Many women face the battle of the bulge, accumulating excess fat in the midsection. Although more common in men early on, women are equally prone to belly fat as they reach middle adulthood. Preventing or reducing abdominal weight gain is important, according to Harvard Health Publications, because it can contribute to serious disease, including breast cancer and gallbladder disease. A healthy diet paired with regular exercise can help keep your body weight and stomach size in check.
Whole grains provide more vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber, which promotes appetite control, than refined grains. In a study published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in November 2010, researchers analyzed the grain intake of 2,834 women ages 32 to 83. Women who consumed refined grains had significantly larger waist circumferences than women who ate primarily whole grains. Whole grains were also independently linked with a smaller waist circumference. For similar benefits, replace refined foods, such as enriched breads, low-fiber cereals and instant rice, with 100 percent whole-grain equivalents. Nutritious whole-grain foods include old-fashioned oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, air-popped popcorn and whole-grain breads.
Fruits and Vegetables
The Mayo Clinic recommends emphasizing plant foods, including fruits and vegetables, as a useful way to fight belly fat and keep it off. As prime sources of antioxidants, they help your body fend off diseases and inflammation. Because they're rich in water and fiber, both of which do not contribute calories, you can eat larger portions and still manage your weight. Non-starchy fruits and vegetables, such as bell peppers, tomatoes, berries and oranges, provide lower calorie alternatives to processed foods, such as candy and white bread. For a nutritious dessert, have fresh fruit salad or top yogurt with fruit and granola instead of sweets that contribute to abdominal weight gain, such as high-fat ice cream or cake, or have a smaller portion of conventional dessert topped with a larger amount of fruit.
Lean Protein-Rich Foods
Emphasizing lean protein-rich foods as part of a balanced diet is vital for reducing belly fat, says Harvard Health Publications. Protein has a mild impact on your blood sugar levels, which lends itself to stronger appetite control. Unlike fatty protein sources, such as steak, dark meat poultry and whole milk, lean sources are less likely to promote inflammation. Lean protein sources also contain fewer calories per serving. Skinless white meat poultry contains 35 calories and 1 gram of fat per ounce. Beef, including corned and ground, provides 75 calories and 5 grams of fat per ounce. Other lean, protein-rich foods include beans, lentils, fish, skinless chicken breasts, tofu, low-fat milk and yogurt.
Healthy Fat Sources
Rather than drastically cutting back on calories, which can slow your metabolism, Harvard Health Publications recommends swapping out unhealthy foods with nutritious alternatives for a slimmer tummy. One useful strategy involves replacing saturated and trans fats in your diet with polyunsaturated fats. Also known as omega-3 fatty acids, polyunsaturated fats reduce inflammation and promote heart health and brain function. Top sources include cold-water fish, such as salmon, albacore tuna and halibut, flax seeds, canola oil and walnuts. Top salads with walnuts and a canola oil-based dressing instead of high-fat creamy dressings and cheeses. To add healthy fats to smoothies, cereals, yogurt and baked goods, add ground flax seeds during preparation.
August McLaughlin is a health and sexuality writer, podcast host and author of “Girl Boner: The Good Girl’s Guide to Sexual Empowerment” (Amberjack Publishing, 2018). Her articles appear in DAME Magazine, Cosmopolitan.com, the Huffington Post and more, and she loves connecting with readers through her blog and social media. augustmclaughlin.com