Diet, along with exercise, forms the corner stone in any strategy to lose belly fat. Whether you want to lose a little or a lot, you need to pay careful consideration to your diet. Research shows that there are some foods that appear to increase belly fat, while other foods can help you lose belly fat.
1 Eat High Fiber Foods & Whole Grains
Not all carbs are created equal. Carbs that are high in fiber are linked with lower levels of abdominal fat.1 Furthermore, a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that dieters who eat whole grains lose more belly fat than those who consume refined grains.234
How does it work? Whole grain foods are high in fiber, which help maintain low insulin levels. Research from the University of Kuopio in Finland suggests that low levels of insulin may shrink fat cells.
2 Try Oats for Breakfast
Oats are also high in fiber, which means stomach is fuller for longer, reducing appetite and thereby decreasing calorie intake help. Furthermore, oats are easy to digest, particularly if soaked overnight, which helps reduce bloating. Oats are relatively high in protein and rich in B Vitamins and minerals.
Add a little cinnamon for extra effect. A Scandinavian study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that 3 grams of cinnamon sprinkled over cereal resulted in less insulin being produced after eating.
Since insulin is a hormone that turns excess sugar into fat, decreased insulin levels also means less weight gain. What’s more, cinnamon is also thought to slow down stomach emptying, which means you feel fuller for longer.
3 Go for Healthy Fats
Research suggests that a diet rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (or more simply MUFA and PUFA), may be linked with lower belly fat. While a carbohydrate rich diet appears to increase belly fat, there is evidence that a MUFA-rich diet helps get rid of belly fat – even in the absence of exercise.
A study published in the journal Diabetes Care showed that participants who ate a diet rich in monounsaturated fats lost more stomach fat than those participants who consumed the same amount of calories but less of the healthy fats.7
Good fats also help control satiety, reduce risk of diabetes and confer cardiovascular benefits.8910 Therefore, including good fats in your daily meals and snacks can help you stick to your calorie controlled diet.
How does it work? Spikes in blood sugar, which you get when eating a high carb diet, signal your body to store fat in the abdominal area. However, monounsaturated fats counter these spikes in blood sugar, keeping blood sugar levels steady and thus preventing stomach fat accumulation.
A word of warning. You need to keep a close eye on your portion sizes, as it is very easy to overeat foods such as nuts and guacamole. Although they are high in nutrients and good fats, they are still fats, which means they are high in calories.
Therefore, you still need to be careful, to ensure that you control your intake of these foods to ensure you lose belly fat. Add small, but regular portions of MUFA containing foods to your meals.
Foods high in good fats include olives and olive oil, canola oil, nut oils (peanut, walnut), seed oils (sesame, flaxseed), grapeseed oil, soybean oil, nuts seeds, avocados, dark chocolate, flax, soybean.
4 Include Yogurt & Other Probiotic Foods
Studies have found that gut bacteria affect weight regulation and that certain types of bacteria can reduce weight, including belly fat.11 According to research, several strains of probiotics in the Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus family may aid weight loss, and losing belly fat. Specifically strains include Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and Lactobacillus gasserii.12131415
Probiotic foods include yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, kimchi, tempeh, miso, natto, certain cheeses (e.g. parmesan, cheddar, gouda), and pickles.
Live yoghurt (i.e. with live active cultures) is a great source of probiotics. Yogurt (and kefir) can also be made with plant-based milks. Check the label for the strains of probiotic bacteria.
Yogurt is also rich in protein and makes an excellent snack. Just add a little honey, fruit or granola. Yoghurt contains Lactobacillus bacteria, which are the “good” bacteria that improves intestinal function and nutrient absorption and reduces bloating. Furthermore, yogurt can help you not just reduce bloating, but also belly fat.
A study showed that people who ate yogurt, as part of their calorie controlled diet, lost more weight, lost more belly fat, lost more inches from around their weight and lost less muscle mass. Indeed, they recommended that dieters should eat 3 servings of fat-free or low-fat dairy products every day.1617
5 Cut Down on Refined Carbs
Research suggests that the consumption of high amounts of refined grains, basically refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, refined-grain pasta and sugary drinks may encourage greater levels of belly fat.18
Indeed, a study found that people who ate 4 to 5 daily servings of white bread, gained significantly more belly fat than those who only ate 1 serving of white bread, despite consuming the same amount of calories.1920
6 Avoid Trans Fats
Research also shows that trans fat (found in vegetable shortenings, margarine, cookies, snack foods, crackers, and other foods made with, or fried in, partially hydrogenated oils), can change your body shape causing body fat to be redistributed to your belly. In other words, trans fats increase belly fat. Saturated fat is also linked to belly fat.[
A study in which monkeys were fed trans fats, published in the journal Obesity, showed that their waists were 30% larger than the waists of monkeys that were given monounsaturated fats. Not only that, trans fats increase total body fat.21
7 Steer Clear of Junk Foods
Cut down on junk food, including fast-foods or convenience foods. These foods are high in calories, saturated fats, trans fats, refined carbohydrates, salt and sugar and low on vitamins and minerals.
