Carbs can and should be your friends. In fact, you need them to help shed belly fat. Everyone needs carbohydrates in their diets and the right ones will actually help you slim down the extra weight in your middle. So let’s think about adding more “good” carbs to our diets in an effort to help reduce and prevent body fat. Good carbs, also known as slow carbs, are rich in fiber so they release energy into the blood stream slowly and help you avoid spikes in insulin and blood sugar. The fiber keeps you feeling fuller longer so you don’t go town on snacks between meals. Here are ones we adore!
Whole Grains A prime way to eat fiber is through whole grains like brown rice, barley and bulgur, which are also low in carbs. “Fiber helps to boost metabolism,” says Brooke Zigler, a registered dietician in Austin, Texas. “Your body has a tough time digesting high fiber foods which means you burn calories while trying to get the job done,” she says. Plus, fiber actually absorbs calories and fat from other foods before they show up in unwanted areas of your body. Boom. Weight loss. Refined carbs like the ones in your favorite pastas have little nutritional value. This can cause a rise and fall in your blood sugar, which then drives you to search out more unhealthy foods and eat them ravenously. Always choose whole-grain varieties labeled “100% whole grain” or “100% whole wheat”.
If you want to modify your diet and scale back on carbs, it’s important that the carbs you do keep eating are nutrient dense. "Although they may not be the foods that immediately come to mind when planning a low-carb diet, fruits fit in,” says Rebecca Lewis, a dietician at HelloFresh. Add naturally low-carb fruits to meals throughout the day and use them for naturally sweet snacks. Berries have the highest amount of fiber and the lowest amount of sugar of all the fruits. Go heavy on raspberries and blackberries. They have the highest fiber content of all berries. Melons, specifically watermelon and honeydew, rank as some of the lowest carbs per serving, says Lewis. Plus they have the highest water content of all melons to keep your body hydrated and feeling satisfied.
If you need to kick the bad habit of bread, cereal and other refined carbs for breakfast, oatmeal is here to take their place. Not only does it have protein, but also the soluble fiber keeps you feeling full for longer (maybe even full enough to nix a mid-morning snack). Make sure you choose steel-cut oats over rolled or instant. They’re not pre-cooked and are processed in a manner that helps them maintain more fiber and protein than other versions. Plus the hearty, chewy feel of steel-cut oats helps you to slow down breakfast and feel full.
Quinoa is a delicious carb that reduces belly fat and takes inches off the waist because it’s absorbed into the blood stream at a slower pace then “bad” carbs like white pasta. “Quinoa is one of the healthiest carbs,” says Jessica Rosen, a holistic health coach and founder of Raw Generation. Why? It’s gluten-free, high in fiber, packed with antioxidants, and is full of nutrients like iron, zinc and magnesium, and is a low-calorie protein. "Unlike most high-carbohydrate grains, quinoa sustains the appetite without skyrocketing blood glucose levels,” says Rosen. “It actually lowers blood glucose levels which is significant for healthy weight loss because excess glucose gets stored as fat in the body.” We love that quinoa takes on multitude of flavors so it’s incredibly versatile for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Lentils & Beans
Lentils are tiny legumes that are great sources of plant-based protein and fiber. “They won't elevate your blood sugar so you'll have sustained energy without the spike and crash,” says Andrea Wise, a Chicago-based trainer and nutrition coach. Don’t just think of them as a side dish. We like to serve salmon on a bed of lentils and add them to burgers and meatballs. The same goes for black beans. There’s a lot of fat-fighting power in the humble black bean. They have protein and fiber plus B vitamins that could accelerate weight loss and prevent fat from settling in your middle. We love black beans in burritos and enchiladas but they have a happy place outside of Mexican foods. Sprinkle them over roasted veggies, put them on top of pizza and mix them into salads.