You might have to defrag the installation/distro itself inside VMWare as well. There is a button inside VMWare that allows you to defrag a VM (when it is not activated).
To my knowledge, none of the more modern distros such as Mint, Suse, Fedora will work well with only 1Gbyte of RAM assigned to it in any virtual environment. If you want a small(er) distro that is rather nice to look at, try ElemetaryOS.
40hz once linked to a website/blog from a guy who reviews distro's, but I didn't find the link anymore. That blog is gold if you are looking for a distro that is "just you". On that blog I saw a distro that was very interesting in looks, resource usage etc. It came from Korea, I believe.