammatory effects. They are essential fats the body can’t produce on its own.

Although Weight Watchers encourages people to eat chicken breast, the American Heart Association says it's still best to enjoy chicken and fish in moderate doses. The AHA suggests eating no more than six ounces per day, which is about the size of two decks of cards.

All berries

All berries

There's room for some no-count sweets in the plan, too. Cherries and clementines are fine as well.

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In fact, any fruit is alright, including fruit cocktails, unsweetened fruit cups, and fruit salads

In fact, any fruit is alright, including fruit cocktails, unsweetened fruit cups, and fruit salads

Fiber-rich fruits can be more expensive than cakey treats, but they're a much better way to satisfy a sweet tooth.

A single cup of strawberries will provide you more than an entire day's recommended dose of Vitamin C, while eating a peach is arguably as good as swallowing a multivitamin.

Dates and figs

Dates and figs

You could even dress them up a bit with yogurt like the figs in this image, though honey and syrup are certainly not points-free.

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Unsweetened, nonfat Greek yogurt and plain yogurt

Unsweetened, nonfat Greek yogurt and plain yogurt

Yogurt is good for your bones, can aid digestion, and carries just as much protein as meat.

The cultures in yogurt can even help you lose weight, a team of Harvard researchers found.

Almost every ingredient in a homemade stir-fry

Almost every ingredient in a homemade stir-fry

Those ingredients include mushrooms, carrots, peppers, pea pods, onions, and tons of other leafy veggies.

The benefits of vegetable-rich meals, long a staple of the Mediterranean diets, extend beyond your waistline. Researchers have discovered that plant-based diets are good for keeping aging brains sharp, and can reduce a person's risk of developing deadly conditions like heart disease and breast cancer.

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Perhaps it's not a surprise after all that the updated Weight Watchers list includes so many wholesome foods that nutritionists champion for their ability to keep people wise, trim, and energized.

Perhaps it's not a surprise after all that the updated Weight Watchers list includes so many wholesome foods that nutritionists champion for their ability to keep people wise, trim, and energized.

Dietitians and food scientists are increasingly pointing towards a Mediterranean, veggie and legume-rich eating plan — which is high in fiber and low in sugar and red meat — as one of the best for our health.

Whether or not you like the points model Weight Watchers uses, its guidance about eating as many fruits, veggies, and healthful proteins as we like is probably a good rule to follow.