If the "battle of the bulge" is affecting your waist and belly size, you're not alone. Managing abdominal weight gain early on is important for women, according to the Mayo Clinic, because it becomes more prevalent and challenging with age. Reducing abdominal fat also lowers your risk for serious conditions, including diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. Paired with routine exercise and healthy sleep habits, a nutritious diet that emphasizes certain foods can help diminish your excess abdominal fat for good.
Healthy fat sources, such as nuts, seeds and avocados, provide valuable nutrients, including fiber, which boosts appetite control. Unlike saturated fats, they also help reduce inflammation. In a study published in "Diabetologia" in 2002, 17 people, a mix of diabetic and obese adults, consumed a diet rich in saturated fat or polyunsaturated fat for five weeks. By study’s end, participants who ate the healthy fats demonstrated improved blood sugar control and reduced belly fat compared to the saturated fat eaters -- even though their body weight remained unchanged. For potentially similar benefits, replace butter, fried foods and high-fat cheese with healthy fat sources, such as olive oil, flaxseeds and almond butter.
Whole Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables should be staples of a belly fat-reducing diet, says the Mayo Clinic. As nutrient-rich, low-calorie foods, fresh fruits and vegetables allow you to eat more food volume while taking in fewer calories. Avoid sweetened fruits and juices, which are denser in calories, easier to overeat and less satiating. The so-called low-glycemic fruits and vegetables, which have a positive impact on your blood sugar and appetite control, include berries, tomatoes, citrus fruits, apples, leafy greens and broccoli.
Cold-water fish provide rich amounts of protein and omega-3 fatty acids -- essential fats that help reduce inflammation and play an important role in brain function. Omega-3 fats also lower your risk for high blood pressure and heart disease, conditions closely linked with excess belly fat. For best results, replace protein sources high in saturated fat, such as steak, fried chicken and cheese pizza, with grilled, baked or broiled cold-water fish. Fish particularly rich in omega-3s include mackerel, salmon, albacore tuna, herring and sardines.
Swapping out refined grains, such as white flour, for whole grains may help slenderize your mid-section. In a study published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in 2009, 50 obese adults with metabolic syndrome -- a condition characterized by excessive abdominal fat -- consumed a calorie-controlled diet containing refined grains or whole grains for 12 weeks. Although both groups lost similar amounts of weight, the whole grain-eaters lost significantly more belly fat. Whole grains contain more fiber, protein and other nutrients than refined grains, making for more nutritious and satiating foods. Good examples include brown rice, quinoa, barley, oats and whole wheat.
- MayoClinic.com: Belly Fat in Women: Taking Aim and Keeping it Off
- Diabetologia: Substituting Dietary Saturated Fat with Polyunsaturated Fat Changes Abdominal Fat Distribution and Improves Insulin Sensitivity
- Harvard Health Publications; Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load for 100+ Foods
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; The Effects of a Whole Grain-Enriched Hypocaloric Diet on Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors in Men and Women with Metabolic Syndrome
- George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images
- The Best Exercises for Arm & Stomach Flab
- Healthy Foods for Atrial Fibrillation
- Fiber for a Flat Stomach
- The Strengths of 1,350-Calorie Meal Plans
- What Is a Nutritious Way to Lose Weight Fast?
- Foods to Calm Down Irritated Bowels
- Calorie Restriction & Optimum Nutrition
- Healthy Food Choices That Promote Weight Loss & Burn Fat