That slow-but-steady increase in your waistline doesn't just affect how your clothes fit, it's also a health risk. Belly fat often involves gaining visceral fat, which is a type of fat that accumulates inside your abdominal wall. It surrounds your internal organs and, because it's metabolically active, secretes compounds that raise your inflammation levels, which ups your risk of obesity-related disease. No food or snack will make you shed belly fat if you're not also following a weight-loss diet and exercise program, but certain snacks might give you a slight edge when you're trying to burn belly fat.
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Nuts and Seeds
Eating almonds in particular might help you lose weight in your midsection, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in 2015. The researchers split 48 study subjects into two groups: one that snacked on 1.5 ounces of almonds each day, and one that snacked on a muffin that contained about the same amount of calories. At the end of the 2-week study, the subjects that ate almonds lost more body fat than the muffin group, and they also saw healthy changes in their blood cholesterol level.
While this small-scale study isn't a silver bullet to prove that nuts burn belly fat, it hints that almonds, at least, might help. Snacking on almonds will also boost your nutrient intake, since they're high in unsaturated fats, which benefit your heart, as well as minerals like magnesium and phosphorus. Just make sure you measure your portion size; at 243 calories per 1.5-ounce serving, overeating almonds can easily make you pack on pounds by eating too many calories. Other nuts are even higher in calories; pecans, for example, contain 290 calories per 1.5 ounces.
Fruit and Vegetable Snacks
Your weight-loss plan should include fruits and veggies at each meal and snack. People who eat more produce tend to have less body fat and smaller waist sizes than people who don't eat many fruits and veggies, according to a study published in PLoS One in 2015, which hints that a healthy diet high in these foods might prevent belly bulges. And because fruits and veggies are low in calories; a large carrot has just 30 calories, while a medium apple or banana supplies around 100 calories, -- you can enjoy them as a snack but still have "room" for lots of filling foods at your other meals.
Try dipping carrot sticks in homemade black bean or sun-dried tomato hummus, snack on a small leafy salad topped with a small amount of homemade balsamic vinaigrette, or take a piece of fruit with you to snack on-the-go.
Green Tea Smoothies
Green tea is essentially calorie-free, which makes it welcome in a weight-loss diet. And it contains a family of phytochemicals, called catechins, that might help you shed belly fat, reports a study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2009. The study authors split over 100 overweight and obese adults into two groups; one group drank a beverage that contained catechins and caffeine, and the other drank a catechin-free and caffeine-free beverage that had the same amount of calories. At the end of the 12-week study, the people who drank the beverage with catechins and caffeine lost more belly fat than the other study group, including subcutaneous belly fat -- the visible fat on your midsection that you can pinch.
While you can get the benefits of catechins and caffeine by drinking plain green tea, you'll get a more filling snack -- as well as more nutritional value -- by using your green tea to make a smoothie. Blend iced green tea with a cup of frozen raspberries, a few sprigs of mint and a handful of ice for refreshing smoothie that contains approximately 70 calories. Or go for a creamier option by blending a cup of nonfat milk with a cup of frozen raspberries and a spoonful of matcha -- a powder made from crushed green tea leaves -- for a smoothie that supplies around 150 calories.
Snacking Tips for Burning Belly Fat
The most important element of any weigh-loss plan is to plan ahead; if you get stuck without a snack, you'll be tempted to pick up convenient "junk" food. That's one of the worst things you can do for weight loss, because you could take in hundreds of calories eating a snack that offers little to no nutritional value. And potato chips, for example, were the top food linked to weight gain in a 2011 study published in the The New England Journal of Medicine. Processed meats -- such as sausage or pepperoni snacks -- also increase your chances of weight gain.
Keep a few pre-measured and individually bagged 1.5-ounce servings of nuts in your bag, for example, or keep a piece of fruit in plain view on your desk, so you can reach for a healthy snack instead of hitting the vending machine.
- Harvard Medical School: Abdominal Fat and What to do About It
- Journal of the American Heart Association: Effects of Daily Almond Consumption on Cardiometabolic Risk and Abdominal Adiposity in Healthy Adults With Elevated LDL‐Cholesterol: A Randomized Controlled Trial
- HealthAliciousNess: Nutrient Facts Comparison Tool (Almonds, Pecans, Pistachios)
- PLoS One: Fruit and Vegetable Consumption and Changes in Anthropometric Variables in Adult Populations: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies
- HealthAliciousNess: Nutrient Facts Comparison Tool (Carrot, Apple, Banana)
- Journal of Nutrition: Green Tea Catechin Consumption Enhances Exercise-induced Abdominal Fat Loss in Overweight and Obese Adults
- HealthAliciousNess: Nutrient Facts Comparison Tool (Green Tea, Raspberries, Milk)
- Republic of Tea: Organic Matcha Powder
- Harvard Medical School: Gaining Weight? Beware Potatoes—Baked, Fried, or in Chips