8 Awesome Flat-belly Foods
Raise your hand if you've ever been asked, "So, when are you due?"... after you've given birth (like, way after). Yeah, we've all been there. Even once we've managed to squeeze back into our prepregnancy jeans, the belly tends to linger -- and, let's be honest, spill out over the top of said jeans. And it's not our fault! Thanks to the hormonal changes of pregnancy (and maybe breastfeeding), loss of elasticity in the abdomen, and sleep deprivation, new (and not so new) moms are particularly prone to belly fat, says Rebecca Booth, M.D., an ob-gyn in Louisville, KY, and author of The Venus Week: Discover the Powerful Secret of Your Cycle... at Any Age. And while this jiggly, wiggly thing can certainly be a blow to the ego, it can also be a blow to our health. "The changes in our metabolism can add extra weight around our middles, putting us at increased risk of heart disease, dementia, and certain cancers," says Dr. Booth. Jeez, isn't it bad enough we can no longer wear our shirts tucked in? The good news: It's completely reversible. The belly is one of the quickest places we lose weight, and it's easier than you think. In fact, experts agree that the best way to get rid of belly fat is to eat. That's right -- according to a slew of recent studies, foods we already know and love have the greatest waist-whittling power around. Up next, eight taste treats that can help you trim your tummy for good (or at least until you have your next kid).
Berries, Cherries & Grapes
"Anthocyanins" is the buzzword here. Besides giving grapes, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and tart cherries their vibrant color, research shows these plant chemicals also burn abdominal fat. (FYI: Tart cherries are different from the traditional variety; look for them dried or in the frozen-foods section.) "The fat tissue in the belly is more easily burned than fat in other areas and may be more sensitive to the effects of anthocyanins," says University of Michigan researcher Mitch Seymour, Ph.D. These colorful fruits are also rich in heart-healthy anti-oxidants and fiber -- so include them in your daily servings (two cups) regularly.
Milk, yogurt, and cheese are jam-packed with whey, a protein that supports the formation of lean body mass (guess Little Miss Muffet was on to something). That means the calories ingested from low-fat dairy don't get stapled to your gut. Dairy also helps fill you up and can increase overall weight loss, so it's a win-win-win. Aim for three servings of low-fat or nonfat dairy a day (in real life, a serving equals an ounce of cheese or a cup of yogurt). Try cottage cheese, string cheese, or Greek yogurt (swap it for sour cream in dips and on potatoes). Products with fruit and nuts mixed in have added sugar and calories; go for plain and add your own berries, nuts, and granola.
We don't have to tell you that women in their childbearing years are prone to fluid retention. Our monthly cycles plus a diet high in salty processed foods can result in three to five pounds of sheer water weight -- a prime contributor to belly bloat. Cutting back on salt is a no-brainer (less than 2,300 milligrams a day is the ideal), but sometimes a girl's just got to have a potato chip. Counter salty cave-ins with foods rich in potassium, like avocados, orange juice, bananas, baked potatoes (with the skin), sweet potatoes, and spinach. "Sodium keeps water outside the cells, but potassium brings it into the cells, where it belongs," explains Ashley Koff, R.D., a registered dietitian in Los Angeles.