Even though we may long for the washboard abs we see as we flip through magazines and watch TV, many of us have come to terms with the fact that the days of having a flat belly are in the past.
But what would you say if we told you it wouldn’t take much effort to get a toned tummy? We’ll even go one step further: you wouldn’t even have to change your daily routine at all. No trips to the gym. No stiff neck from crunches. No fitness videos. No tummy tuck. All you need is one thing: a new grocery list.
By combing through scientific studies and nutritional databases, the researchers at Eat This, Not That! have uncovered 20 foods scientifically-proven to target and eliminate pesky belly fat. It gets better. Unlike weight-loss supplements and obscure superfoods that only appear on expensive health-food store shelves, these foods can all be found in a regular grocery store. Grab a pen and notepad, jot down these fat-blasting foods, and get ready for your waistline to begin to shrink. Next up: 20 Secrets to Strip Fat Everywhere.
Inflammation caused by an imbalance in your gut can turn on your fat genes, leading you to gain more weight than someone eating the same amount of food and spending the same amount of time in the gym. And when it comes to anti-inflammatory foods, omega-3 fatty acids rank at the top of their class. Omega-3s attack inflammation by increasing in adiponectin—a hormone that boosts metabolism and burns fat. Wild salmon is rich in both EPA and DHA, the two active forms of omega-3 fatty acids. Broil fresh wild salmon with lemon and olive oil, or top a piece of toast with a smear of Greek yogurt and smoked salmon.
In a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, researchers looked at overweight women who were put on a calorie-restrictive diet and given either a placebo or a probiotic supplement for twelve weeks. At the end of the study period, women who had received the healthy gut bacteria showed significantly greater weight loss than those who had the placebo. If you’re looking to cut down on belly fat, you must tend to your gut bugs. For a natural source of probiotics, try miso paste. Made by fermenting soybeans with salt and koji, it’s teeming with gut-healthy bacteria that can help stimulate the digestive system, strengthen your immune system, and torch belly fat. Make it into a dressing and eat atop your favorite salad!
Get the recipe for the bright and creamy Citrus Miso Dressing pictured above from The First Mess.
To torch belly fat, your diet is in dire need of carotenoids. These antioxidants stabilize blood-sugar levels and lower insulin resistance, which prevents calories from being converted into belly fat. Sweet potatoes are one of the best sources of these flat-blasting compounds.
High-fiber foods aren’t just good for you—they’re also great for your gut bugs. These bacteria that live on your stomach require food to thrive, and one of their top choices is the soluble fiber found in black beans. Every half a cup of black beans has a fiber payout of over 8 grams: That’s nearly twice as much fiber as you’d find in an apple! Your gut bugs munch on this fiber, which they turn into butyrate: a chemical that encourages the body to burn fat as fuel. Add black beans to your breakfast sandwich, salad at lunch, a quesadilla, or a vegetarian enchilada dish.
Get the recipe for these Vegetarian Enchiladas pictured above from Cookie + Kate.
A European study tracked 90,000 people for several years and discovered that participants who tried to eat “low fat” had the same risk of being overweight as those who ate whatever they wanted. Instead of fearing fat, add some avocado to your diet. In fact, the types of fat found in avocado may actually help you burn fat: avocados are full of monounsaturated fats that dim your hunger switches and prevent storage of belly fat.
Nut & Seed Trail Mix
In recent studies, people who ate moderately high levels of protein were twice as likely to lose weight and keep it off than those who did not. And get this: according to a 2016 study by Danish researchers, participants reported feeling fuller after eating a meal with plant protein than a meal with animal protein. Carry a homemade baggie of trail mix around with you and be sure to include pumpkin seeds. These pepitas are packed with 9 grams of protein per ounce!
Oats are one of the few sources of a type of soluble fiber known as beta-glucans. Once ingested, this fiber forms a gel in your small intestine, which helps delay nutrient absorption and can keep your blood sugar from spiking (which prevents the storage of food as fat). For these reasons, beta-glucans have been found to help lower blood cholesterol levels, boost the immune system, increase satiety, and help regulate blood glucose levels. Get your fix by whipping up one of these 50 Overnight Oats Recipes for Weight Loss.
When it comes to weight loss, seeing red is a good thing. That’s because the red pigment you see in fruits is created by some of the highest levels of phenolic nutrients called flavonoids. Red stone fruits, like plums, boast an impressive array of phenolic compounds that have been shown to turn off fat genes. Plums also are a great source of pectin: a gelatin-like type of fiber found in the cell walls of fruits that limits the amount of fat your cells can absorb.
