Memorial Day weekend signals the beginning of summer – and that means it’s time to break out the swim suit! Blast belly fat and get in shape for the beach by incorporating the right foods into your diet. Research has proven that the following foods can help trim your mid-section, which is good news for not only your figure, but also your heart.
Eating about a quarter cup of almonds for 6 months resulted in a 62% greater reduction in weight and BMI than a diet that didn’t include nuts, according to a recent study. Plus, foods like almonds and other nuts help satisfy hunger better than traditional snacks like pretzels and chips, which contain refined carbohydrates (more on those later).
Nuts, especially walnuts, are good sources of polyunsaturated fats, which activate genes that reduce fat storage and improve insulin metabolism. Sprinkle a small handful of nuts on your bowl of oatmeal or entree salad for belly-busting benefits. Limit portions because nuts are high in calories and look for unsalted nuts if sodium is a concern.
Well known as “super foods,” these tubers are rich in antioxidants, which gives them that beautiful, deep orange color. Antioxidants help to stabilize blood sugar levels and lower insulin resistance, preventing excess calories from being converted to fat around the midsection. Try carrots, grapes, artichokes and beans, all of which are high in powerful antioxidants.
People who ate 3 or more servings of whole grain carbohydrates per day (oatmeal, quinoa, whole-wheat bread) had a 10% reduction in belly fat compared to people who ate the same number of processed carbohydrate servings (white rice, bagels, and pasta), according to a study from Tufts University. Whole grains contain more fiber, which helps you feel full longer and can decrease your daily calorie consumption.
These tasty treats double as dessert – strawberries, raspberries and blackberries – and are packed with polyphenols, which stop fat from forming. One study found that a diet rich in blueberries was shown to help significantly reduce abdominal fat. The same study found that blueberries may lower triglycerides and improve insulin sensitivity, helping to lower risk for both heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Berries are excellent sources of vitamin C, carotenes, carotenoids, zinc, potassium, iron, calcium and magnesium. Plus, they’re high in fiber and low in sugar, making them an ideal substitution for less healthful foods.
Try a handful of raspberries for dessert, use fresh strawberries on your salad in place of higher-calorie dried fruit, or microwave frozen mixed berries until soft and use as a syrup for pancakes or frozen yogurt.
Start your day off right – according to a study in the journal Metabolism, participants who ate grapefruit for six weeks lost up to a full inch off their waistlines and lowered their cholesterol. Researchers attribute the effects to a combination of phytochemicals and vitamin C in the grapefruit, plus the fact that grapefruit contain soluble fiber (the kind that dissolves in the stomach and takes longer to digest) that helps you feel full on fewer calories. Use grapefruit in green salads, as a side to your morning eggs, or as a refreshing afternoon snack.
Cayenne contains a compound called Capsaicin, which has been proven to burn belly fat, suppress appetite and boost the body’s ability to convert food to energy. According to Joy Bauer, RD, research at Purdue University found that adding spicy ingredients like cayenne pepper, hot peppers, or hot sauce to meals can help suppress appetite and even stoke your metabolic fire a bit.
When dieters who didn't normally eat spicy foods ate a soup seasoned with cayenne pepper for lunch they ate 60 fewer calories at their next meal AND burned an extra 10 calories (it's a small amount, but over time it adds up!).
This fish is packed with muscle-building protein, which helps speed up your metabolism and allows you to burn more calories even when you are sitting in your car or at your desk. Omega-3s may also help reduce fat storage by lowering cortisol levels (scientists have yet to confirm how). The American Heart Association suggests eating at least two servings of fish per week for heart health.
Don’t have time to cook? Let Diet-to-Go help! Find these foods and more favorites in our healthy meal plans designed for optimal nutrition and weight loss.
Author: Kristen Ciuba
Kristen is a Nutritionist at Diet-to-Go, based in Lorton, VA. She tries to “practice what she preaches” by fitting in healthy foods and cooking, challenging exercise, and quality time with family and friends every day!