The New Flat-ab Foods

Science says these surprising nutrients can knock a few inches off your waistline.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
Science says these surprising nutrients can knock a few inches off your waistline.
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You’ve probably heard there are certain foods that not only help you lose weight, they also specifically zap abdominal fat. And, chances are, you’ve already eaten your way through that list of salmon, leafy green veggies, avocado, dairy and nuts in your quest to keep it tight.

Now the latest research is adding these superfoods to your repertoire. They’ll satisfy your carb and dessert cravings, and turn on your taste buds, too.

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Coconut Oil

Women in a Brazilian study who took coconut oil supplements during a 12-week diet shrunk their waistlines, while other dieters did not. Why? Coconut oil contains a type of saturated fatty acid, called lauric acid, that your body burns quickly to produce energy.

This means that your calories may get melted off before they’re parked as fat. And you don’t have to take it in pill form – sub refined coconut oil for vegetable oil in recipes.

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Whole Grains

People who ate three or more servings a day of whole grains had 10 percent less ab fat than those who ate less than a half serving a day, a study at Tufts University in the US found. “The reason could be that whole grains affect appetite- controlling hormones that promote satiety, or that the fibre in the grains stimulates hormones that discourage abdominal fat storage,” says lead author Nicola McKeown.

But there’s a catch: Those who also chowed down on refined grains (you know, the white ones) did not have less belly fat. Swop refined grains for whole ones like brown rice or farro, Nicola suggests. 

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Pomegranate Vinegar

When South Korean researchers gave overweight women 30ml of pomegranate vinegar daily for eight weeks, the subjects’ belly fat was reduced by 3.7 percent. (The control group didn’t shed any ab flab.)

“All types of vinegar contain acetic acid, which is believed to both interfere with the digestion of starch and stimulate an enzyme that contributes to fat burning,” says Carol Johnston, a registered dietitian at Arizona State University in the US. Drizzle vinegar over your salad to net its effects.

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Chia Seeds

 These not only pack protein and fibre, but they also contain an essential fatty acid called ALA, which helps move fat away from vital organs that are located in the abdominal area, says Lindsay Brown, a professor at the University of Southern Queensland in Australia, who has studied chia’s stomach-flattening effects.

Toss a teaspoon into your smoothie, top your Greek yogurt with them, or create a pudding by placing one tablespoon in a half cup of almond milk (the seeds absorb the liquid and expand) with a pinch of cinnamon and a bit of honey.

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Red or Purple Produce

New research in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who ate a diet rich in red- and purple-hued produce, such as grapes, tomatoes, eggplant and cabbage, gained less ab fat over three years than those who munched on green, white, yellow or orange fruits and veggies. Some studies suggest the flavonoids in certain produce may inhibit fat absorption or affect calorie burning.

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For every 10g of fibre that you consume daily, you slash your rate of gaining belly fat by almost 4 percent, according to a study in the journal Obesity. And the best fibre-packed powerhouses, researchers say, are beans, especially lentils, black beans and lima beans.

Each type has 7g to 8g of fibre per half cup. “Also go for navy beans or light-red kidney beans, which both contain 4g to 5g of fibre per cup,” suggests lead study author Kristen Hairston.