While exercise is the tried-and-true method for losing excess body fat overall, it is also important to maintain a healthy diet. There are several healthy foods that may help you achieve a flatter belly, banish unwanted bloat, and ready your bikini body for the summer. However, be sure to consult your doctor or nutritionist before starting any self-imposed diet regimen.
Foods High in Fiber
Foods that are high in insoluble and soluble fiber content may help you get a flatter belly by regulating bowel movement. Usually, most fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grain products are fantastic sources of fiber. Some foods high in fiber include:
- Popcorn (air popped): Air-popped popcorn is an excellent source of fiber as well as a low-calorie snack compared to regular chips and cookies. Be sure to get the low-sodium, light-butter variety to avoid excess calories and sodium, which may lead to a bloated belly. Better yet, pop your own popcorn and season it yourself with herbs and spices.
- Celery: A vegetable high in fiber and very low in calories, celery is an excellent snack choice when you need something crunchy to munch on. Celery also has vitamin C, which can boost your immune system and brighten your complexion. Pair it with some peanut butter for an added bonus of minerals and protein.
- Oatmeal: Try replacing your usual sugary cereal or pancake with this hardy whole grain. High in fiber, oatmeal also keeps you feeling fuller for longer periods of time so you won't feel the urge to grab unhealthy snacks.
- Fruits with skin: Sometimes, eating your favorite fruit or vegetable with the skin intact can give you a boost in fiber intake. Next time, eat your apples, figs and pears with the skin well-scrubbed, and leave the fiber in orange segments intact. Try to purchase organically grown varieties to ensure safe fruit skin consumption.
Foods that Reduce Bloat
Not only will these de-bloating foods give your mid-section a flatter appearance, it may also help you feel better overall. As a general rule, avoid foods high in sodium, made with artificial sugar alcohols - not only do they increase water retention, they may also produce unnecessary gas that will bloat your belly. Some food recommendations that may help de-puff your belly include:
- Watermelon: This colorful fruit's high water content will get rid of excess water while keeping your body hydrated and your skin supple. Watermelon is also high in vitamin C and lycopene, both potent antioxidants, to help prevent cancers and premature skin aging.
- Cucumber: Cucumbers have high water content and are naturally low in sodium. Try eating them with the skin on for an extra boost of fiber, which may help regulate bowel movement.
- Banana: This starchy fruit is high in potassium, a nutrient that may help get rid of excess bloat-causing sodium in your body. Bananas are also healthy, satiating snacks that keep you feeling fuller for longer periods of time to keep you from eating something you might regret.
- Water or unsweetened tea: Indeed, the key to keeping the belly fat off and getting rid of excess water is to keep yourself hydrated! If you don't enjoy the taste of water, try a cup of brewed, unsweetened green tea for a boost of antioxidants and flavor. Slices of citrus fruits, such as lemon or lime, can also flavor water without adding unwanted calories. For the more adventurous water-drinkers, cucumber slices, basil, or mint also makes a great water flavor enhancer.
Foods High in Monounsaturated Fats
A diet high in monounsaturated "good" fats, along with an active lifestyle, have been shown to reduce belly fat and help you get rid of the "bad" fats in your body. As a side benefit, monounsaturated fats can also keep your skin supple and your hair healthy and shiny! Some foods that are great sources of monounsaturated fats include:
- Avocado: Thick and creamy, avocados are a great substitute for spreads or dips with vegetables or sandwiches. It is also a filling fruit that may keep you fuller for longer periods of time.
- Nuts and seeds: Some nut and seed butters, such as peanut butter or sunflower seeds, are also rich in vitamins and minerals, like magnesium, niacin and iron, which contribute to a healthy diet. They are also a great source of protein for vegetarians.
- Olive oil: Studies have suggested that olive oil has a preventive effect against certain tumors.
- Dark chocolate: You can have your dessert and flatten your belly too! dark chocolate made with cocoa butter are good sources of monounsaturated fats and are high in antioxidants beneficial to the body.
Other Flat Belly Foods
- Dairy: It has been shown that consuming one glass of milk after exercising can help increase fat-burning activity of the body. Yogurt, which is full of "healthy" bacteria that regulate bowel movement, can further help you flatten your belly. However, be sure to look for low-fat, non-fat, low-sugar, or unsweetened varieties to cut down unhealthy saturated fats and excess calories.
- Lean protein: To get that lean and mean mid-section, muscle-building protein will help you complete the flat belly look. Chicken without skin, lean cuts of meat, egg whites and legumes are great sources of lean protein that will help define and reveal your abdominal muscles.