15 Foods That May Help Flatten Your Belly
Say hello to a slimmer waistline by including these flat belly foods in your diet.
Oats and nuts
The best way to zap belly fat is to slash excess calories. However, not all calories are created equal and not all foods need to be reduced. Increasing the amount of soluble fiber you consume, for instance, is one good way to flatten your midsection, says Jessica Crandall, RDN, CEO of VitalRD.
Foods that are rich in soluble fiber include oats, nuts, beans and berries. You should aim for 25-35 grams per day, especially if you’re diabetic. Soluble fiber does a much better job controlling your blood sugar than carbs, like a piece of bread, which can make your blood sugar spike then drop. If plain oatmeal doesn’t sound exciting to you, try something like The Healthy-editor favorite Yishi, which offers creative and delicious flavors (Taro Bubble Tea! Matcha Latte!) that are packed with protein and fiber.
Get The Healthy @Reader’s Digest newsletter
Bananas get a bad reputation (too carby!) as far as healthy foods are concerned, but they’re actually a good source of nutrients. In particular, the potassium in bananas can help flush extra fluids out of your system. “If you’re carrying too much water weight, like if you ate a lot of salty foods the night before, high-potassium foods can help get rid of that water weight,” Crandall says.
Watermelon is another fruit that’s high in potassium to cut down on water weight. According to a study in the journal Nutrition, watermelon is also a fantastic source of arginine, an amino acid that assists the body in burning fat quickly.
Probiotic foods contain “good” bacteria that can regulate digestion. A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that women taking probiotics lost more weight than female participants who weren’t put on probiotics. Crandall recommends one probiotic-rich food each day for healthy digestion, like one of these probiotic-filled foods.
If you regularly opt for salty or sugary snacks, extra belly fat can sneak up and surprise you once you step on the scale. Resist the urge to open that bag of potato chips and much on cucumber slices instead. Their high water content and low-calorie count make them a guilt-free snack, plus their soluble fiber will fill you up and keep you full.
Papayas are often overlooked for more conventional fruits, but they’re worth adding to your grocery list, says Crandall. They contain many proteolytic enzymes that make digestion easier and are good sources of fiber, vitamin A and vitamin C.
Yes, asparagus can make your urine smell, but since it has such great health benefits, you should keep eating it anyway. High levels of the amino acid asparagine make asparagus a natural diuretic. Plus, just one cup of asparagus contains three grams of fiber, so it’ll keep you full in between meals, says Crandall. Other fiber-rich veggies include bell peppers, broccoli and snap peas.
Feeling bloated? Suck on a candy cane. Crandall notes that peppermint extract is known to decrease gas and ease digestive irritation. Even sniffing peppermint may make you less hungry and prevent overeating.
If you’re overworked, your job could explain why your pants are tighter than normal. Research shows that stress can make you sick and even affect your weight. “Stress really does increase belly fat,” Crandall warns. Chamomile tea naturally calms your body and eases bloating. Staying hydrated is another way to fight belly fat, and drinking tea can help you reach the recommended ten glasses of fluids each day.
Be sure to check the label before you buy chocolate bars; they could be healthier than you think. Dark chocolate that contains more than 60% cacao has high antioxidant properties. “It can decrease inflammation and curb your sweet cravings,” Crandall says, “so you’re not just reaching for that milk chocolate bar.” Keep a few ounces of dark chocolate in your bag for a sweet treat, along with these on-the-go snacks nutritionists always eat.
Spice up your dinner plate with chili peppers tonight; trust us, your belly will thank you. Not only do chili peppers boost your metabolism, but capsaicin—the active component that makes them taste hot—may help prevent cravings and overeating. Cynthia Sass, RD, a dietitian based in New York City and Los Angeles, recommends adding chili peppers to an omelet, salad, or stir-fry to maximize your flat-belly gains.
Avocados are all the rage these days and for good reason. Just one of these superfoods packs a huge nutritional punch, with 13 grams of fiber and 20 grams of monounsaturated fatty acids—both of which have waist-whittling benefits. In a study at Penn State, people who regularly consumed a dose of monounsaturated fat had 1.6% less belly fat than those who didn’t.
If your tummy starts rumbling between meals, a handful of almonds might do the trick. Like dark chocolate and avocados, the nut contains heart-healthy (and hunger-fighting!) monounsaturated fats to help you slim down. The science backs it up, too: One study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that when people who snacked on 1.5 ounces of almonds a day lost more weight than those who ate a high-carb snack.
Good news, green tea drinkers: Your daily sip can do wonders for your waistline. The antioxidants found in this ancient beverage can increase your energy levels, aid digestion, and burn fat, for starters.
- Jessica Crandall, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Denver.
- Nutrition: "Watermelon consumption increases plasma arginine concentrations in adults."
- British Journal of Nutrition: "Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus Supplementation on Weight Loss."
- Cynthia Sass, RD, dietitian, New York City and Los Angeles.
- Penn State: "Monounsaturated Fats Reduce Metabolic Syndrome Risk."
- Journal of the American Heart Association: "Effects of Daily Almond Consumption on Cardiometabolic Risk and Abdominal Adiposity in Healthy Adults with Elevated LDL-Cholesterol."