Studies show that excessive belly fat as exhibited by larger waist size and waist circumference is linked to many chronic health conditions.
These include cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
Efforts to reduce belly fat and lose weight can help lower the risk of developing many chronic conditions and add to overall health.
Foods like white bread, sugar-filled fruit juice, soda, and refined grains can lead to weight gain and unwanted stomach fat.
On the contrary, foods high in dietary fiber, protein, and other nutrients can help reduce belly fat.
29 Best Foods to Help Fight Belly Fat
Research has shown that soluble fiber can help reduce abdominal fat.
Individuals who increased their intake of soluble fiber by 10 grams per day saw a 3.7% decrease in belly fat over a five-year period (1).
One cup of chopped avocado provides 240 calories and 3 grams of soluble fiber.
2. Healthy Fats
Saturated fats in butter and high-fat meats have been shown to increase abdominal fat (2).
One study found that increasing intake of either coconut oil or olive oil lowered levels of LDL cholesterol and raised levels of HDL cholesterol after four weeks while butter made cholesterol levels worse (3).
Many people believe that coconut oil can help with weight loss, unfortunately, there is little evidence to support this claim (4).
However, both coconut oil and olive oil can still be part of a healthy diet when consumed in moderation.
3. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish including salmon, tuna, and herring are important sources of many nutrients including omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and iodine.
Seafood can also help shrink your waistline.
Researchers found that increasing intake of fatty fish combined with a calorie-restricted diet led to higher levels of weight loss compared with calorie restriction alone (5).
4. Sweet Potato
Orange sweet potatoes are low in fat and an excellent source of vitamin C, potassium and beta carotene.
Beta carotene is converted in our bodies to vitamin A which is needed for eye health and a strong immune system.
One cup of cooked sweet potato contains 114 calories and 6 grams of dietary fiber.
5. Leafy Greens
Leafy greens are packed full of beneficial nutrients like fiber, vitamin C, folate and vitamin A.
Studies have found that eating more low-calorie foods like spinach, kale, and salad greens can help you lose weight by controlling hunger levels and increasing feelings of satiety.
Raw carrots are a crunchy, nutritious snack that can help reduce body fat in the midsection. A cup of chopped carrots contains just 53 calories and 3.5 grams of dietary fiber.
7. Greek Yogurt
Yogurt is a nutrient-dense food that has been shown to help reduce belly fat.
Research has found that individuals who consumed a daily serving of yogurt as part of a calorie-restricted diet saw a greater loss of belly fat over a 12 week period compared with calorie restriction alone (6).
Greek yogurt contains two to three times more protein than traditional yogurt.
In addition to helping reduce belly fat, the high protein content of Greek yogurt can help increase feelings of fullness and reduce eating at subsequent meals (7).
Bananas are a portable and delicious low-fat snack. A medium banana contains 105 calories, 3 grams of fiber, 10% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of potassium, and 25% of the RDI of Vitamin B6.
9. Tea and Coffee
While some studies support the role of caffeine in weight loss, there is currently not enough evidence to recommend starting a coffee drinking habit if you do not already have one.
Store-bought lattes are packed with saturated fat and sugar, nutrients known to increase levels of abdominal fat.
Brew coffee at home and limit the amount of added cream and sugar.
You may also want to consider replacing coffee with green tea as your go-to morning beverage.
Green tea contains high levels of polyphenols, plant-based compounds that can reduce inflammation and fight cancer.
Studies suggest that green tea can increase fat burning during exercise, reduce food intake, and increase metabolism during the day (8).
Berries are full of beneficial nutrients including vitamin C and manganese, a potent antioxidant.
Regular consumption of blueberries has been linked with weight loss, improved brain function, and lower blood pressure.
Raspberries are packed full of plant-based nutrients. A cup of raspberries contains 8 grams of belly fat busting dietary fiber and 64 total calories.
11. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has received a lot of attention for its potential ability to reduce abdominal fat, but little research exists to back up these claims.
One study did find that individuals consuming a beverage containing 1 or 2 tablespoons of vinegar daily for 12 weeks did lose more weight than those given a placebo.
The effect was small, ranging from 2.5 to 4 pounds of weight loss over a three-month period (9).
Use caution if you drink apple cider vinegar as the high acidity can be damaging to your teeth and possibly cause heartburn.
Dilute it with water and stick to one tablespoon or less per day. Seek medical advice if you experience any unwanted side effects.
12. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 70% or higher has more nutrients than milk chocolate.
However, these nutrients are present in very small amounts and will not have a significant beneficial impact on your health.
After dinner, try satisfying your sweet tooth with a small square of dark chocolate instead of a handful of cookies or frozen snacks full of added sugars.
13. Chicken Breast
Chicken can be used in a variety of ways and when consumed without the skin is very high in protein while low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
Research suggests that a high protein intake combined with increased levels of physical activity is beneficial for weight loss and can help get rid of unwanted belly fat.
A three-ounce serving of cooked skinless chicken breast provides 24 grams of protein and 117 total calories.
Oats are gluten-free whole grains that are a great source of nutrients in our diets.
One cup of cooked plain instant oatmeal prepared with water provides 5.5 grams of protein, 163 calories, and 4.5 grams of fiber.
Sweeten oatmeal with fresh or frozen berries for a super healthy and filling low-fat breakfast.
15. Apples and Pears
Apples are a perfect low-fat snack. A medium apple has 95 calories and 4.4 grams of fiber.
The majority of the nutrients and about half of the fiber are found in the peel. Be sure to eat the whole apple.
Pears are another great fruit to include in a weight loss plan.
