Shedding excess belly fat is important, according to Harvard Health Publications, because this type of fat increases your risk for heart disease, type-2 diabetes and breast cancer. Nutritious foods and routine exercise can help minimize these risks and take inches off your waistline. While no vegetables can flatten your stomach area on their own, a healthy diet that emphasizes certain types of veggies can make the process easier. Before making significant dietary changes, consult your doctor.
To shed excess pounds anywhere on your body, you must consistently consume fewer calories than the amount you burn through activity. Because the fiber and water contained contribute no calories, vegetables are some of the lowest-calorie yet most-nutrient-rich foods around. The American Diabetes Association calls nonstarchy vegetables the one food everyone can enjoy more of because of the low calorie content and high levels of nutrients. One serving, which is equal to 1/2 cup fresh or 1 cup cooked, provides less than 25 calories. Examples include baby corn, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, mushrooms, sprouts and bell peppers.
Fiber promotes appetite control, making it easier to control your weight. In a study published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in 2009, researchers analyzed the diets, blood sugar levels and body composition of 85 overweight Latino youths over two years. Increases in fiber intake were linked with reduced abdominal fat, and even small reductions in fiber intake were shown to significantly increase abdominal fat within one to two years. To meet the daily recommended 25 to 35 grams of fiber, eat high-fiber vegetables regularly. Legumes are top fiber sources. One cup of cooked lentils or black beans provides over 10 grams. Cooked asparagus, leafy greens, brussels sprouts, turnips and sweet potatoes also provide valuable amounts.
Soybeans for Protein
Unlike most vegetables, protein-rich soybeans are a complete protein source, meaning they provide all the essential amino acids. Protein promotes satiation. Soybeans also offer a nutritious protein alternative to fatty meats, which increase inflammation and can contribute to abdominal fat and related risks. In a study published in "Fertility and Sterility" in 2007, 15 postmenopausal women consumed soy protein or a dairy protein placebo daily for three months. While the dairy protein led to increased belly fat, the soy protein did not. One-half cup of cooked soybeans provides 14 grams of protein -- more than the amount found in two eggs. One-half cup of tofu supplies 20 grams. A healthy diet contains about 46 grams of protein for women or 56 grams for men.
Other Helpful Foods
Your overall diet plays a significant role in managing abdominal fat, says Harvard Health Publications. Manage your portions by filling your plates with nutritious, lower-calorie foods, such as fresh, steamed or roasted veggies; adding a reasonable portion of nutritious starch, such as one slice of whole-grain bread or 1/2 cup of cooked brown rice; and including a nutritious protein source, such as baked or grilled fish or chicken -- which is equal to about 3 ounces, or the size of a deck of cards. Don't drastically reduce your caloric intake, which forces the body into starvation mode, slowing your metabolism. Aim instead for balanced meals and snacks, keeping low-nutrient foods, such as white bread, sugary sweets and fried foods, to a minimum. Healthy fat sources, which should be consumed in moderate amounts, include oily fish, such as salmon, avocados, nuts and seeds.
- American Diabetes Association: Non-Starchy Vegetables
- University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture: The Exchange List System for Diabetic Meal Planning
- Harvard Health Publications: Abdominal Fat and What to Do About It
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Inverse Relation Between Dietary Fiber Intake and Visceral Adiposity in Overweight Latino Youth
- Harvard University Health Services: Fiber Content of Foods in Common Portions
- Fertility and Sterility: Effect of a Daily Supplement of Soy Protein on Body Composition and Insulin Secretion in Postmenopausal Women
- University of North Dakota Dining Services: Protein Fact Sheet
- American Heart Association: Serving Size Visuals