These days, the internet is crammed with nonsensical assertions that eating this food or that food will have a guaranteed belly-flattening outcome. Or that spiking your smoothies with a superfood powder du jour will make it a lot easier to sharpen your physique. We’re not going to buy into the hype and say that there is one single food or drink that has the power to automatically banish belly rolls and turkey neck — sustained fat loss only happens when you combine overall sound eating habits with plenty of exercise.
Having said that, there is no doubt that certain types of foods, when eaten in the context of an overall healthy diet, can help make it a lot easier for your body to bid adieu to those stubborn fat stores and bring your midriff back in line. Want to get more fat-loss bang for your bite? Just follow these simple eating rules and get ready to take your physique and health to a new level.
1. Make Your Diet Whole Regardless of Your Diet
A major study from the Stanford University School of Medicine in conjunction with the National Institutes of Health showed that restricting processed foods in favor of whole foods is more important for fat-loss success than the particular type of diet someone follows. The researchers recruited 609 overweight adult men and women who were then randomized into one of two diet groups for a one-year period: low-carbohydrate or low-fat. Those on the low-fat diet ate about 48 percent of calories from carbs and 29 percent from fat, while those in the low-carb group consumed roughly 30 percent of calories from carbs and 45 percent from fat. Protein intake was matched between diets, and participants were not given any calorie restraints.
The key was that while both groups were allowed to eat as much as they wanted, people were counseled to eat mostly vegetables and other whole foods — the low-fat group was told to select plenty of whole grains, legumes and fruits, while the low-carb group members were trained to choose healthy fatty foods such as avocados, nuts and olive oil. By the end of the study, individuals in the two groups lost similar amounts of weight — about 12½ pounds — and girth on their waistlines without paying much attention to calorie counting. Researchers looked for clues (such as gene patterns related to metabolism and insulin levels) to suss out if there were any factors that might make someone more prone to fat loss on either diet, but they were unable to make any connections.
The take-home message is that whether you’re eating Paleo, following a low-carb keto program, are a devoted vegan or happen to be a carb junkie, these diet plans will all work to banish Buddha belly if they are focused on nutrient-dense whole foods — in other words, foods that come with just a single ingredient like quinoa, walnuts, salmon, blueberries and kale.
Turning up the furnace on your meals may be good for your flab-fighting efforts via chili pepper’s power to keep the hunger monster at bay. On two separate occasions, scientists in Denmark provided subjects with a bowl of tomato soup — once it was spiked with cayenne, and the second time it was free of the hot stuff — and then measured their appetite. It was discovered that the spicy soup brought about greater feelings of satiety at the end of the meal and one-hour afterward compared with the tame soup. Similarly, a study in the journal Physiology & Behavior found that people who consumed 1 gram of pepper with a meal experienced reductions in appetite and an uptick in calorie-burning metabolism. It looks like capsaicin, the chemical that gives the various guises of chili peppers their kick, has the power to simultaneously bolster our metabolic rate and quell hunger, which could limit belt-stretching overeating. So go ahead and use bottled hot sauces and fresh chilies to add some fire to more of your meals.
3. Spoon Up Yogurt
For the sake of your six-pack, consider yogurt a near-perfect snack option. A 2017 study from the University of Dublin, Ireland, found that among 1,500 subjects, those who ate more yogurt on average (even high-fat dairy versions) had lower body-fat percentages than those who generally consumed less. Another study in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases found that full-fat yogurt might do a better job at whittling the middle than low-fat yogurt. Full-fat yogurt possesses unique nutritional properties, including beneficial bacteria that can improve your gut microbiota, protein and fat, which can impact appetite and blood sugar control, and minerals like calcium that may play a role in fat metabolism — all of which can work synergistically to make it easier to attain and maintain a healthier bodyweight. Of course, you can cancel out these benefits by eating spoonfuls of flavored yogurt that is weighed down by added sugars. Go with plain to avoid the gain.
4. Spill the Beans
Taking the step to work more high-fiber foods like beans into your diet can be one of the easiest ways to scale down. In an Annals of Internal Medicine study that compared weight-loss success over a 12-month period, people who were instructed to make just one dietary change — eat more fiber each day — lost about the same amount of body fat as those who followed a diet requiring several dietary modifications, including limiting sugar intake and eating more vegetables.
There are a few reasons why fiber is fat’s kryptonite. It works to keep you feeling full to help stamp out overeating and thereby regulate overall calorie intake. Fiber also serves as a food source for the bacteria in your gut, thereby fostering a healthier microbiome. A robust population of beneficial critters may influence how easy it is to shed a few pounds, and compounds like short-chain fatty acids that are produced when your gut bugs feast on fiber are now being studied for their role in improving other aspects of health such as limiting inflammation in the body. Reaching your recommended daily fiber intake — 25 grams per day for women; 38 grams per day for men — is a lot easier when you eat more beans (7 grams in a 1/2 cup of black beans) and other fiber heavyweights like lentils, seeds, whole grains and vegetables.
5. Rise and Dine on Eggs
Upon waking, you can get cracking on your fat-loss pursuits. A study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that eating two eggs for breakfast, as part of an overall reduced-calorie diet, helped overweight adults lose 65 percent more weight than those who ate a bagel-dominated breakfast of equal calories. The egg eaters also reported higher energy levels.
This adds to the blossoming body of evidence that supports the importance of consuming enough high-quality proteins like eggs to attain a lean, mean physique. Eating more protein at breakfast, which slows down digestion, will help keep you feeling satisfied longer, making it easier to resist tempting junk foods throughout the day. On the flip side, too many carbs at breakfast, especially refined ones, can lead to spikes and plunges in blood sugar, leading to flagging energy levels and increased hunger. At 6 grams of protein a pop, eggs also have all the necessary amino acids needed to support muscle growth, and the more lean mass you have, the more metabolically active your body will be, making it easier to torch extra fat calories.
6. Go Nuts for Almonds
When you’re trying to get lean, there is no reason to fear the fat in nuts like almonds. An investigation published in The Journal of Nutrition randomly assigned 86 adults to one of two calorie-controlled diets: an almond-enriched diet (15 percent energy from almonds) or a nut-free diet with the same number of calories. After a three-month period, those who crunched on almonds daily experienced greater losses in body fat and visceral adipose tissue — a particularly dangerous form of intra-abdominal body fat. Similar fat-loss benefits have also been shown with frequent walnut consumption. Nuts are bundles of unsaturated fats, protein, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that likely work together to burn chub. Also of importance in the battle of the bulge is the recent evidence that the fat in nuts is located inside cells that appear to resist complete breakdown during digestion. So some of the fatty calories in nuts remain in the cells and, in turn, are not available to be stored by our bodies. This explains why the calorie count of nuts is actually lower than what you would read on food labels. A handful of nuts makes a satisfying snack option, or add them more often to salads, oatmeal, yogurt and even protein shakes.