40 Best Belly-Shrinking Foods
It's never too late to get your body back in shape—especially when your local supermarket has plenty of foods for weight loss that burn belly fat.
As you age, fat starts accumulating around your midsection, which is especially dangerous because it can be an indicator of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.
To help you banish belly fat for good, we've compiled the best foods for weight loss that can shrink your gut. And to best help you stay on track with your flat belly goals, check out these 15 Underrated Weight Loss Tips That Actually Work.
Green tea's waist-whittling effects are hard to reckon with—until you've met matcha. Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), the potent belly-fat-melting catechin in the bright brew, is 137 times greater in concentration than the amount of EGCG available from green tea, a study in the Journal of Chromatography found. Is matcha not your match? Sneak the superfood powder into one of our best-ever weight loss smoothies.
When you're trying to burn belly fat, bread can be your best friend or worst enemy—depending on which loaf you choose. Instead of reaching for nutrient-void white bread, opt for toast baked with sprouted grains. "Sprouted whole grains tend to have a different flavor profile, but there are a lot of health benefits associated with them because—depending on the grain—they can contain vitamin C, vitamin B, fiber, folate, and some additional amino acids," says Jessica Crandall, a Denver-based RD, certified diabetes educator and national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in The 8 Healthiest Breads to Eat for Weight Loss. Both fiber and vitamin C have been linked to weight loss, so start stacking your sandwiches smartly. Vegetables, like bell peppers and broccoli, are excellent sources of vitamin C and fiber.
Swap your mayo and mustard for a dose of guac. Avocados are a potent fruit when it comes to fighting belly fat. They're loaded with monounsaturated fats that keep you slim and satiated. A study in Nutrition Journal also found that participants who ate half a fresh avocado with lunch had less desire to snack or eat afterward. As one of our best foods that burn belly fat, we love sneaking avo into smoothies and baked goods.
Eggs are a healthy and quick breakfast and dinner option because they're high in muscle-building protein and fat-burning choline. But you don't want to throw away the yolks. About half of the egg's protein is found in the sunny goodness. Plus, the yolk just happens to be the top dietary source of fat-burning choline. One study found that choline supplementation reduced BMI as well as levels of the hunger hormone leptin, adding that the nutrient breaks fat down for use as an energy source. Get crackin'!
Cocoa butter, the natural oil found in chocolate, is made up of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats (specifically, fat-burning oleic acid) as well as oft-avoided saturated fats. However, one-third of the fats in cocoa is stearic acid, a saturated fat that doesn't elevate blood fat levels to the same degree that other saturated fatty acids do. What's more, dark chocolate containing 70 to 85 percent cacao packs in more fiber than the milky variety, an important factor for weight loss and maintenance.
Peanuts & Peanut Butter
Besides for making a delicious spread or dip, peanuts also pack in a belly-fat-blasting effect. Genistein, a compound that acts on obesity genes and reduces your body's ability to store fat, is present in this versatile nut. What's more, peanuts are brimming with polyunsaturated fats, which have been shown to "turn on" genes in visceral fat that are linked to reduced fat storage and improved sugar metabolism in the body, according to an Uppsala University study.
A study in the journal Nutrition Research and Practice found that mice given a high-fat diet supplemented with garlic lost significantly more visceral abdominal fat—the fat stored around your organs that can potentially result in metabolic ailments—than those who avoided the allium. As if you needed another good reason to start sprinkling the stuff.
If your goal is to show off your abs, you may want to add omega-3-rich wild salmon to your shopping list. A study in the journal PLoS One reveals that participants who added omega-3 fats to their diets shed more weight and had an easier time keeping it off than those who didn't. Unlike their farmed cousins, wild salmon contains more anti-inflammatory omega-3s and less omega-6s, which can cause inflammation in excess.
This Icelandic-style cheese dates back to over a thousand years old, yet it's completely underrated in the western world. One cup of the yogurt-like blend requires nearly four cups of milk to produce, which is how it achieves that divinely creamy texture. Skyr's high protein content (it's got about 17 grams per plain, 5.3-ounce cup) and gut-loving probiotics make this pick a double whammy against belly fat. We especially like Siggi's and Icelandic Provisions' low-sugar cups.
We know that tart cherries are a prime pre-bedtime snack thanks to their ability to increase your body's melatonin levels for better sleep quality. But did you know that the ruby red orbs can also help you shed belly fat? A study in the Journal of Medicinal Foods found that tart cherry intake was associated with reduced abdominal fat. Researchers also found that the fruit can ward off metabolic syndrome, therefore reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Consider pu-erh tea green tea's less-appreciated twin sibling. The Chinese fermented tea is made of leaves and stems of the Camellia sinensis plant—the same species that births green, black, and oolong teas. A study in Phytotherapy Research found that pu-erh reduced visceral fat accumulation (bye-bye, belly fat) and reduced high blood fat content in obese rats. Other research also suspects that the brew can reduce cholesterol, especially heart-harming LDL levels.
