Foods for a Flatter Post-Baby Belly
Got a case of "mummy tummy"? Exercise is important for your post-baby shape-up plans, of course. But so are the foods you eat! What foods to pick up on your next trip to the grocery store? Here are some belly-busting ideas to get you started!
You say tomato, we say: eating more of these plump, juicy fruits may give your body’s belly fat-burning ability a much-needed boost. The source of tomatoes’ tummy-toning power? Whether cherry, beefsteak, or plum, all tomatoes are naturally rich in a number of antioxidants, including carotenoids, betacarotene, alphacarotene, and lycopene. As at least one high-profile study has found, people who eat diets rich in these nutrients tend to have smaller waists and less visceral (belly) fat. While it’s still unclear how exactly these compounds work, some researchers speculate that antioxidants may be powerful enough to signal the body to release excess stored fat. Because heating tomatoes actually spikes lycopene content and makes it easier for the body to absorb the antioxidants, try to incorporate more cooked tomatoes in your diet. This tomato and basil topping for bruschetta can be a savory mealtime treat when served atop chicken or fish.
Had a flabby tummy long before pregnancy? Belly fat may develop as the result of excessive exposure to “xenoestrogens,” chemical substances found in, among other places, certain body lotions and food preservatives. According to some researchers, xenoestrogens may mimic estrogen in the body and signal belly fat to be piled on. This may sound scary, but Mother Nature has an easy solution! Broccoli and other cruciferous veggies—cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and kale—contain indole-3-carbinol (I3C), a natural detoxifying compound that helps rid the body of artificial estrogens. Broccoli is also rich in calcium and fiber, making it a good pick for any healthy weight loss regimen. So get crunching! Dip broccoli is a simple yogurt dip or chop and add to a garden salad. Or why not try this super-healthy recipe for broccolini with lemon and garlic.
Snack foods loaded with sugar may add inches to your waistline, but raspberries are one sweet treat that can actually help take the inches away—thanks in part to the berries’ naturally high antioxidant content. As preliminary animal studies in Japan have shown, raspberry ketones, a unique class of antioxidants in the fruit, appear to prevent increases in overall body and visceral fat. Raspberries come to the rescue to help you meet your general weight loss goals, too. Berries offer hefty doses of vitamin C and folate, and also come packed with fiber, a natural appetite surpressant (a 1-cup serving contains 8 grams of fiber). Pop them by the juicy handful!
Can your favorite sushi help you shape up? Studies have shown that animals fed Alaskan pollock develop less belly fat than animals fed diets containing other types of protein (including tuna and chicken), though researchers aren’t quite sure why the fish has this effect. Often sold as “imitation crab meat” in the US, Alaskan pollack is a main ingredient in popular California roll sushi, along with avocado, rice, and nori seaweed. Non-sushi lovers should check the fresh fish counter for Alaskan pollock fillets, a versatile fish that resembles cod. For an easy dinner entree, simply broil filets and top with lemon and a teaspoon amount of butter (pollock contains much less fat than other fish). A big bonus for pollock? It’s naturally low in mercury.
Can you sip your way to a trimmer midsection? That’s what health proponents of green tea believe, pointing to recent studies that show plant-based substances in the tea, called catechins, trigger weight loss by stimulating the body to burn calories and decrease body fat. To reap the weight loss benefits of green tea, you need to drink about four cups of tea a day. Why else is a green tea a good choice for new moms? The soothing tea is also believed to contain anti-cancer properties and is rich in L-theanine, an amino acid that is a natural stress and anxiety reliever.
Drink sugary sodas because they give you a lift? A rapid rise in blood sugar is not only a recipe for crash and burn energy levels, but high blood glucose (and the resulting spike in insulin) may also trigger belly fat deposition. A good alternative? The next time you need a liquid energy boost, try drinking a glass of milk instead. Balanced amounts of protein, fats, and carbohydrates offer sustained energy and help keep you feeling full, a key part of success on any weight loss diet. Milk is also an excellent dietary source for calcium, the bone-building mineral that’s so important for new moms, especially moms who breastfeed. Not a milk drinker? Try using milk as a base for soups, such as this tummy-filling recipe for creamy zuke soup.
Why choose whole grains over their refined counterparts? According to at least one study, obese adults who ate four to seven daily servings of whole grain foods as part of a healthy weight-loss diet lost twice as much visceral fat as those who continued to eat refined grains. Researchers speculate that fiber-filled whole grains keep blood sugar levels stable and insulin levels lower, both of which can make it easier for the body to burn fat. On the other hand, foods made with processed grains and flours (including most snack food favorites) can lead to a sudden influx of sugar, which often ends up as stored fat. Whole grains to try? Brown rice, whole grain breads, and whole wheat pastas are easy to work into almost any diet. Whole grains also provide key trace minerals for your good health, including zinc, selenium, and manganese.
