Belly fat is a common issue for most people. It stops us from wearing what we want to and eating what we desire. Knowing the reasons why belly fat accumulates can serve as a powerful step forward for those who want to cut down on it. Eating the right foods goes a long way towards efforts to burn belly fat faster. Let’s see why and how to win the battle of the bulge.
You say tomato, I say 9-oxo-ODA. That’s the name of a compound found in the brilliant red fruits that Japanese researchers recently discovered can effectively activate your DNA to burn more fat. Tomatoes are also brimming in beta-carotene and lycopene, two potent antioxidants that mop up harmful compounds that promote fat storage. One Journal of Nutrition study found people whose diets contained the most beta-carotene and lycopene had the smallest waists and the least belly fat. And at only 5 calories apiece, grab a few sun-dried tomatoes! Cooked tomatoes contain more bioavailable lycopene than raw tomatoes, according to Cornell University researchers.
One of the reasons your metabolism isn’t burning away fat as efficiently as you’d like? Look to your magnesium levels. This essential micronutrient is required for the body to produce and store energy, and also helps boost lipolysis (a process by which your body releases fat from its stores to use as energy)—yet 75 percent of Americans do not get their RDA of this important metabolism-boosting mineral. Just a half cup of pumpkin seeds provides nearly 100 percent of your daily magnesium needs.
Instead of satisfying your sweet tooth with some refined sugar, turn to berries and enjoy a slimmer waistline in no time without exercise. Berries are loaded with antioxidants, which can help reduce inflammation throughout the body, and research from the University of Michigan reveals that rats given a cherry-rich diet shaved off a significant proportion of their belly fat when compared to a control group. Berries like strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries are also loaded with resveratrol, an antioxidant pigment that has been linked to reductions in belly fat and a reduced risk of dementia, to boot.
Although your diet steers your weight loss progress, not getting enough sleep can be a giant roadblock. When you don’t get enough sleep each night, you’re more likely to eat more calorie-dense meals the next day, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. While we know sleep is an important part of any weight loss routine, many of us don’t realize eating certain foods before putting our heads on the pillow may actually enhance our ability to fall and stay asleep. Among the best foods to eat before sleep is cottage cheese. This snack is rich in casein protein—a slow releasing milk protein that will keep a rumbling tummy at bay through the night—and also contains the sleep-promoting amino acid tryptophan.
If you thought losing weight would mean giving up all your indulgences, look no further than dark chocolate. Louisiana State University researchers found that gut microbes in our stomach ferment chocolate and boost our body’s production of gut-healthy polyphenolic compounds, including butyrate, a fatty acid that encourages the body to burn fat as fuel and turns off genes linked to inflammation. (Add fruit to the chocolate to boost fermentation and the release of the compounds.) Make sure you go with chocolate that has a cacao content of 70 percent or above—these have the highest concentrations of antioxidant polyphenols.
The probiotics in yogurt can support a healthy gut and your overall wellness. “When your immune system is working well, your gut and brain talk to each other. If you struggle a lot with stress eating, maintaining good digestive health helps nourish a healthy gut so you feel calmer and avoid stress eating,” says Cording. Similar to milk, your best bet is to skip the low-fat varieties—go for full-fat Greek yogurt or Skyr instead.
To start off, aim to do ab work 3 or 4 times a week on non-consecutive days with at least 24 hours of rest in between sessions, says Gagliardi. During those sessions, you can start with simpler moves like crunches, bicycle crunches, and planks. Even though you may only be directly targeting your abs 3 or 4 times a week, you should still be activating your core (aka, tightening your ab muscles) in every workout you do, says Gagliardi.
Load up on low energy density foods, like vegetables, fruits and fat-free broths. A few minor tweaks can lower the energy density of your favorite meals, too. For example, substitute a half-cup of spaghetti and a half-cup of spiralized zucchini "zoodles" for a full cup of spaghetti. Or make a chicken, vegetable and brown rice soup instead of serving grilled chicken with brown rice and veggies; the broth is often very low or virtually free of calories, lowering the energy density of your meal, so you may fill up on fewer calories.
That’s because strength training helps you build muscle, which will replace body fat. In fact, strength training is one of the few activities you can do to spike the amount of calories you burn, even after you’re done with your workout. Bonus: When your metabolic rate becomes faster due to muscle growth, you’ll have a little more wiggle room in your diet if that’s something you struggle with, says Dr. Cheskin.