It’s a dietary miracle: A fat that makes you skinny. Dietary supplementation of coconut oil actually reduced abdominal obesity in a study published in the journal Lipids. Of the participants, half were given two tablespoons of coconut oil daily and the other half were given soybean oil, and although both groups experienced overall weight loss, only the coconut oil group saw smaller waistlines. And other researchers have also pointed to the waist-whittling effects of the tropical oil. In a separate study of 30 men, those who ate 2 tablespoons of coconut oil a day shrank their waists by an average of 1.1 inches in one month. Thank C.O.’s medium-chain triglycerides, which are burned as energy instead of being stored as fat, and lauric acid, which has been shown to pinpoint belly fat and torch it.
For example, you might not realize just how much you eat when you go out to happy hour with friends. But if you take the split second to take a step back and make yourself aware of that fact, you’re more able to make a healthy decision. “The awareness and then planning and coming up with strategies for what else I can be doing—that might give me the same benefit of eating those comfort foods that make me feel better,” says Gagliardi.
Sunny side up, scrambled, hard-boiled, or fried—it doesn’t matter. A pan, spatula, and carton of eggs are all you need to fry some serious flab. Eggs are one of the best sources of choline, a major fat-burning nutrient that helps turn off the genes responsible for belly-fat storage. Bonus: eggs are a great source of lean protein, which can set the fat-burning pace for your entire day when eaten for breakfast. In a study of 21 men published in the journal Nutrition Research, half were fed a breakfast of bagels while half ate eggs. The egg group were observed to have a lower response to ghrelin, were less hungry three hours later and consumed fewer calories for the next 24 hours!
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.
Legumes provide plant-based lean protein. Protein takes longer to digest, thereby burning more calories, according to Fat Free Kitchen. Eating a bowl of bean soup for dinner or having a bean salad can help burn calories during sleeping hours. Legumes include lentils, split peas and varieties of beans. Beans include dried and/or canned kidney, black, navy, white, red, chickpeas or garbanzos, great northern and lima varieties.
Say cheese! Adding some extra calcium and vitamin D to your diet could be the best way to get the flat stomach you’ve been dreaming about. Over just 12 months, researchers at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville found that obese female study subjects who upped their calcium intake shed 11 pounds of body fat without other major dietary modifications. To keep your calcium choices healthy, try mixing it up between dairy sources, calcium-rich leafy greens, fatty fish, nuts, and seeds.
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’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.
Sure, ketchup is tasty, but it’s also a serious saboteur when it comes your weight loss efforts. Ketchup is loaded with sugar — up to four grams per tablespoon — and bears little nutritional resemblance to the fruit from which it’s derived. Luckily, swapping out your ketchup for salsa can help you shave off that belly fat at home without a diet. Fresh tomatoes, like those used in salsa, are loaded with lycopene, which a study conducted at China Medical University in Taiwan links to reductions in both overall fat and waist circumference. If you like your salsa spicy, all the better; the capsaicin in hot peppers, like jalapeños and chipotles, can boost your metabolism, too.
Berries are packed with polyphenol antioxidants that will help burn fat—and prevent it from forming—as well as boost your workout benefits by improving blood flow to your muscles. According to a Texas Woman’s University study, mice that ate three daily servings of berries had 73 percent fewer fat cells. Pop some of the blue guys into your next smoothie and boost the fat-burning potential: blueberries are a potent source of resveratrol, an antioxidant which an International Journal of Obesity study showed could convert excess harmful white fat in mice into calorie-burning beige fat, which correlated with a 40 percent decreased risk for obesity. And when it comes to the sugar content in fruit, berries rank favorably on the list but are still a powerful way to curb cravings for sweets.
A little garlic in your meals could mean a lot less weight around your middle. The results of a Korean study found that mice given a high-fat diet supplemented with garlic lost significantly more weight and abdominal fat than those who just ate fatty foods. Even better, they also improved their liver health, making it easier to stay healthy and burn off that excess fat in the long term. For more flavorful ways to make your food more enjoyable, turn to the metabolism-boosting spicy recipes and watch those pounds melt away.
Don’t buy your tickets to Bonnaroo just yet; the kind of acid that will help you slim down is the stuff right inside your cabinet. A 12-week study published in Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry reveals that obese study subjects who made vinegar part of their diet dropped more belly fat than a control group, and other research suggests that acidic foods, like vinegar, can increase the human carbohydrate metabolism by as much as 40 percent.
But you'll lose the most fat by doing HIIT, or high-intensity interval training. This training technique involves working at full throttle for short intervals -- typically 10 seconds to a minute -- then recovering at a slow pace or resting for a minute or two. It increases your metabolism after a workout, since your muscles need to work hard to get "back to normal." HIIT also burns more belly fat than traditional, steady-pace cardio, according to Penn State University.