I’m always seeing articles touting flat belly foods in women’s magazines and fitness magazines, and while some are good suggestions, they always miss the mark in my opinion by including certain foods that have the potential to cause uncomfortable bloating in some folks. Even saw a couple lists recommending soy and corn, two foods many folks have trouble digesting, and they are common food allergens that have the potential to contribute to GI upset.
Check out my list of true flat belly (and fat belly) foods.
Flat Belly Foods
1) Greens: spinach, chard, kale, collards, dandelion greens, beet greens, mixed salad greens, arugula. The dark leafys are my premier pick for the superfood belly fat-banishing powerhouse. High in minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and low in calories, greens should be the base of several of your weekly meals. Did you know that greens are also high in calcium? And minerals such as calcium and magnesium are essential for relaxation of central nervous system; they help your body deal with stress. High stress causes cortisol levels to rise, which causes your body to store fat (especially around the abdominal region) and crave sugar. Eat greens liberally.
2) Raw kraut/Fermented veggies: raw kraut is the end result of fermenting vegetables, usually shredded cabbage (but you can use beets and carrots to avoid the goitrogenic properties of cabbage if you’re low thyroid). Sea salt is added, and it sits and grows and magic happens. The result of the magic fermentation process is production of billions of good bacteria known as probiotics and enzymes that aid in digestion. If you experience bloating, gas, or other digestive issues, probiotics are a must for you. Increase probiotics to outweigh the bad guys, and watch your bloating disappear. Eat 1/4 cup or so of raw kraut as a condiment with meals. Studies indicate that good probiotic levels in the gut are necessary for weight loss. If you prefer a beverage, I highly recommend coconut water kefir.
3) Chia seeds: you’ll see almonds and other nuts on every flat belly health food list, and that’s all well and good, but many folks have trouble digesting nuts because of the phytic acid content (which can be reduced by soaking them), and many of my clients have trouble limiting their nut consumption. Nuts and nut butters seems to be a trigger food (meaning it’s easy to go nuts and overeat them). I prefer chia seeds as a flat belly food because of their excellent omega 3 fatty acid profile, and they’re a good source of fiber to keep you full. They’re also a decent source of protein and minerals such as manganese and phosphorus. Chia has a blood sugar stabilizing effect that controls insulin levels and fat storage. Add 1 tbsp to smoothies, or make chia puddings.
4) Wild Salmon: high in the good omega 3 fats, a good source of high quality protein, and low in calories, salmon is a flat belly superfood. The cold water, high fat fish like cod and salmon are perfect sources of protein if you’re on a weight loss plan. Protein is necessary for satiety and to reduce sugar cravings. Salmon is also high in vitamin D, which is hard to get from food, and we are seeing a lot of vita D deficiency these days. It’s necessary for immune & bone health.
5) Green tea: ok, ok, I know green tea isn’t a food, but I love it so much as a flat belly super-beverage. Green tea has thermogenic properties, meaning it stokes the body’s fat burning furnace and helps boost metabolism. Plus, is provides minerals and antioxidants along with benefits like cavity prevention. Drink this stuff!
6) Apples: high in fiber, which is necessary for weight loss and good colon health. The fiber in apples keeps you full, assists in removing toxins from the body, and keeps things moving! Apples are really filling. The perfect afternoon snack to ward off sugar cravings. I love an apple with a tablespoon of almond or walnut butter for additional healthy fats.
Honorable mention: coconut oil, a medium chain fatty acid the body burns for energy, stoking metabolism.
Fat Belly Foods
1) Soy is notoriously difficult to digest, and many people have hidden soy allergies. Many people experience bloating after eating soy. Soy is meant to be consumed fermented (which increased digestability) as a condiment, in small quantities. This is how it is used in Asian cultures, NOT as soy protein isolate. Soy is ubiquitous in our food supply. It’s in so many processed foods, and exposure to GMO soy proteins and altered processed soy proteins increases the potential for food allergies. It can cause major hormonal disruption and suppress thyroid function. Read how to use soy (and how to avoid it) in your diet.
2) Whole wheat: we’ve been told that grains and wheat products should be the bast of our diets. But the wheat genome in the U.S. has been altered over time to yield a higher protein plant that grows more heartily under a multitude of conditions. The result is that today’s wheat is much harder to digest, more likely to contribute to inflammation, and is higher in gluten protein. Wheat today isn’t prepared properly in the traditional manner (soaked, fermented for easier digestability). Wheat can cause major digestive disruption, fatigue, and bloating. Check out the book Wheat Belly for more.
3) Dairy: I see SO many dairy allergies in my practice. We are the only adult mammals that consume dairy in adulthood (and lots of it), and we lose the ability to digest it well into adulthood. People come in to my office with bloating as a major concern, and they are eating yogurt because they’ve heard it will help them lose weight, only to find they are allergic to dairy. When they eliminate it, bloating problems disappear. If you have bloating issues, cut out dairy for a couple weeks and then reintroduce it to see if the bloating returns. Click here to read my thoughts about dairy.
4) Corn is another one that’s ubiquitous in our food supply. It’s even used to make vitamin C! Corn syrup, modified corn starch, corn oil, corn fillers: Corn has been a staple in processed foods and livestock feed, so you’re getting corn indirectly in your chicken meat and conventionally raised corn fed beef. Eating too much of a food can create allergies, and corn is also on the list of the top 8 most common allergenic foods. It can cause bloating and fatigue because it is also difficult to digest and is really a grain, not a vegetable. If you eat corn, choose organic always to make sure you are not getting GM corn. Aside from soy, corn is a widely genetically modified crop.
Honorable mention: this may go without saying, but excess sugars of all kind are stored as fat.
Mary Vance is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and author specializing in digestive health. She combines a science-based approach with natural therapies to rebalance the body. In addition to her 1:1 coaching, she offers courses to help you heal your gut and improve your health. Mary lives in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe in Northern California. Read more about her coaching practice here and her background here.