The fat-burning equation is simple: Protein builds muscle. More muscle = more fat burning. And fish is one of the healthiest sources of lean protein—especially wild salmon, says dietitian Lauren Minchen, MPH, RD, CDN. It’s also a rich source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, which fuel fat burning, block fat storage and aid weight loss, she explains. But that’s not all: “Getting enough protein and healthy fat also helps to reduce cravings and has been shown to help keep weight off for longer,” adds Alissa Rumsey, MS, RD, CDN, CSCS.
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.
Many teas have been shown to boost metabolism, block the creation of new fat cells, speed the release of fat from cells, and actually turn off fat genes due to their catechin levels, but green tea has a leg up on the competition. This magical elixir is particularly high in the antioxidant ECGC, the compound that burns fat and stops it from forming. Pair your tea with a workout for a fat-burning bonus. Exercisers who drank four to five cups of green tea daily and worked out for 25 minutes lost more belly fat than their non-tea-drinking counterparts, a study published in The Journal of Nutrition found.
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.
This classic lunchbox sandwich condiment is teeming with flat-belly nutrients such as cholesterol-lowering monounsaturated fats and is a great source of plant-based protein. According to a recent study presented at the annual Society for Endocrinology conference, researchers found that when protein is digested and broken down into amino acids in your body, one of those amino acids—phenylalanine—triggers hormones that help reduce appetite and ultimately leads to fat burn and weight loss. Go for brands that have an ingredient list of just two items: nuts and a little salt, or look to our guide: Best and Worst Peanut Butters.
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.
This naturally sweet winter squash boasts one of the highest fiber counts of all the veggies, ringing in at a whopping 9 grams per cup. Promoting feelings of fullness—and thus staving off overeating so you can burn, rather than gain, fat—with satiating fiber isn’t the only way you’ll target that turkey neck. That’s because acorn squash is also an excellent source of vitamin C, a micronutrient that your body uses to decrease levels of the fat-storing hormone cortisol and boost the fat-burning effects of exercise, according to Arizona State University researchers.
That sour cherry is pretty sweet when it comes to your health. The results of a study conducted at the University of Michigan found that rats given high-fat foods along with tart cherries ditched nine percent more body fat than those in a control group over just 12 weeks. Cherries are also a good source of antioxidant pigment resveratrol, which has been linked to reductions in belly fat, dementia risk, and lower rates of macular degeneration among the elderly.
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.
This Asian veggie dish is made by fermenting a blend of cabbage, radishes, and scallions with a seasoned paste of red pepper, salted shrimp, or kelp (koji) powder. Fermented foods are great for healing your gut thanks to the high levels of probiotics, but the unique strains found in kimchi may also help you stay slim: Researchers at Kyung Hee University in Korea induced obesity in lab rats by feeding them a high-fat diet. The group that got a Lactobacillus brevis supplement— the culture strain found in kimchi—was able to suppress the diet-induced increase in weight gain by 28 percent! If kimchi isn’t your thing, also consider adding one of these probiotic foods for a healthier gut to your diet.
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.