Research shows that people who increased their intake of healthy proteins to 25 to 30 percent of a balanced diet for weight loss shed more abdominal fat and had more success at cutting calories than other dieters. One of the healthiest proteins around? Eggs. Scrambled, baked, or poached, eggs are a filling, low-glycemic index food (meaning the food doesn’t spike blood sugar) and pack plenty of nutrients into every bite. Eggs contain beneficial amounts of folate, vitamin D, and the B vitamins. And eating eggs might make you feel better! Eggs are naturally rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that is a precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps the body regulate appetite, sleep patterns, and mood. Need some egg-spiration for your next meal? Make a filling (and not fattening) egg white, turkey bacon and low-fat cheddar tortilla wrap or try your hand at making the perfect hardboiled egg.
Eat fat, lose fat? When researchers fed type 2 diabetic patients either a high carbohydrate diet or a Mediterranean-style diet rich in olive oil and other monunsatured fats, the high-carb dieters increased abdominal fat while those following the Mediterranean-style diet reduced belly fat accumulation and saw their insulin resistance and blood sugar metabolism improve.
Even those without diabetes can benefit from heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. For a tastebud pleasing treat, drizzle olive oil over lemon roasted potatoes. Other monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) to include as part of a healthy weight loss diet include walnuts and walnut oil, sesame seeds, avocados, and grapeseed oil. To keep weight loss on track, use olive oil and other MUFAs as a replacement for “unhealthy fats” in your diet, including trans fats and foods with large amounts of saturated fat.
Whether the weight you want to lose is all in your belly—or just plain all over—a key part of your weight loss efforts should be supporting how well your body is able to burn calories. And that’s where eating salmon can help. Salmon is naturally rich in omega-3 fatty acids, “healthy fats” that appear to alter the levels of a hormone in your body called leptin. As some studies have found, lower leptin levels may be associated with higher caloric burn and, as a result, steadier weight loss. Confused about cooking fish? Try this safe, fast, and easy roasted salmon dish. Or just can’t stomach salmon? Fish oil (another good source for omega-3 fatty acids) appears to offer similar fat-burning benefits.
Good things come in small packages! These diminutive fish come loaded with protein to help stabilize blood sugar and can keep you feeling full on relatively few calories. Sardines, like salmon, are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, heart healthy fats that can boost your metabolism and body’s calorie-burning ability. The fish work well as a substitute ingredient in tuna salad—or for a tasty treat, keep it simple by topping a slice of whole grain toast with sardines and sliced avocado. Why not just eat tuna? Sardines trump their canned fish counterpart when it comes to omega-3 content. And because tiny sardines are very low on the food chain, the fish are relatively free of mercury and other heavy metal contaminants, especially when compared to tuna.
There’s an entire diet based around eating grapefruit for fat and weight loss, but does the tart citrus fruit really live up to the hype? According to limited nutrition research, grapefruits naturally contain compounds that may help regulate insulin, the body’s main fat-storage hormone. These powerful compounds encourage insulin to turn more glucose into energy, grapefruit advocates claim, by increasing cells’ sensitivity to the hormone (and discourage insulin from storing excess glucose as fat). Why else makes grapefruit a good food to include as part of your tummy-taming efforts? Grapefruits are full of fiber (and filling for your tummy), packed with plenty of vitamin C, and like tomatoes, contain beneficial amounts of lycopene, an antioxidant that appears to target belly fat.
Low in fat, beans provide your weight loss diet with a quality source of vegetarian protein along with plenty of fiber, a rich variety of minerals, including iron, and vitamins. And to help you stick with your healthier food choices, beans also contain cholecystokinin, a digestive hormone that acts as a natural appetite suppressant. Kidney, red, black, pinto… Try pairing your favorite legume with another belly fat-fighter for a filling meal that still manages to battle the bulge. Try mashing some chickpeas into fresh avocado guacamole. Or how about a steaming hot dish of red beans and brown rice? For a tasty treat that goes well with so many foods, whip up a batch of this hunger-taming white bean dip. Delish!
Because insufficient levels of vitamin D have been linked with increased abdominal fat and obesity, some weight loss experts think paying attention to daily requirements for the “sunshine vitamin” may be a secret shortcut to a sleeker tummy. Vitamin D can readily be in fortified foods, such as milk and orange juice. But a surprising natural source for D comes in the form of everyone’s favorite fungi: mushrooms. Because they are so low in calories, mushrooms can be added to almost any dish, from fresh garden salads to savory stews (and as a pizza topping, of course). Try putting mushrooms center stage with these recipes for sauteed mushrooms and green beans with mushrooms and shallots.
According to a University of Michigan study, rats given tart cherry powder as only a small portion of their diet lost 17 percent of their belly fat in just three months. Another experiment using crushed blueberries turned up similar results. What is it about these dark-hued fruits? Some researchers speculate that anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant naturally found in cherries and blueberries, may have some kind of weight regulating effect.
Sour cherries may be a little too sour to eat fresh, but dried cherries are a bit sweeter and make for a versatile cooking ingredient. For a healthy side dish at your next meal, try recipe for minted cherry tabouli. Sour cherry powder is available at natural food stores.
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