If you’re like most people, you may have noticed how difficult it can be to maintain a healthy weight as you age. It can be especially difficult to get rid of stubborn belly fat. No matter how many calories you cut — it doesn’t seem to budge.
Belly fat, also known as visceral fat, is the fat that lives in front of the organs of your lower abdomen. Unfortunately, excess stomach fat can lead to several serious health issues.1
There’s good news, though. Some foods can help burn belly fat. Adding a few simple (and delicious!) ingredients to each meal can go a long way toward reducing belly fat.
Think Quality, Not Quantity
Sometimes, eating for weight loss isn’t just about counting calories — it’s about the kinds of foods you’re eating. You’ve probably heard that fruits, vegetables, and protein from lean meats are good for you. You’ve likely also heard that a high-fat diet, sugars, and trans fats bad for your health. This is all basically true.
But some foods do more than help you maintain a low weight. They can actively accelerate weight loss!
You can find foods that help burn belly fat in almost every major food group. No matter what you like to eat, you can find something healthy to almost every meal.
1. Lean Meats
High protein, low-fat diets have long been linked to weight loss.2 While they may be great for helping you get rid of excess stomach fat, you should be careful about which high protein foods you choose.
Some meats can be very high in saturated fat calories. That can contribute to weight gain, obesity, and cardiovascular issues.3 That’s why lean meats are the way to go for a high protein diet.
Most people think of pork and chicken when they think of lean meats. But even red meat, when trimmed of visible fat, can be a great source of protein that’s low in saturated fat.4
2. Leafy Greens
Fruits and vegetables (especially non-starchy vegetables) have low-to-medium energy density. This means you can eat satisfying portions of them without racking up too many calories.5 They may not be calorie-dense, but they are very nutrient-dense. And these nutrients can be especially important for older adults.6
Plant-based foods provide nutrients and antioxidants that are hard to get elsewhere, including: 7
- Dietary fiber
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin K
Studies show that the more calories you get from vegetables, the more likely you’ll be able to sustain long-term weight loss.8 This includes leafy greens like spinach, kale, lettuce, and collards. These veggies are also high in carotenoids, which have been shown to enhance weight loss.9
Most carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables are low in lipids.10 On one hand, that’s great: it means they don’t contain a lot of saturated fat calories. But it also means you’re not getting the full effect of those precious carotenoids, which need fat to be absorbed into the body.11
That’s where avocados come in. Avocados contain monounsaturated fatty acids, which help increase the bioavailability of carotenoids.12
4. Go Nuts!
Unlike most other plant-based foods, nuts — like almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and pistachios — are very high in energy density. That means they contain more calories. But they can make up for it with their health benefits.
Like avocados, nuts are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids. Like leafy greens, they’re rich in carotenoids. And they’re also high in fiber.13 Plus, they’re a great source of vegetable protein, which may help you not only lose belly fat, but also keep it off.14
Don’t forget about nut butter, either.
(Peanut butter, in particular, is very high in protein.) You can incorporate nut butter into many different recipes.15And if you want to reduce your sugar intake, go for all natural peanut butter!
5. Whole-Wheat Bread
Looking for somewhere to spread all that high protein peanut butter? Look no further than whole-wheat bread. Simply replacing the refined wheat in your diet with whole wheat may significantly reduce belly fat.16 This one simple change can help boost weight loss.
6. Coconut Oil
As long as you’re not deep frying your food in it, plant-based oils can actually be good for you! Studies show that adding virgin coconut oil to your diet may actually help reduce visceral fat.
While coconut oil does contain calories from saturated fat, it also contains medium chain fatty acids. Those medium chain acids oxidize more easily as fuel in your body, making them less likely to cause weight gain.17
7. Olive Oil
Extra-virgin olive oil is an essential part of the famous Mediterranean diet. It contains oleic acid — a form of monounsaturated fat. Not only does it increase the bioavailability of important nutrients, but like medium chain fatty acids, your body more easily converts those calories to energy (instead of becoming stored fat).18
8. Spice It Up With Cayenne Pepper
Good news for people who like spicy foods! Cayenne pepper is rich in capsaicin, a compound with many health benefits. Studies have shown that capsaicin may:19
- Suppress the accumulation of body fat
- Increase fat oxidation
- Reduce appetite
Because it may speed your metabolism, cayenne pepper can be a lively way to create that sought-after calorie deficit.20 It turns out, cayenne pepper may have a kick in more ways than one!
9. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid, which may help you maintain a lean figure by suppressing the accumulation of body fat. Studies show that daily consumption of vinegar can help you lose belly fat and reduce overall body weight.21
You can take ACV with water, or mix it into other recipes. For instance, you can mix it with your favorite dressing on delicious salad.
When it comes to weight loss, yogurt seems to stand head and shoulders above other dairy foods. As a fermented food, yogurt contains probiotics with many health benefits. Probiotics may encourage weight loss by reducing overall body fat, including visceral fat.22
Low-fat yogurt also packs a powerful punch when it comes to nutrients.
It’s packed with protein, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin B-12. Plus, some yogurts also contain important fatty acids — which may be more bioavailable in yogurt than in most other foods.23
Craving something sweet? Try mixing some berries into that probiotic-packed yogurt for a satisfying meal. Berries contain a range of antioxidants.24 They also contain fewer calories from sugar than many other fruits.25
This may explain why studies have revealed that berries can help you to shed tummy fat. Blackberries, for example, may promote increased fat oxidation — which means they may turbocharge weight loss effects from exercise.26 And strawberries may help increase your body’s antioxidant capacity, which can help combat obesity.27
Find Your Balance with Foods that Help Burn Belly Fat
Maybe you have a sweet tooth. Maybe you love bread. Or maybe you’re a diehard, protein-loving carnivore. Whatever your tastes, you can craft a meal that’s both satisfying and boosts fat burning.
As you can see, there’s a huge variety of foods that help burn belly fat.
And when combined with a sensible exercise program, you’ll likely find that you can have delicious, filling foods with every meal and still achieve weight loss.