Cutting carbs may seem like the answer to your belly-fat woes, but eliminating this food group from your diet completely is a recipe for malnutrition, according to MayoClinic.com. Instead of shunning grains altogether, choose smart carbs that help remove belly fat rather than create it. To flatten your stomach as much as possible, plan a total diet and exercise strategy that trims fat from your entire body. See your doctor before starting a new weight-loss plan.
Refined Carbs and Belly Fat
When it comes to belly fat, refined carbs are the bad guys. People who eat more than one serving of processed grains per day typically have higher levels of visceral fat, according to a study published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in 2010. Visceral fat surrounds your internal abdominal organs, and not only contributes to stomach protrusion but may increase your risk of diabetes and heart disease. Examples of refined carbs include white bread, white pasta and white rice.
Whole Grains and Belly Fat
Unlike their refined counterparts, whole grains are packed with fiber and other essential nutrients. And according to the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" study, people who eat at least three daily servings of whole grains -- but less than one daily serving of refined grains -- have an average of 10 percent less visceral fat than those who don't. Examples of whole-grain foods include whole-wheat bread, whole-wheat pasta, oatmeal and brown rice. Serving sizes may be smaller than you think; just one slice of bread, or half a cup of rice or hot cereal, equals one portion.
Importance of Exercise
Carb intake may play a role in stomach bulge, but exercise has an even greater impact on visceral fat, according to Kerry Stewart, a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Stewart reports that cardio in particular is the most promising visceral-fat buster and suggests swimming, running and other vigorous aerobic activities. For the greatest benefits, perform 30 to 60 minutes of cardio most days of the week. After you've lost the weight, keep up your routine to help prevent the pounds from creeping back on.
Losing Body Fat
Ultimately, your total body-fat levels will determine how flat your stomach becomes. So if you're serious about shrinking your belly, stick with a diet of 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day, the optimal amount for women's weight loss according to the University of Minnesota Medical Center. In addition, engage in strength-training exercises two to three times weekly. These shape muscles for a tighter appearance, and also help speed up your metabolism. Crunches and V-ups will tone your stomach nicely, but also work the rest of your muscle groups by lifting weights or performing squats, pushups and other body-weight exercises.
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.