In addition to making our pants feel uncomfortably tight around the waistline, excess belly fat can be a sign we’re living an unhealthy lifestyle. The stress hormone cortisol causes fat to build up around the midsection, surrounding the organs and making it harder for the body to function properly. For this reason, controlling stress levels is the most important step we can take to flatten our stomachs.
Exercise also helps to tone the abs, so we train our muscles and try to build core strength with consistent workouts. But every fitness trainer in the world will tell you that exercise is only half of the picture: the other part is diet. This means you can do all of the sit-ups you want, but if you’re eating too much or consuming the wrong foods, you’re still going to have belly fat.
In addition to avoiding sugar, which is stored as fat when eaten in excess, there are foods everyone can choose to promote abdominal weight loss.
Below are some favorite foods recommended by fitness and nutrition experts for reducing belly fat:
1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids—
It seems counterintuitive for weight loss to eat many of the foods that are high in omega-3s, as they are often high in fat. But these fatty acids reduce inflammation in the body, which helps with the cardiovascular system, metabolism and the processing of food.
Avocados, olive oil, walnuts, flaxseed meal/oil, and salmon are all excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, and the good fat in them increases feelings of fullness, which can control hunger, leading to less overall calories.
2. Lean Protein—
Protein is well known among athletes for building muscles, and the more muscle mass we have, the higher the resting metabolic rate— so it makes sense to include low-fat protein every day. Most trainers recommend multiple small meals with protein included for the best results.
Skinless chicken breasts, tuna in water, lean ground turkey and grilled fish are all great sources for this—or a light protein shake if you don’t have time to cook. Eggs are also beneficial, and vegetarians/vegans can enjoy tofu for animal-free protein.
Loaded with quick energy-giving carbohydrates, oatmeal is a very satisfying way to keep the stomach feeling full until lunch without a lot of calories.
The high fiber content of oatmeal provides satiety and promotes good digestion, which can eliminate constipation and bloating, both enemies of flat abs.
Chromium and magnesium have both been shown to reduce levels of certain hormones that encourage weight gain around the waistline, and oatmeal is also loaded with these nutrients.
A favorite of those who don’t eat meat, beans provide filling fiber and satisfying, muscle-building protein without a lot of fat or calories.
Beans can be mixed into salads or just about anything to up the protein content, and are full of iron as well. Be sure to rinse canned beans and soak dried beans overnight to lessen the bloating effect they can have when improperly prepared.
5. Leafy Greens—
Spinach and kale are highly recommended for weight loss because of their exceptionally high nutrient and fiber content with minimal calories.
The fiber aids in digestion to allow abs to remain flatter, and the large amounts of calcium and vitamins K, A, D and E will boost metabolism by improving overall health.
6. Whole Foods—
Less is more when it comes to food choices, so skip the processed, packaged foods with long lists of ingredients and stick with simple, real fare.
When you fill yourself with chemicals, dyes, preservatives and additives, it taxes the entire system and increases inflammation, as the organs try to cleanse themselves of these toxins.
If the body has to focus all of its energy on clean-up and detoxification, the metabolism and every other process will suffer, leading to weight gain and poor health.
Foods with healthy bacterial flora that promote good digestion and boost the immune system can help bust belly fat by keeping things properly moving through the gastrointestinal tract, and helping to prevent workout routine-ruining illnesses.
There are many yogurts enhanced with probiotics, as well as kefir, a probiotic-laden yogurt drink, but if you’re not a fan of dairy, probiotic supplements can be taken that work just as well.
Alcohol, salty foods and carbonated beverages are belly-bloating enemies of washboard fans, so avoid these to keep the stomach slim. Drink plenty of water to help burn fat faster, and try to eat some of the waistline-reducing foods above every day to have the flat, fab abs you’re hoping to achieve.