In other words, they’re packed with all the things that may are linked with higher levels of abdominal fat.
It’s also super difficult to reduce your calorie intake while eating convenience foods. That’s because these foods are high in calories, but they are not as filling as they should be considering their high calorie content. So after eating junk food, you get hungry faster and end up overeating.
8 Limit Your Alcohol Intake
Also, cut out alcohol, as the calories in alcohol are high. If you drink alcohol regularly or drink on the weekends, try to tally up how many calories it amounts to per week.
9 Reduce Your Stress Levels
Stress may increase the likelihood of gaining abdominal fat. Stress triggers your adrenal glands to produce the stress hormone cortisol.
High levels of cortisol redistributes body fat to be stored around the waist, as well as increasing appetite and driving a particular preference for energy-dense (comfort) food.24
10 Create a Calorie Deficit
The most important factor to lose belly fat is creating a calorie deficit, i.e. you have to expend more calories than you consume.28
You can create a calorie deficit by moving more and eating less. First determine how many calories you need each day to maintain your weight. The amount of calories you require depends on your age, gender and activity level.
This calorie calculator will help you determine your requirements. Once your know how many calories you need, you can decide on the size of the calorie deficit you want to create.
To lose belly fat, reduce your calorie intake by at least 500 calories below maintenance, but don’t go below 1200 calories if you are a woman or 1800 if you are a man. Cutting back calories excessively will stop you from losing belly fat, or will cause you to gain the weight back once you have stopped your diet (see crash diet.)
11 Eat Regularly
Have a regular eating pattern. While skipping breakfast or lunch may seem like a good idea, in the end almost all of us end up making up for those missed meals and then some.
Skipping meals will negatively impact blood sugar levels, and in turn, reduce willpower. Studies show that people who miss breakfast tend to be less successful at losing weight than those who fuel up first thing in the morning.
If you’re a snacker, to stave off hunger eat planned meals and snacks little and often. This will help regulate blood sugar, keeping them more stable.
Therefore, between your 3 main meals have a healthy snack to maintain steady energy levels and avoid junk food binges help you lose belly fat. Eat 3 meals and 2 snacks consisting of all three food groups (carbs, fat and protein) every 3 hours.
Read more: How to reduce calories
Some experts believe that eating little and often prevents the body from going into starvation mode. When you are reducing calories the body’s first instinct is to hold onto fat reserves tightly, just in case you’re starving and don’t know where the next meal is coming from. After all, your body doesn’t know the difference between a diet and starvation.29
12 Try the Mediterranean Diet
The diet that best fits the above guidelines is a calorie-controlled Mediterranean Diet, which is based on Mediterranean cuisine and is high in healthy fats. It’s also a rather delicious way to lose belly fat. The hallmarks of this diet are as follows:
- High intake of olive oil, legumes, unrefined cereals, fruits and vegetables
- Moderate to high intake of fish
- Moderate intake of dairy products (mostly as cheese and yogurt)
- Low intake of meat and meat products
This diet is highly valued by healthcare professionals. Research shows that a Mediterranean style diet is effective in aiding weight loss and is associated with lower levels of belly fat.30
But that’s not all, the Mediterranean Diet also boasts a plethora of health benefits. Studies have shown this diet may improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, the metabolic syndrome and abdominal obesity.313233
Research also shows that the better you are able to stick to the Mediterranean Diet, the more your risk of developing diabetes decreases and the lower your levels of belly fat. Overall, this diet is a scientifically proven method to lose belly fat, decrease health risks and improve overall health.34
Read more: The Mediterranean diet for weight loss
13 Try Some Green Tea
Green tea is incredibly popular and celebrated for a panacea of health-boosting properties. There are a few studies that have suggested green tea aids weight loss, there is also evidence (in a study published in The Journal of Nutrition) that green tea increases how much exercise-induced weight loss is from the abdominal area. In other words, it helps make losing belly fat easier.35
The precise mechanisms by which green tea works is still poorly understood. However, scientists do believe that green tea increases the rate at which fat is broken down by the body. Green tea is also thought to help improve insulin sensitivity (i.e. better blood sugar regulation), which helps reduce cravings for refined carbohydrates and sugar and decrease the risk of diabetes.