Foods to Fight Belly Fat
Is belly fat driving you bonkers? If so, you’re not alone. One of the most common complaints I hear, especially from men and women over 40, is that their waistlines have gone AWOL. A healthy diet, plenty of exercise, adequate sleep, and stress management are important to control abdominal weight. But are there specific foods that can help to keep fat from accumulating in your middle? Here we look at 4 key nutrients – all backed by science — that can make a difference.
High fiber foods, like whole grains, legumes, fruit and vegetables, not only help us to feel fuller longer, they may help target abdominal fat. A recent study found that adults who ate high-fiber diets had less belly fat, compared to those adults who consumed less fiber. Additionally, research shows that increasing soluble fiber (fiber found in foods like oats, barley, flax and beans) can also help whittle your middle.
According to the Institute of Medicine, women should aim for 25 grams of fiber each day, while men should strive for 38 grams of fiber per day. Enjoy whole grains, produce, nuts and seeds to ramp up the fat-fighting fiber in your diet.
Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs as they’re commonly called) may actually be a weapon in the fight against belly fat. Unlike artery-clogging saturated fat, MUFAs are a heart-healthy choice, and when consumed in moderation, can have a positive effect on abdominal fat.
Studies reveal that replacing saturated fats (fats found in whole dairy products, butter, cheese and red meat) with monounsaturated fats can induce a small but significant loss of body weight and fat mass, without a significant change in total calorie or fat intake. More specifically, research points to the unique ability of MUFA’s to target belly fat, with a MUFA-rich diet helping to prevent central body fat distribution.
MUFA’s are found in many plant-based fats, so be sure to boost your intake of canola oil, avocados, olives, nut and seeds. For a belly fat blasting meal, try this tasty Black Bean and Edamame Avocado Salad.
Not technically a nutrient, probiotics are live, “friendly” bacteria that have been shown to have myriad benefits for human health, and they may even help you stay svelte. Probiotics work by improving GI function and strengthening the lining of the intestines, serving to fight the “bad” bacteria residing in the GI tract, and boosting our immune system. Not only are probiotics beneficial for your gut bacteria, they may help fend off belly fat. In a 2010 Japanese study, 87 overweight participants either took a Lactobacillus probiotic or a placebo. After 12 weeks, the probiotic group reduced abdominal fat by 4.6% and overall body fat by 3.3%.
To get more friendly bacteria into your diet, add a serving of nonfat Greek yogurt to your favorite fruit, nuts, or whole-grain cereal. Other probiotic-rich foods include sauerkraut, kefir, tempeh, Kombucha tea and miso.
Here’s news about the “sunshine” vitamin that will brighten your day. Research shows that vitamin D helps to regulate abdominal fat mass, specifically helping to reduce visceral fat (deep abdominal fat) in obese adults. Other research found that low levels of vitamin D is associated with increased fat infiltration in muscle in healthy young women.
Since most Americans lack sufficient exposure to the sun’s UV rays in the winter to make enough vitamin D, be sure to include vitamin D-rich foods in your diet. The Institute of Medicine recommends 600 IU of vitamin D per day for adults, but one study reported that more than 90% of U.S. adults fail to meet the recommended intakes from diet alone.
Include more seafood, mushrooms, and fortified foods in your diet to up your vitamin D intake.