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.
Foods rich in the amino acid leucine can help build the lean muscle mass that’s needed to trim excess fat from your frame, according to Jennifer McDaniel, MS, RDN, CSSD, LD. It literally jumpstarts the process of developing muscle mass—and red meats are one of the best sources around. Go grass-fed to get the added benefits of omega-3s and conjugated linoleic acids—these two fatty acids help to decrease the inflammation in your body that causes fat storage.
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.
But just because belly fat comes off a bit more easily doesn’t make it less dangerous. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. “Belly fat is unfortunately the most dangerous location to store fat,” says Dr. Cheskin. Because belly fat—also known as visceral fat, or the deep abdominal fat that surrounds your organs—is more temporary, it’s more active in terms of circulating in the bloodstream. That means it’s likely to raise the amount of fat in your blood (known as blood lipid levels) and increase your blood sugar levels, which as a result raises your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
While few would suggest you start hitting up the tanning beds for better health, getting some natural sunlight can help you get rid of belly fat in a matter of weeks. Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center found that vitamin D-deficient overweight women between 50 and 75 who upped their intake of the so-called sunshine vitamin shed more weight and body fat than those who didn’t. To practice safe sun, make sure you’re limiting yourself to 15 sunscreen-free minutes per day.
“For some people, it’s knowing, ‘Typically I eat a whole sandwich,’” says Gagliardi. “‘Now, I’m going to make the decision to eat half a sandwich at lunch and save the other half for my dinner and essentially cut my calories in half. And they feel good about that. They’re not having to do math.” To get started, check out these 25 simple ways to cut 500 calories a day.
Resolve to do more prying. Oysters are one of the best food sources of zinc, a mineral that works with the hormone leptin to regulate appetite. Research shows that overweight people tend to have higher levels of leptin and lower levels of zinc than slimmer folk. A study published in the journal Life Sciences found that taking zinc supplements could increase leptin production in obese men by 142 percent! A half-dozen oysters only have 43 calories but provides 21 percent of your RDA of iron—deficiencies of which have been linked to a significant increase in fat gene expression.
This is high in fiber and heart healthy monounsaturated fats that keep you satiated. Monosaturated fats like Oleic acid help the utilization of the body as a slow burning energy source. Avocados contain 11 to 17 grams of fiber, making them the idea addition to dishes or best even if taken alone. These foods improve the extraction of nutrients from other foods. This ensures insulin sensitivity remains within healthy levels and glycemic control is a factor in gaining weight and combating diabetes. These reduce bad cholesterol and raise HDL or good cholesterol levels.
If you’ve got weight to lose and you want it gone fast, try swapping out your usual proteins in favor of fish. Not only is fish lower in calories than an equivalent amount of beef or chicken, a study published in Obesity reveals study subjects who added omega-3 fatty acids, like those found in fish, to their diets shed more weight and had an easier time keeping it off than those who skipped them.
Each slice of grapefruit you add to your salad acts like a match to spark your body’s fat-burning ability. A study published in the journal Metabolism found that those who ate grapefruit for six weeks lost a full inch off their waistlines. What’s behind the belt-tightening effect? The fruit is rich in phytochemicals, bioactive compounds that recent research shows stimulate the production of a hormone called adiponectin, which is involved in the breakdown of body fat. Japanese research suggests the smell of the juicy fruit can “turn on” calorie-burning brown fat cells, promoting the breakdown of body fat while reducing appetite.
Who knew there was a connection between a spicy pepper scorching your mouth and burning your belly fat? Scientists did! According to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, daily consumption of one of the compounds found in pepper (capsaicin) speeds up abdominal fat loss by boosting the body’s ability to convert food into energy. It also acts as a natural appetite suppressant: men who ate spicy appetizers consumed 200 fewer calories at later meals than those that did not, a study by Canadian researchers found. All you have to do to reap the benefits is use a pinch of cayenne pepper to season grilled fish, meats, and eggs.
Some of the most well known marine veggies are nori, wakame, kombu, hijiki and arame. With Omega 3 fatty acids, sea veggies are perfect for combating inflammation. This is a potent means of fighting inflammation so that the body can prevent inflammation and flatten the belly. So remember to buy these fresh and organic rather than processed and filled with sodium.