Research suggests these magical pulses are one of the closest things we have to a fat-burning pill. For starters, beans are a great source of resistant starch, a type of slow-digesting, insoluble fiber that feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut, triggering the production of the chemical butyrate, which encourages the body to burn fat as fuel and reduces fat-causing inflammation. They’re also one of the top sources of soluble fiber. A recent study by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center researchers found that for every additional 10 grams of soluble fiber eaten per day, a study subject’s belly fat was reduced by 3.7 percent over five years. Black beans? One cup boasts an impressive 4.8 grams of soluble fiber.
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.
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.
Bad breath is but a small price to pay for reaching your body goals, right? According to a recent Japanese study, when rats were put on a high-fat diet, the animals that were also given a garlic compound gained less weight than their peers. Experts attribute the fat-fighting benefits to a powerful compound in garlic called allicin. (It also happens to be the same compound that gives garlic its pungent taste and smell.)
It's normal to feel a few hunger pangs when you cut your calorie intake, but you don't want to feel ravenous. Filling your diet with low energy-density foods -- ones that have a low calorie count per gram -- allows you to fill up on larger portions while controlling your calorie intake. Many of these foods also supply water and fiber, which can make you feel full, to help with weight loss.
Some cheat meals are better than others. And a high-carbohydrate, moderate-protein meal, however “naughty,” can help you stay on track. The reason: Carbohydrates have the greatest influence on leptin levels, which help you burn fat and feel satisfied. And protein has the greatest influence on satiety because of its influence on appetite-regulating hormones and high thermic effect—the process of digesting protein requires more energy of your body than any other macronutrient. So, go ahead and grab a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs. Contrary to popular belief, pasta is actually a fairly low-glycemic food, meaning it won’t drastically spike your blood sugar levels.
Whole grains contain nutrients that burn fat by keeping your insulin levels low, according to the New York Daily News. Whole grains provide excellent sources of complex carbohydrates and fiber, both beneficial in stimulating your metabolism. This results in burning more fat and calories, according to Fat Free Kitchen. Whole grains include whole wheat, barley, brown rice, quinoa, spelt, kamut, wheat bran and wheat germ. Eating a bowl of oatmeal in the morning will both fill you up and start your day energized. A late night snack of a whole grain fruit-filled bar will help your body burn calories while sleeping.
If you don’t have an established exercise routine, simply walking is the best first step toward weight loss. “Walking is a pretty good entry point for people,” says Gagliardi. This is particularly true if you have been out of the gym for a while and want to ease back into a workout routine. One small study published in The Journal of Exercise Nutrition & Biochemistry found that obese women who did a walking program for 50 to 70 minutes three days per week for 12 weeks significantly slashed their visceral fat compared to a sedentary control group.
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.
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.
Use an adult energy needs calculator to estimate your calorie intake needs; then subtract the 500 to 1,000 calories for weight loss. For example, a 28-year-old woman who is 5 foot, 9-inches tall weighs 175 pounds and is lightly active -- less than an hour a day -- burns about 2,400 calories daily. She'll burn about 2 pounds of fat in a week if she eats 1,400 calories daily, or 1 pound a week if she eats 1,900 calories a day.
Set yourself up to lose excess belly fat by setting realistic goals. You won't be able to lose fat exclusively from your belly -- it will come from all over your body, including your midsection -- or shed 20 pounds in just a week. You can, however, lose 1 to 2 pounds of fat to start slimming your midsection, using sustainable methods that'll allow for larger weight loss over longer periods of time.
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.