Do you want to go from a FAT belly to a FLAT belly? Abdominal bloating or carrying unwanted weight around your midsection is often uncomfortable and embarrassing.
To differentiate between the two, bloating is temporary abdominal distention that can be caused by a reaction to certain foods, lifestyle factors or a medical condition, such as liver or heart disease. Belly bloat is really intestinal gas, not excess fat.
However, if you are overweight and want to flatten your belly for the long term, the only solution is to lose weight. Whether it’s gas or excess weight causing you tummy trouble, what you choose to put on your fork can help or hinder your goal of getting a flat belly. Read on to learn about eight flat-belly foods to get you those lean abs you crave.
Dried fennel seeds are very nutritious, containing fiber, magnesium, calcium and iron, and they have long been used as a digestive aid. “Fennel helps to relax the GI [gastrointestinal] muscles, which helps trapped gas pass to alleviate bloating,” says Cynthia Sass, RDN, author of “S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.” Sass recommends people chew on half a teaspoon of seeds after a meal or when their stomach feels distended due to gas buildup. “Or make a simple tea: Add a teaspoon of seeds to a cup of hot water, let steep for five minutes, strain out the seeds and sip,” Sass advises.
Eggs are packed with protein, and eating them for breakfast provides staying power. A study published in Nutrition Research found that people who eat eggs for breakfast were less likely to overeat the rest of the day. Eggs also provide a myriad other nutrients to help keep your tummy trim. For example, they’re a good source of vitamin B12, a nutrient that helps your body break down fat cells. Eggs also provide the power nutrient, vitamin D. Insufficient blood levels of vitamin D have been linked to obesity, including abdominal obesity. If you are worried about the cholesterol in the yolk, a 2008 report from the ongoing Physicians’ Health Study supports the idea that eating an egg a day is generally safe for the heart. But talk to your doctor to determine what is best for you.
Healthful monounsaturated fats found in olive oil could potentially switch on genes related to the burning and storage of fat. Monounsaturated fats also help control blood sugar levels, which play a key role in keeping hunger at bay and reducing fat accumulation around the midsection. Before you pour olive oil all over your food in the hopes of a slimmer waistline, keep in mind that a serving size of olive oil is one tablespoon, which has 120 calories.
While all green vegetables are low-calorie nutrient superstars that promote a healthy weight, asparagus serves triple duty in its anti-bloating effects. “First, it’s a source of prebiotics, which support the growth of ‘good’ bacteria to help maintain a healthy balance in the digestive system to prevent and/or reduce gas. It also contains soluble and insoluble fiber to promote overall digestive health as well as natural anti-inflammatory substances to reduce GI irritation,” says Cynthia Sass, RDN. To reduce belly bloat, eat steamed asparagus a few times a week. For an additional flat-belly boost, lightly drizzle your asparagus with olive oil.
Whole grains — including quinoa, popcorn, oats and wheat — can help flatten your stomach. A study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that people who eat whole grains lose more abdominal fat than those who don’t. The tummy-tucking powers of whole grains likely come from the fiber content. Fiber aids in keeping insulin levels low, which may help shrink fat cells. Whole grains also provide vitamins, minerals and antioxidants for good health. The USDA recommends healthy adults consume about six ounces of total grains per day, and that at least half of those grains should be whole grains.
Although many people think bananas are fattening, they are actually an important flat-belly food. “Foods rich in potassium help de-bloat the belly by acting as a natural diuretic, triggering the release of excess sodium and water the body is retaining. The soluble fiber in bananas can also help relieve or prevent constipation, which can be a major cause of a belly pooch,” says Cynthia Sass, RDN. Grab a banana as a daily snack, or whip one into a smoothie. Other foods high in potassium to help fight belly bloat include sweet potatoes, nuts, tomatoes, green leafy vegetables and dates.
Cucumbers are loaded with water and naturally low in calories to help with hydration and weight management. One whole cucumber has just 45 calories. If you are feeling bloated, cucumbers can help with that too. For flatter abs, eat cucumbers daily as a snack or add them to a salad or sandwich.
Drinking enough water supports the other ways you’re trying to flatten your stomach. “Water is essential for moving fiber through the GI system and preventing constipation. Everyone’s water needs are different. Eight glasses a day is a general rule of thumb for adults, but you may need more or less depending on the environment where you live and how active you are,” says Rachel Begun, M.S., RDN, a food and nutrition consultant in Boulder, Colorado. A good way to determine know if you’re drinking enough water is to check the color of your urine — the clearer the better. Since fizzy water can cause bloating, choose flat water and switch up the taste with slices of lemon, lime, cucumber or fresh peppermint leaves.