Having too much fat is always harmful, but excess pounds around your middle are particularly damaging. Belly fat is linked with serious conditions, including heart disease and stroke. While no foods directly cause fat loss -- especially in one concentrated area, like the belly -- certain types can help you shed excess abdominal fat more easily. Keep in mind that weight loss requires burning more calories through activity than you consume. Because rapid weight loss can cause a slowed metabolism and other harmful effects, aim for gradual loss through a healthy diet and routine exercise.
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Fresh and Cooked Vegetables
Vegetables are poor in calories but rich in nutrients, including fiber. Fiber provides no calories, adds bulk to food and promotes satiation -- attributes that allow you to fill up on larger food volume and fewer calories. Dr. Rasa Kazlauskaite, an endocrinologist with Rush University Medical Center, recommends starting your meals with seasoned vegetables as a habit for losing abdominal fat. Start off with vegetable soup, for example, or a bowl of steamed veggies. Fill at least half of your meal plates with vegetables, suggests Kazlauskaite, and add vegetables to rich entrees, such as pasta and casserole. While 1 cup of pasta with meatballs and marinara sauce provides 260 calories, 1/2 cup of whole-wheat spaghetti mixed with a cup of cooked spinach and 1/2 cup of marinara sauce provides 190 calories plus rich amounts of fiber.
Fresh and Frozen Fruits
Fresh and frozen fruits are good sources of fiber and can serve as naturally sweet alternatives to conventional desserts, which contribute to abdominal weight gain. Avoid juices, which tend to lack fiber and contain concentrated amounts of sugar, and make sure frozen fruits you purchase don't contain added sweeteners. Instead of cheesecake, have berries topped with nonfat yogurt. Add fresh or frozen fruits to smoothies. Particularly fiber-rich fruits include raspberries, bananas, apricots, dried figs, pears and oranges. For a refreshing, low-calorie alternative to sugary sodas -- another belly fat contributor -- add apple slices or watermelon cubes to water to chill before drinking.
Nuts, Seeds and Fish
Nuts, seeds and fish provide an array of essential nutrients, including unsaturated fat. Cutting back on inflammatory fat sources, such as fatty meats and fried foods, and emphasizing unsaturated sources instead is an important part of a belly fat-minimizing diet. Fish is also rich in protein, which helps keep you full. For omega-3 fats, which provide particularly heart-healthy benefits, have oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel and herring, at least twice per week. For a plant source of omega-3s, add ground flaxseeds or walnuts to cereal, yogurt and smoothies. Instead of potato chips and pretzels, which are easy to overeat, have mixed nuts and seeds. While they're dense in calories, nuts and seeds promote appetite control; eating a moderate serving, or a small handful, daily could enhance weight loss.
Starchy foods get a bad rap, but whole-grain varieties can help keep you energized and healthy while shedding abdominal fat more efficiently. In a study published in the "Journal of Nutrition" in September 2009, the diets of 434 older adults were analyzed. Researchers found a strong link between high intake of cereal fiber, particularly from whole-grain sources, and lower trunk fat -- which includes abdominal fat. While puffed wheat and crispy rice cereals provide only trace amounts of fiber per serving, 1 cup of shredded whole-wheat cereal supplies over 5 grams. Other fiber-rich whole-grain foods include pearled barley, popcorn and whole-wheat spaghetti. When purchasing prepared breads, cereals and pastas, make sure whole grains are listed as main ingredients.
- Harvard Health Publications: Abdominal Fat and What to Do About It
- Rush University Medical Center: The Skinny on Belly Fat -- And How to Get Rid of It
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Energy Content of Common Foods
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Nutrient Lists: Fiber
- American Heart Association: Fish and Omega-3s
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Joy Bauer, RD: Nuts and Seeds: How Food Affects Health
- Journal of Nutrition; Whole-Grain Intake and Cereal Fiber Are Associated With Lower Abdominal Adiposity in Older Adults