Extra belly fat doesn't merely affect the fit of your jeans. It raises your risk for breast cancer, asthma and heart disease. Emphasizing certain foods within a balanced diet can help slenderize your abdomen and bolster your wellness, particularly if you exercise routinely. Because losing more than 3 pounds weekly after the first two weeks poses serious risks, aim for gradual loss, or 1 to 2 pounds per week.
Low-Fat Milk and Yogurt
Research has shown that the more calcium a woman consumes, the less abdominal fat she gains, according to Harvard Health Publications. One cup of plain, low-fat yogurt provides 42 percent of adults' daily recommended intake of calcium. A cup of skim milk provides 30 percent. Low-fat milk and yogurt are also low-glycemic foods, meaning they have a mild impact on your blood sugar and promote appetite control between meals. If you don't tolerate or consume dairy products, choose soy-based equivalents for similar benefits.
In a study published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in 2008, 50 obese adults with metabolic syndrome, a condition characterized by abdominal obesity, consumed a calorie-controlled diet containing whole grains or refined grains for 12 weeks. By study's end, both groups had lost similar amounts of weight. The whole-grain eaters, however, lost significantly more belly fat than the refined-grain consumers. For potentially similar benefits, swap out refined-grain products, such as enriched white and wheat bread, instant rice and low-fiber cereals, with 100-percent whole-grain equivalents. Particularly nutritious whole grains include brown rice, wild rice, barley, quinoa, oats and air-popped popcorn.
Fruits and Vegetables
The first dietary step in a belly-fat-reducing diet is to eat more plant-based foods, says the Mayo Clinic, including fruits and vegetables. As relatively low-calorie, yet fiber- and water-rich foods, fruits and vegetables allow you to eat greater volume while reaping fewer calories. Fiber provides zero calories and helps you stay fuller longer. Particularly high-fiber options include artichokes, peas, beans, kale, broccoli, raspberries and skin-on pears. Fruits also provide nutritious alternatives to items that promote abdominal weight gain, such as candy and sugar-laden soft drinks.
Healthy Fat Sources
Fat in foods and fat in your body are not one in the same. Healthy fats, prevalent in nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil and oily fish, help reduce bodily inflammation. Fats in meats, whole milk, shortening and fried foods can increase inflammation and your belly size. Fats also help your body absorb nutrients, such as vitamin D, and make dishes and meals more satisfying. Oily fish, such as salmon and sardines, also supply rich amounts of calcium. Because fat sources are dense in calories, stick to moderate portion sizes. Instead of eating a large handful of nuts, for example, sprinkle a tablespoon or two on salad or oatmeal.
- Weight-control Information Network: Weight-loss and Nutrition Myths
- Harvard Health Publications: Taking Aim at Belly Fat
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Calcium
- Linus Pauling Institute: Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load
- 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
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