"Sunflower seeds and sunbutter are two great belly-busters," says registered dietitian Lauren Slayton of Foodtrainers. "The type of fat in the seeds have been shown to reduce abdominal fat in women with no other change in diet." Sunflower seeds make an ideal portable snack, but if you're opting for sunbutter, make sure to pair it with Ezekiel sprouted bread for extra slimming effects.
The queen of all Buddha bowls and superfood salads, quinoa packs in more protein than any other grain as well as all nine essential amino acids—a true rarity in the plant kingdom! A study in the Current Developments in Nutrition journal reveals that the Andean grain reduces waist circumference as well as serum triglycerides in overweight and obese subjects.
Quinoa's nutritional profile is on its A-game when it comes to shrinking your gut, but Kamut is also a superstar when it comes to banishing the belly. The Middle Eastern whole grain is teeming with slimming omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and fiber—a triple threat to soft abs. Plus, a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that Kamut reduces cholesterol, blood sugar, and inflammation-causing cytokines.
If you want to look your best, start popping blueberries on the daily. A study in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that the antioxidant-rich fruit can reduce abdominal fat in addition to triglycerides and total body weight.
Not only is cottage cheese low in calories, but it's also a solid source of protein—casein, specifically, which digests slower than whey to keep you satiated for longer. Bump up the cheese's slimming powers by choosing a brand that sneaks in probiotics, such as Good Culture.
This spicy pickled cabbage can jazz up your mundane salads as well as it can combat fat. Researchers at Kyung Hee University in Seoul, Korea, found that the probiotics found in kimchi, namely Lactobacillus brevis, suppressed weight gain caused by a high-fat diet by a whopping 28 percent! Similarly, sauerkraut, pickles, and brined olives pack in these waist-whittling effects.
You've likely seen these little fish pickled and floating inside a jar in the fridge section of your supermarket. As odd of a dinner protein as it may seem, herring is a seriously slimming choice. Not only does it contain protein, which is essential for building lean muscle that burns fat, it also contains choline—the same supreme nutrient found in egg yolks—and omega-3s.
If you constantly find yourself a victim of stress, don't expect to fry the flab off your waistline. Why? Stress produces the hormone cortisol, which encourages the belly to store fat. But there's an easy way to combat it: vitamin C-rich foods—enter: bell peppers—have the fat-fighting ability to reduce your stress levels and keep your bod in tip-top shape.
A slow-digesting carb, this tater will keep you full for hours and way less susceptible to that second helping of potato chips. Sweet potatoes' carotenoids have been shown to correlate with improved weight and fat loss, according to a Nutrition and Diabetes journal study.
The magic component in grapes, resveratrol, has been shown to increase the breakdown of fat and reduce the metabolic formation of fat in mature fat cells, according to a study in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. Which leads us to our next food that burns belly fat…
Who knew that your dinner buddy was so good at frying fat cells? But not just any ol' wine will do the trick—you have to pop open the right vino. Malbec, Petite Sirah, St. Laurent, and Pinot Noir all have the highest content of slimming resveratrol.
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center found that for every additional 10 grams of soluble fiber eaten per day, participants' belly fat was reduced by 3.7 percent over five years. Black beans are one of the richest sources of soluble fiber, containing 4.8 grams per cup. Luckily, they're super easy to add to your diet in the form of chilis, omelet mix-ins, and soups!
Most of the fat in macadamia nuts is monounsaturated; research from Reina Sofia University Hospital reveals that study participants who consumed a diet rich in monounsaturated fats over a 28-day period gained less belly fat than their saturated fat-consuming counterparts. What's more, folks also improved their insulin sensitivity. It might be tempting to grab that white chocolate macadamia nut cookie now, but snacking on the filling nuts on their own will help you reach your flat-belly goals way faster.
Another wonderful source of monounsaturated fats, hazelnuts contain about 52 grams of the stuff per cup, chopped. Make your own Nutella at home by combining hazelnuts with antioxidant-packed dark cocoa to double your chances of blasting belly fat. Just remember to skip the added sugar to reap full benefits.
This list wouldn't be complete without grapefruit making an appearance. The fat-frying citrus has been touted for its waist-whittling benefits for good reason: A study published in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism found that those who ate grapefruit lost more weight. And that's not all; other studies show that grapefruit can "turn on" brown fat cells, which break down body fat. Opt for pre-gaming your daily breakfast with a half grapefruit.
