You can’t flip open a health mag without hearing about the risks of obesity, so we’ll spare you the details. But if you happen to store your weight in your midsection, obesity-related health risks are especially serious.
Some good news? Belly fat is among the first fat to go when you start dropping weight. The fat cells deep in your abdomen have greater access to your blood supply, so they’re the first ones to start releasing fatty acids (so they can get burned up by your other cells and tissues). That means even small weight loss, as little as 5% of your body weight, can make a big difference in your health.
Of course, you’ll need to follow a calorie-controlled and healthy diet to reach your goal weight. But a handful of healthy foods offer a little competitive edge for burning belly fat, and including these 5 healthy staples in your diet can make slimming your midsection just a little bit easier.
1. Green Tea
A weight loss superstar, green tea’s weight loss benefits have been under investigation for over a decade. Green tea is especially high in phytonutrients, called catechins, that offer a slight metabolic boost to help you burn more calories, 24/7.
Turns out, green tea is especially good for belly fat. One study found that green tea actually helps you shed more belly fat during your workouts, making each sweat session even more worth it. And another study found that compounds in green tea might prevent weight gain, especially belly fat accumulation. So even if your diet goes off the rails (hello, vacay!) green tea’s got your back.
Try This: Of course, you can steep hot green tea like a pro. But if you're looking for more variety, try our delicious flavored iced green tea recipe.
If you’re still avoiding soy out of fear of “plant estrogens,” now’s the time to stop. Not only do the plant estrogens in soy seem to have cardiovascular benefits, but the other nutrients in soy help you lose belly fat. Soy comes packed with high-quality protein, and because you burn more calories digesting protein than other nutrients, it’ll boost your metabolism.
Soy will also give you a leg up on losing belly fat, reports a recent study. The study authors found that women who followed a soy-rich weight loss diet lost more weight — and, in particular, lost more harmful belly fat — than women who didn’t eat soy.
Try This: Whip up a crunchy and satisfying snack with our roasted soybean recipe.
If you're a breast cancer survivor, talk to your doctor before adding soy to your diet.
An apple a day ... keeps the belly fat at bay! Apples are especially rich in soluble fiber, a special type of fiber that mixes with water in your digestive system and forms a gel. That soluble fiber actually changes the way you absorb nutrients and makes it more difficult to absorb fat, so more fat passes through your system without getting digested (which also means it won’t contribute to your daily calorie count!).
Knowing that, it’s no surprise that people who eat more soluble fiber tend to carry less belly fat. Those belly fat-burning benefits increase with exercise, too, so try eating your apple as a pre-workout snack to banish your belly.
Try This: Keep it simple by topping your sliced apple with some homemade almond butter. Pssst.. this recipe works with other nuts too. We recommend macadamias or pecans!
You already know eggs are a fantastic source of protein — which already makes them fantastic for boosting your metabolism — but they’re especially good for weight loss. Opting for an egg-based breakfast helps you shed more belly fat when you’re following a weight loss diet, a recent study found.
Make sure you’re eating the whole egg, not just the more traditionally diet-friendly egg whites. New research shows that egg yolks contain a protein, called anti-lipase immunoglobulin, that might prevent fat absorption, which would help you reach your weight loss goals. Plus, you’ll get essential nutrients, like vitamin A and iron, that aren’t present in the white.
Try This: Go for a deceptively simple breakfast with eggs baked in tomatoes. You can make them ahead of time on the weekend and reheat during the week. If eggs for dinner is more your style, try our herb and zucchini frittata recipe.
5. Whole Grains
Good news: You don’t need to avoid carbs to lose belly fat! A diet high in whole grains — as opposed to refined grains, like white bread and pasta — is linked to lower belly fat levels, a recent study found.
Those weight loss benefits aren’t surprising when you look at whole grains’ nutritional profile. Some whole grains, like oatmeal, come packed with soluble fiber, so you’ll get similar fat-burning benefits as you do from apples. The dietary fiber found in all whole grains keeps you full between meals, while the grains’ starch helps you power through the tough workouts you’ll need to do to slim your midsection. Add in metabolism-boosting protein — which is especially abundant in quinoa and amaranth — and you’ve got the perfect one-two punch for faster fat loss.