Did you know certain food choices and lifestyle changes can help flatten your stomach and reduce bloating? Decreasing belly fat is essential for maintaining good health: too much abdominal fat can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes.
Lena Beal, M.S., RD, LD, a Piedmont therapeutic dietitian, shares seven tips to trim belly fat.
1. Eat fiber-rich foods.
Add more high-fiber foods to your diet, like fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains (such as rolled oats, brown rice and whole-wheat bread). But make these changes slowly, cautions Beal.
“Fiber helps food move through your intestine, but it takes time for your body to adjust to eating more of it,” says Beal. “Adding too much fiber too quickly may result in gas, bloating and cramping.”
2. Incorporate probiotics into your diet.
Probiotics help promote a healthy digestive tract. They are found in fermented dairy products, like yogurt, kefir and aged cheeses, which contain live cultures, such as bifidobacteria and lactobacilli. Non-dairy foods that contain beneficial cultures include kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut, miso, and tempeh.
3. Rule out wheat allergies or lactose intolerance.
“Food allergies and intolerances can cause gas and bloat,” says Beal. “But these need to be confirmed by your doctor. Many people self-diagnose these conditions and unnecessarily eliminate healthy dairy and whole grains from their diets. If you suspect you have an allergy or intolerance, see your doctor for tests.”
4. Watch what you drink.
Alcohol and caffeine can stimulate your intestines, which can cause diarrhea. And carbonated beverages can produce gas.
“When in doubt, drink water,” says Beal.
5. Eat healthy fats.
“While fat is high in calories, research suggests that moderate amounts of healthy fats may be just what you need to keep your weight and health in tip-top shape,” says Beal. “Omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats are linked to better health and perhaps a slimmer waistline.”
Omega-3s are found in fish, and scientists believe they may influence how fat is used and stored in the body.
“Omega-3s may help reduce body fat with or without cutting calories,” says Beal. “Add a physical activity and the loss of body fat can increase.”
Monounsaturated fat is found in nuts, olive and canola oils, and avocados.
“Not only do they improve blood cholesterol levels, which can lower your risk of heart disease, but they may help with keeping blood sugar levels in check,” says Beal. “This could be potentially helpful for appetite control, though the data is inconclusive.”
6. Limit salt intake.
Excess salt promotes water retention, which leads to bloating.
“Aim for no more than 2,300 milligrams of salt per day,” says Beal. “And make sure sodium levels are less than 300 milligrams per serving on food labels.”
7. Go easy on refined sugar.
Eating too much sugar can lead to weight gain, poor gut health, inflammation, and blood sugar fluctuations. Cut back on commercial baked goods like cakes, cookies, pies, and sweetened beverages, like soda, juice and sports drinks.