This tropical oil has been quite controversial in the health sphere due to its high saturated fat makeup. However, coconut oil's medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are burned as energy instead of being stored as fat. A study in the journal Lipids found that participants who supplemented their diet with two tablespoons of coconut oil daily saw smaller waistlines than those who supplemented with soybean oil, and although both groups experienced overall weight loss, only the coconut oil group saw smaller waistlines. Another study reveals that men lost over an inch from their waistlines in just four weeks by adding coconut oil to their diets.
"One of the most under-appreciated magic fat-burning elixirs is water," says Ajia Cherry, a personal trainer and Founder at Functional Innovative Training. "The more water you drink, the fuller you will feel, the easier it is to cut back on unnecessary calories. That's an essential element of weight and fat loss." Use the juice of a lemon for a zingy salad dressing base or squirt the stuff into a glass of water to burn belly fat.
You can chalk up this warm spice's slimming effects to cinnamaldehyde, the ingredient that gives cinnamon its flavor. Wondering how to incorporate the spice into your daily diet? Try sprinkling it onto oats, sneak it into homemade lattes and smoothies, and even add into meat rubs for a unique flavor boost.
The affordable cans not only pack in about 13 grams of protein per 2.5-ounce serving to help to build muscle and burn fat, but they also contain significant amounts of omega-3 fats—especially brain-boosting DHA. These heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats in tuna have been shown to help you shed weight, deeming this versatile fish one of our top foods that burn belly fat.
"The bark-like skin on this vegetable can appear intimidating, but jicama is an incredibly versatile vegetable that can be enjoyed raw or cooked," Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, author of 2 Day Diabetes Diet and Hass Avocado Goodness Expert, tells us. Why's this starch so important to include in your ab diet? "With 32 grams of fiber in one medium jicama, this vegetable can easily help you to meet (and exceed) your daily fiber goals." For every 10-gram increase in soluble fiber eaten per day, visceral fat was reduced by 3.7 percent over five years, one study found.
Don't let a potential T-shirt stain deter you from breaking open this juicy fruit. A study in the International Journal of Obesity found that supplementing rats' diets with pomegranate exhibited an especially significant decrease in abdominal fat. This resulted in reduced markers of both obesity and cardiovascular risk factors, two major bonuses.
This spicy fermented condiment made from chili powder hails from Korea and has been shown to blast abdominal fat as well as it can spice up suppertime. A study in Nutrition and Metabolism found that supplementing participants' diets with the sauce for 12 weeks results in significant decreases in visceral fat—the type of fat that lurks around your midsection and can potentially result in metabolic disorders. Researchers suspect that these results can be chalked up to capsaicin, the bioactive compound found in spicy peppers.
Not a fan of the overpowering taste of Gochujang? Try sprinkling your meats and veggies with cayenne pepper. The hot stuff also contains capsaicin, the powerful compound that boasts ab-uncovering powers.
Time to bust out the wok and get to pressing that tofu. Soy products such as tofu, tempeh, and edamame boast a powerful isoflavone called genistein, which increases lipid oxidation. Next time you hit up your favorite Japanese joint, don't forget to order the edamame appetizer and swap your regular teriyaki dish for tofu.
You've learned to love the mini trees and even added them to your weekly menu. But have you heard of their sprouted counterparts? Broccoli sprouts have been linked to cholesterol-lowering effect and have been shown to potentially reduce fat storage, a Kanazawa University study found.
Beets get their glorious hue from anthocyanins, powerful water-soluble plant pigments that can also trim your muffin top. Rather than caving to your sweet tooth with a Snickers bar, try slicing beets and drizzling with olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt before popping them into the oven. High heat helps to caramelize the beets' natural sugars, resulting in a root veggie that's more like mother nature's dessert!
Ditch that bag of sugary Craisins and opt for cranberries with no sugar added instead. The tart little orbs are one of the top dietary sources of ursolic acid, an anti-inflammatory plant compound that's been shown to target fat around your gut. In fact, one study found that ursolic acid increased muscle mass and strength, improved glucose tolerance, promoted brown adipose tissue deposition, and decreased white adipose tissue mass in mice fed a high-fat diet.
You've seen the exotic fruit in your local Whole Foods' produce section, but if you haven't found a good reason to bag it yet, here it is: like cranberries, persimmons contain ursolic acid. But you've gotta eat the firm, leathery skin to reap the benefits. If you're not a fan of the texture, try blending the whole fruit into a quick weight-loss smoothie.
"Barley contains a whopping 6 grams of belly-filling, mostly soluble fiber that has been linked to lowered cholesterol, decreased blood sugar, and increased satiety," Lisa Moskovitz, RD, CDN, tells us in 25 Best Carbs That Will Uncover Your Abs. Stabilized blood sugar and reduced hunger is a double threat against belly fat, so start adding barley to everything from stews to salads. You can even enjoy the cereal grain for breakfast: just cook until done and stir in cinnamon, dates, nutmeg, and crushed nuts for a satisfying start to your day.