One of the best ways to protect yourself against visceral fat is to strengthen and protect your muscles. Muscle burns energy on a regular basis, so it steals energy away from fat cells—specifically belly-fat cells—to sustain itself. For just 78 calories, an egg provides six grams of muscle-building protein. Crack two into a pan to fry up for breakfast, or hard-boil one to munch on as a snack.
Spinach contains a unique long-chain sugar molecule known as sulfoquinovose (SQ). According to a study in the journal Nature Chemical Biology, SQ feeds your good bacteria, which, in turn, promotes their growth in the gut. When these bacteria are strong, they can provide a protective barrier in the gut, preventing the growth and colonization by bad bacteria which cause inflammation and increase belly fat.
Another way to fend off inflammation is by eating more beets. This royal red root is a unique source of betaine, a nutrient that revs metabolism, positively influences the mechanism for insulin resistance, boosts your mood, shuts down genes that encourage fat to hang around, and attacks inflammatory markers that are released by belly fat, according to a review in the journal Nutrients.
It may come as a surprise, but there are some fats that help you get skinny. According to a study published in the journal Lipids, dietary supplementation of coconut oil helped to reduce abdominal obesity significantly more than participants who consumed inflammatory soybean oil. Experts believe coconut oil’s medium-chain triglycerides, which are burned as energy instead of being stored as fat, and lauric acid, which has been shown to pinpoint belly fat and torch it, are attributed to the greater decrease in waistline width.
According to a recent study presented at the annual Society for Endocrinology conference, researchers found that when protein is digested and broken down into amino acids in your body, one of those amino acids (phenylalanine) triggers hormones that help reduce appetite, which ultimately leads to fat burn and weight loss. With 20 grams per 7-ounce container, Greek yogurt is a great, portable protein option. Want to find out the best option? Check out our exclusive report: Every Vanilla Flavor From 17 Yogurt Brands—Ranked!.
This brilliant orange root is one powerful fat fighter. According to a study in the journal Oncogene, curcumin is one of the most effective anti-inflammatory foods out there. Because it’s more difficult for your body to lose belly fat when you’re fighting off inflammation—and because belly fat actually secretes compounds that encourage more inflammation—adding anti-inflammatory turmeric to your diet will help you achieve your weight-loss goals.
Canned light tuna isn’t just affordable; it can also blast belly fat. A Journal of Lipid Research study found that adding omega-3 fatty acids to your diet could help turn off fat genes. And although you’ll find two types of fatty acids in fish—DHA and EPA—the researchers found that DHA can be 40 to 70 percent more effective than EPA at down regulating fat genes and preventing fat cells from expanding in size. Turns out, tuna is the fish highest in this particular omega-3.
Get the recipe for the Tuscan Tuna Sandwich pictured above from Half-Baked Harvest.
When you’re sleep deprived, levels of ghrelin, the “I’m hungry” hormone, skyrocket while levels of leptin, the “I’m full” hormone, plummet. As a result, studies show you’re not only more likely to eat more the next day, but you’re also more likely to indulge in high-energy foods that cause belly fat. If you’re having trouble falling asleep, try noshing on a banana. Because it’s an excellent source of muscle-relaxing minerals, potassium and magnesium, bananas can put your body into a sleepy state. Bananas also contain tryptophan, the precursor to calming and sleep-regulating hormones serotonin and melatonin. Sleep aid isn’t the only thing bananas can do. Don’t miss these 21 Reasons to Eat More Bananas.
Kill your fat cells with a simple sprinkle of cinnamon. According to an American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study, this warming spice helps reduce levels of the insulin hormone so less of the sugar you consume is stored as flubber. Sprinkle it in your coffee, on top of your morning oatmeal, or on apple slices to start seeing results.
Whole Grain Bread
“Whole grains provide a good source of fiber, B vitamins, and may even help regulate blood-sugar levels and promote a loss of belly fat,” explains registered dietitian Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE. “For every grain you choose, make it 100 percent whole grain.” This means you should look for whole-grain options for your breads, cereals, wraps, and snacks. For help selecting which loaf to pick up, check out our guide Eat This, Not That!: Store-Bought Breads.
According to a study published in the journal Diabetes Pro, participants who drank two or more diet sodas a day increased their waist sizes six times more than non-diet soda drinkers. One theory is that the artificial sweeteners in diet drinks trick your body into thinking you’re actually ingesting sugar, which spikes insulin and in turn stores the food you eat as belly fat rather than uses it for energy. If you feel the need to continue sipping on bubbly water, consider switching to plain sparkling seltzer.
Cayenne pepper doesn’t just burn your tongue—it also burns away belly fat! Daily consumption of one of the compounds found in pepper (known as capsaicin) speeds up abdominal fat loss by boosting the body’s ability to convert food into energy, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Learn how to use this hot pepper with these 20 Spicy Recipes That Fire Up Your Metabolism.