A retrospective analysis found that individuals who ate pears on a regular basis were 35% less likely to be diagnosed with obesity (10).
Eggs are one of the healthiest sources of high-quality proteins.
Diets rich in high-quality protein are linked to lower body weight and lower levels of abdominal fat (11).
The protein in eggs is split about evenly between the egg white and the yolk. It is considered high quality because it contains every essential amino acid needed for proper health.
The majority of the vitamins and minerals are concentrated in the egg yolk. Be sure to eat the whole egg to enjoy the full nutritional benefits.
Half of a medium grapefruit provides 41 calories, 2 grams of fiber, and 59% of the RDI of vitamin C.
Red and pink varieties are also a source of vitamin A.
A word of caution. Grapefruit contains compounds that can interact with certain medications.
Be sure to seek medical advice from your doctor or registered dietitian before adding grapefruit to your diet.
Beans and lentils are the edible seeds of a class of plants called legumes.
Beans are full of plant-based protein and many of the essential B vitamins including thiamine and folate.
One cup of black beans contains a whopping 15 grams of fiber and 15 grams of plant protein.
19. Fermented Foods
Fermentation is a natural process that can help to preserve foods.
The process of fermenting foods like sauerkraut and kimchi promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria known as probiotics.
Research has investigated the role that different probiotic strains may play in weight loss. The results have been mixed.
For example, a study found that probiotics from the Lactobacillus family helped reduce the absorption of calories from food (12).
Other studies have shown no benefit. More research is needed in this area.
20. Whole Grains
Refined grains have been proven to contribute to belly fat accumulation while whole-grain foods like quinoa, brown rice, couscous, and whole wheat bread can help fight belly fat.
For example, brown rice is a healthy whole grain alternative to white rice.
Brown rice provides considerably more nutritional value than white rice including more fiber, manganese, and magnesium and about the same number of total calories. Brown rice is also surprisingly high in protein providing 5 grams of protein per cup.
Lemon water is a great low-calorie beverage to help reduce body fat. The juice from half of lemon adds only six total calories to a glass of water.
In a recent study, two groups of individuals were given reduced-calorie meals. Half of the group was also told to drink two cups of water before the meal.
After 12 weeks, the group that drank water before the meal reduced their calorie intake and lost significantly more weight than the group that only consumed the lower-calorie meal (13).
While this study was not specifically focused on lemon water it provides good evidence that drinking water before a meal can help you lose weight and reduce belly fat. Drinking lemon water can be a great strategy to try.
Garlic adds a unique flavor to foods. Raw or cooked, garlic can help increase the consumption of vegetables as part of a fat loss diet.
A recent analysis found that supplementing with garlic powder can result in a loss of body fat (14).
However, there was no consistency in the amount of supplement taken or the duration. More comprehensive studies are needed before recommendations can be made.
Broccoli is a good source of vitamin C, folate, calcium, vitamin K, and many plant-based compounds called phytonutrients. One cup of chopped cooked broccoli provides 6 grams of fiber and 64 calories.
Research has shown that mushrooms can help shrink belly fat. One study placed two groups of individuals on a calorie-restricted diet.
Half of the group was asked to replace red meat with mushrooms in their diet three times per week.
After 12 months the mushroom group had lost more weight and more belly fat than the group that ate red meat throughout the study period (15).
An added benefit of mushrooms is that when exposed to sunlight they can be a source of vitamin D in our diets.
25. Chili Peppers
Capsaicin is the biologically active substance that gives hot peppers like cayenne and chili peppers their spice.
There is some evidence to suggest that intake of capsaicin can lead to weight loss by reducing appetite and helping to combat insulin resistance (16).
More research is needed to determine the proper dosage.
26. Herbs and Spices
Herbs and spices including basil, oregano, and thyme are often overlooked in a healthy diet plan.
They add flavor to foods and contain very few calories making them the perfect addition to any fat loss diet.
Supplementation with cinnamon has shown promising results in early trials looking at the management of blood sugar levels in diabetes.
More high-quality studies are needed to determine the proper dosage for cinnamon to be used as a complementary therapy for diabetes (17).
Olives are a savory snack that are full of heart-healthy fats. Consumption of olives has been shown to reduce the risk of many chronic health conditions including heart disease.
Be sure to practice moderation if you add olives to your diet because they can be high in sodium and a serving of just 10 olives provides 59 total calories.
If how to lose a fat belly is on your mind, grapes are a healthy and delicious snack to try. They are a source of many vitamins and minerals including vitamin C and vitamin K. One cup of grapes contains 104 calories.
29. Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds including almonds, peanuts, pistachios, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds are excellent plant-based snacks.
Research shows that regular consumption of nuts can lead to a loss of belly fat with no change in overall weight (18).
Stick to a quarter cup serving of lightly salted or unsalted, dry roasted nuts and seeds. Nuts are a great mid-afternoon snack that will keep you full until dinner.
Nut butters like peanut butter are another great way to increase your nut consumption. Just be sure to choose a nut butter that has no added sugar as those excess calories can get in the way of weight loss efforts.
The Bottom Line
Unfortunately, we cannot target a specific area of the body for weight loss.
However, a weight management strategy that includes a variety of belly fat-fighting foods can help reduce unwelcome fat in the abdomen area.
To lose belly fat and keep it off aim for a balanced diet rich in plant foods including lots of fresh fruits and veggies and whole grains.
Choose lean proteins and fatty fish with a healthy dose of omega 3 fatty acids, and use healthy oils such as olive oil as the main source of dietary fat.
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