“A diet of fried foods, refined flours, sugars, and products with hormones and synthetic sweeteners all contribute to inflammation which builds up belly fat,” says Cara Walsh, a dietician at Medifast Weight Control Centers of California. Ok, we’ve all been guilty of indulging in these kinds of foods. Now the goal is reverse the inflammation that could be making us bit too thick in the mid-section. If you opt for healthy foods over junk, then you’re already a leg ahead in the flat stomach department. Think about adding one or more of these nutrient-dense, low calorie and low sugar belly-blasting foods to your daily menu.
Quinoa is a whole grain and while it has carbs, it’s actually a “good” and “slow” carb,” says weight loss expert Dr. Rachita Reddy, MD. “It reduces belly fat and inches off the waist because it has a low glycemic index.” That means quinoa is absorbed into the blood stream at a slower pace then “bad” carbs like white pasta. Quinoa is loaded with fiber that slows sugar digestion and prevents a sugar spike. Without the sugar spike there’s no quick release of insulin that causes sugar to convert to and be stored as fat. And without fat storage, belly bloat is minimized and the inches can melt off your waist. Research also suggests that quinoa helps suppress the release of cytokines, which could be beneficial in the prevention and treatment of inflammation.
Add a dollop of yogurt to your oatmeal or use it as a base for a fruit smoothie. Slice up whatever fruit is in season and dip it into a bowl of plain, low-fat Greek yogurt that’s been mixed with a touch of honey for sweetness. Yogurt is an anti-inflammatory probiotic food. “Researchers have found that the Lactobacillus probiotic family can help you absorb less fat and lose weight,” says Rebecca Lee, RN, founder of the natural health resource RemediesForMe. And within this probiotic family with the long, scientific name there’s a few particular strains that target belly fat and waist circumference. You can find them in plain Greek yogurt. One of these strains even increases the hormone leptin, which signals to the brain, “Stop storing fat! We have enough!” This decreases appetite and increases satiety, says Lee, which is a great way to start off your morning and curtail calorie-heavy snacking before lunch.
You are not a child and we can’t force you to try new vegetables. So we’re just going to really encourage you. “One of the best anti-inflammatory foods to help you maintain a healthy weight is broccoli,” says Walsh. Why? It’s high in vitamin K, which can help regulate your body's response to inflammation. If you’re still into kale chips, enjoy. But we’ve moved on to broccoli. Place small pieces onto a baking sheet, drizzle with EVOO and add a sprinkling of sea salt (maybe a little garlic powder, too). Bake them until crispy. You’ll never pick up kale again.
How do you cook quinoa and brown rice? The answer is probably in water. Let’s improve on that. Colette Heimowitz, a nutritionist with Atkins Nutritionals, recommends using bone broth that’s rich in immune-boosting minerals and collagen. Both of these help reduce inflammation. You can buy it but it’s really easy to make your own, says culinary nutrition expert, Andrea Wien. Just throw some roasted bones (chicken, turkey or beef) into the slow cooker. Add chopped onions, garlic, carrots and celery, then cover the ingredients with water and let simmer for the day.