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.
There’s a reason everyone harps on about protein: Not only does it help keep you full, but it’s also responsible for repairing the tiny tears caused by strength training in your muscles. This helps them grow bigger and stronger, nudging out body fat in the process. As a general rule of thumb, aim to get at least 70 grams of protein throughout the day, says Dr. Cheskin. (These high-protein foods can help you reach that goal.)
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.
Carbs are not the enemy. Not whole-grain carbs, that is. People who ate three or more daily servings of whole grains (such as oats) had 10 percent less belly fat than people who ate the same amount of calories from processed white carbs (bread, rice, pasta), according to a Tufts University study. It’s theorized that this is due to whole grains’ high fiber and slow-burn properties, which keep you satiated longer.
Stop treating your kitchen like an all-night diner and you’ll stop seeing those unwanted pounds piling onto your frame, too. The results of a study published in Cell Metabolism found that mice who only had access to food during an eight-hour period stayed slim over the course of the study, while those who ate the same number of calories over a 16-hour period gained significantly more weight, particularly around their middle. When you’re finished with dinner at night, shut the fridge and don’t look back until morning — your belly will thank you. When you do head back to the kitchen in the A.M., make sure the best healthy kitchen staples for cooking are there waiting for you.
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.
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