Studies have linked excess belly fat to high blood pressure, heart disease and even premature death, yet millions of Americans remain overweight, packing on pounds and inches each year. (1) While getting adequate exercise is certainly a key component in keeping belly fat at bay, there are dietary changes that you could — and should — be making to help hit fatty deposits with a one-two punch. Here are the top five foods to eat to help get rid of excess belly fat:
Cabbage, kale, broccoli and other cruciferous veggies
These vegetables contain natural chemicals called phytonutrients — specifically, indole-3-carbinol, or I3C. This particular phytonutrient helps counteract the effects of xenoestrogens, which essentially are chemicals that we consume that act like estrogen. Xenoestrogens derive from a wide variety of sources, including plastics, air pollutants, pesticides, herbicides — even meat from animals that have consumed hormones as part of their “fattening-up” diets. Once in the body, they can cause an overload of estrogen that can play a pivotal role in the development of belly fat. I3C works as a kind of industrial scrubbing system, helping to counteract and detoxify xenoestrogens so they can’t cause harmful effects. Eating lots of cruciferous vegetables naturally increases your levels of I3C to boost your body’s ability to protect itself against the harmful effects of xenoestrogens and help avoid belly fat from forming. (2)
Avocados are full of healthy fats, and pretty much everyone knows that that’s good news for your heart. But they also help satisfy food cravings for fatty foods, helping avoid “sugar swings” that can result in binging and unhealthy snacking. The fatty content of avocados also helps manage the hormones that control your appetite and help you feel full longer, lowering your appetite overall. Finally, their high vitamin and fiber contents make them ideal for those trying to lose weight, ensuring that you get the nutrients you need to stay healthy. (3)
Lentils are one of a group of foods that contain digestion-resistant starches. These are starches that resist being broken down and absorbed by the body, which means that they confer all the benefits of a high-fiber diet, including better digestion, without the potential downsides of other types of starches that wind up being stored as fat. And because they’re not absorbed, they help you feel full longer, decreasing your appetite.
Especially for first time users, consuming large quantities of lentils (and many other legumes and beans) may make you think that you’re actually gaining belly mass. That’s because, taken in larger quantities, lentils can cause bloating associated with gas. Most modern diets don’t include a large amount of high-fiber foods. As a result, our bodies “forget” how to break down fiber efficiently and quickly, and a buildup of gas occurs. To avoid this gassy reaction, start out consuming these high-fiber foods in smaller amounts, increasing the amount you eat over time as your body ramps up its natural ability to break down fiber more efficiently. If lentils and beans aren’t your cup of tea, chickpeas, bananas and even potatoes contain resistant starches too.