A longer version of this article originally appeared on Livestrong.com.
Tummy bloating and/or carrying unwanted weight around your midsection can be uncomfortable and embarrassing. To differentiate between the two, bloating is temporary abdominal distention that can be caused by a reaction to certain foods, lifestyle factors or a medical condition, such as liver or heart disease. Belly bloat is really intestinal gas, not excess fat. However, if you are overweight and want to flatten your belly for the long term, the only solution is to lose weight.
Whether it’s gas or excess weight causing you tummy trouble, what you choose to put on your fork can help or hinder your goal of getting a flat belly. Read on to learn about 5 flat-belly foods to get you those lean abs you crave.
Salmon packs a double punch when it comes to battling belly fat because it contains both omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. Salmon is an excellent source of vitamin D, with wild salmon providing about four times the amount of vitamin D as farmed salmon. Insufficient blood levels of vitamin D have been linked to obesity, including abdominal obesity. Scientists are not sure if the reason for this is that vitamin D gets trapped in the fat cells of obese people or if obese people don’t consume enough vitamin D. Either way, getting adequate vitamin D is essential for good health. The omega-3 fatty acids in salmon and other fatty fish can also help flatten your belly. Researchers believe omega-3 fatty acids may alter the expression of certain genes, shifting your body to burn fat rather than store it. (Recipe idea: Pan-Seared Salmon on Arugula with Lemon Tahini Dressing).
If you want to lose some fat around the middle, eggs are a great way to start your day. Eggs are packed with protein, and eating them for breakfast provides staying power. A study published in Nutrition Research found that people who eat eggs for breakfast were less likely to overeat the rest of the day. Eggs also provide a myriad other nutrients to help keep your tummy trim. For example, they’re a good source of vitamin B12, a nutrient that helps your body break down fat cells. Eggs also provide the power nutrient, vitamin D. Insufficient blood levels of vitamin D have been linked to obesity, including abdominal obesity. Choline, another power nutrient in eggs, is known for playing a role in fat metabolism. Since the majority of these nutrients are found in the egg yolk, be sure to eat the whole egg for the most nutrition. If you are worried about the cholesterol in the yolk, a 2008 report from the ongoing Physicians’ Health Study supports the idea that eating an egg a day is generally safe for the heart. But talk to your doctor to determine what is best for you. (Recipe idea: Sunny Side Up Avocado Toasts).
While all green vegetables are low-calorie nutrient superstars that promote a healthy weight, asparagus serves triple duty in its anti-bloating effects. “First, it’s a source of prebiotics, which support the growth of ‘good’ bacteria to help maintain a healthy balance in the digestive system to prevent and/or reduce gas. It also contains soluble and insoluble fiber to promote overall digestive health as well as natural anti-inflammatory substances to reduce GI irritation,” says Cynthia Sass, RDN, author of “S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.” To reduce belly bloat, eat steamed asparagus a few times a week. For an additional flat-belly boost, lightly drizzle your asparagus with olive oil.
Although many people think bananas are fattening, they are actually an important flat-belly food. “Foods rich in potassium help de-bloat the belly by acting as a natural diuretic, triggering the release of excess sodium and water the body is retaining. The soluble fiber in bananas can also help relieve or prevent constipation, which can be a major cause of a belly pooch,” says Cynthia Sass, RDN. Grab a banana as a daily snack, or whip one into a smoothie. Other foods high in potassium to help fight belly bloat include sweet potatoes, nuts, tomatoes, green leafy vegetables and dates.
Cucumbers are loaded with water and naturally low in calories to help with hydration and weight management. One whole cucumber has just 45 calories. If you are feeling bloated, cucumbers can help with that too. “People use cucumbers to reduce puffiness under the eyes, and eating them can also help you fight belly bloat. Cucumbers have been shown to inhibit the activity of pro-inflammatory enzymes, which can help reduce GI swelling,” says Cynthia Sass, RDN. For flatter abs, eat cucumbers daily as a snack or add them to a salad or sandwich. (Recipe idea: Savory Beet and Cucumber Yogurt Parfait).
What do you think? Have you tried any specific foods to help you flatten your tummy? Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you!