Who says you need to buy fancy foods to flatten your belly? These 9 stealth superfoods will help you cut calories, strip away fat, and reveal your six-packBy: Emily G. W. Chau
Maybe it’s time to consider trading in your slim-down shake for a tall glass of milk. A 2010 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that drinking milk can nearly double your weight loss efforts. People who downed about two glasses of milk a day while on a diet lost 12 pounds over 6 months, as compared to non-milk drinkers who only dropped 7 pounds. Another study found that dieters who ate three servings of yogurt a day lost 81 percent more belly fat than once-a-day yogurt eaters. Why? Researchers think that calcium doesn’t just build strong bones—it also breaks down stomach fat and interferes with fat formation.
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A bowl of mush may not sound impressive, but a half of a cup of this powerful whole grain contains 15 grams of hunger-quenching fiber at only 150 calories. Unlike more processed and enriched alternatives, whole grains don’t cause wild swings in blood-glucose levels, so you aren’t hit by rebound food cravings an hour after your breakfast. That probably explains why people who eat a diet rich in whole grains can lose 2.4 times more fat from their bellies than those who munch on refined grains. For an extra kick of fiber, dress up your oatmeal with a tablespoon of flaxseed—it’ll add a nutty flavor to your breakfast while boosting the belly-fat fighting powers of oats.
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Research shows that people who eat a handful of nuts two or more times a week are less likely to gain weight than those who don’t nosh on the healthy snack, and macadamia nuts are one of the best choices of the bunch. A single serving (about 10 to 12 pieces) contains 16.7 grams of monounsaturated fats (MUFAs)—a good-for-you fat that’s been shown to increase feelings of satiety, decrease belly fat, and lower bad cholesterol. That’s even higher than what’s found in other popular MUFAs, including avocados and almonds. Just be sure to keep your serving sizes in check. While loaded with healthy fats, macadamia nuts are also calorie dense. Eat too many and the extra calories can contribute to an expanding waistline.
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Beat back your bulge by loading up on leafy greens. Cruciferous veggies are rich in folate, a vitamin that helps augment weight loss. A British Journal of Nutrition study found that people with the highest folate levels lost 8.5 times more weight while on a diet. To get your daily amount of folate, choose vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, and bok choy.
Eggs might be nature’s perfect protein. A recent International Journal of Obesity study found that people who ate a 340-calorie egg breakfast 5 days a week for 8 weeks lost 65 percent more weight than those who fueled up on a bagel breakfast that contained the same number of calories. What’s more, the egg eaters saw no change in their cholesterol or triglyceride levels. Eggs are a great source of protein and are, calorie-for-calorie, more effective at building muscle than beef and milk. Whether you like them scrambled, boiled, or fried, make sure to eat the yolk—that’s where the majority of the protein is stored.
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It’s been pounded into our heads to pick lean meats over fattier kinds, but this doesn’t mean chicken is always superior to beef. To cut calories and trim your waistline, opt for free-range and pasture-raised cuts of meat—whether red or white. Grass-fed beef contains about 30 percent less fat than grain-fed versions (about the same amount of fat found in regular skinless chicken breasts); free-range chicken can contain 25 percent less fat than conventionally raised kinds. Free-range foods also pack higher levels of metabolism-boosting omega-3s and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a proven belly-fat fighter.
The good news about dark chocolate keeps getting better. Snacking on a little bit of the treat may help curb your appetite and cut cravings for other fatty, salty, or sweet foods, say researchers from the University of Copenhagen. They found that those who ate dark chocolate before a pizza lunch consumed about 15 percent fewer calories when they sat down to eat, compared to those who ate a milk chocolate bar. Dark chocolate is also a source of belly-fat fighting MUFAs, so go ahead, indulge a little.
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Here’s a tune everyone can dance to: All evidence points to the fact that stocking up on the “musical fruit” can help whittle your middle. A 2008 Journal of the American College of Nutrition study found that people who regularly include beans in their diets have smaller waists and weigh about 6.6 pounds less (even though they eat 199 calories more per day) than those who forgo the food. Low in fat and cholesterol, but high in fiber and protein, beans fill you up without weighing you down. An added bonus: Bean eaters tend to have lower blood pressure levels.
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If you want to give your daily handful of almonds a rest, try eating pistachios for a change. A UCLA study found that people who ate pistachios as part of their diet for 3 months lost 10 to 12 pounds on average. Like almonds, pistachios are a good source of MUFAs and fiber, and snacking on them is a great way to get part of your daily dose of vitamin B6, copper, and manganese. In addition to helping you flatten your belly, pistachios have also been shown to help lower triglyceride levels.
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