Whether you call it a spare tire or a muffin top or just “my junk,” the ring of fat that collects around the top of your waist can ruin the line of a perfect dress, make even the coolest T-shirt look schlumpy, and generally make you feel F-A-T fat.
Fortunately, having love handles is more of a style risk than a health risk. Unlike belly fat, which infiltrates your internal organs and is linked to everything from diabetes to heart disease to liver failure, that spare tire is made of subcutaneous fat, a type of fat located just below the skin, and which just sort of sits there; in fact, some studies suggest subcutaneous fat may even help protect us from certain health issues. But that doesn’t mean we have to love the way they look—or live with them.
The problem with love handles is that they don’t respond as well to moderate exercise or stress reduction. The are only way to get rid of them: There’s the hard way, which is to burn them off through vigorous exercise. And there’s the easy way, which is to use some simple tricks found in Zero Belly to cut down on calories and sugar while revving your metabolism with fat-burning foods that are high in fiber and protein.
Here are 30 of the best Zero Belly–approved foods to whittle your waist and bring your midriff back in line. And for 150+ recipes that flatten your belly fast—made with the foods you love—buy the best-selling book from Abs Diet creator David Zinczenko: Zero Belly Cookbook!
If you like to start your day with oatmeal, it’s time to give yourself an upgrade. While oatmeal is a terrific breakfast, with 8 grams of fiber and 12 grams of protein per cup, oatbran is a whole other level. It packs a whopping 18 grams of fiber and 20 grams of protein, for the same number of calories. (What’s the difference between the two? Oatbran is made from the outer husks of the oat, while oatmeal is made from the inner portion.) Don’t screw it up by dumping brown sugar or syrup on it. Low-fat milk and cinnamon are the best accompaniments.
The king of slow carbs (meaning they’re digested slowly and keep you feeling fuller and energized longer), sweet potatoes were a breakfast staple for Morgan Minor, a 24-year-old firefighter from Coalinga, California, who dropped 7 pounds in her first week of Zero Belly. And after just 21 days, a sculpted stomach emerged—Morgan had shed four inches off her waist. “I had plateaued at 160 for over a month, and Zero Belly helped me lose more than ten pounds in 3 weeks!” Among the magic ingredients here are carotenoids, antioxidants which stabilize blood-sugar levels and lower insulin resistance, which prevents calories from being converted into fat. And their high vitamin profile (including A, C and B6) give you more energy to burn at the gym. (Lose weight—fast!—with these 55 Best Ways to Speed Up Your Metabolism!)
To melt your love handles, look the a cereal with the most fiber and the least sugar. It’s hard to top Shredded Wheat; with its 9 grams of fiber per serving, and zero sugar, it’s one of the absolute best commercial cereal brands for people specifically looking to lose fat around their midsections.
Most commercially prepared soups, especially bisques and other smooth soups, have added sugar or other unsavory ingredients that will mess up your middle. Opt for thick, chunky soups like minestrone, which are higher in fiber and tend not to come with additional sugars. So enjoy a bowl—and avoid these 30 Bad Habits That Lead to a Fat Belly!
Also known as “forbidden rice” because only emperors were allowed to eat it, black rice may be the cheapest source of antioxidants around. According to the American Chemical Society, black rice has more antioxidants than a spoonful of blueberries, with more fiber, more vitamin E, and less sugar. More antioxidants means less inflammation, which means less fat storage for you.
White tea works in three distinct ways to help strip away fat from your body. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism showed that white tea can simultaneously boost lipolysis (the breakdown of fat) and block adipogenesis (the formation of fat cells). Another group of researchers found that the tea is also a rich source of antioxidant that triggers the release of fat from the cells and help speed the liver’s ability to turn fat into energy. Who needs Spanx when you can just sip on this powerful brew? If there’s such a thing as a muffin-top-melting tea, this is it. In fact, we at Eat This, Not That! love tea so much, we made it part of our bestselling new diet plan, The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse! Test panelists lost up to 4 inches from their waist!
High in fiber and low in fat, beans are a Zero Belly power food because they’re great source of resistant starch, meaning that they “resist” digestion, sticking around the digestive tract and helping you feel fuller longer. By feeding your healthy gut bugs, beans help your body generate the chemical butyrate, which encourages the body to burn fat as fuel. A study at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center even found that beans can lessen the accumulation of body fat. All beans do the trick, but the darker the bean, the greater its concentration of phytochemicals, which is why black is best.
This simple swap can make all the difference: Two corn tortillas can deliver 3 grams of fiber for a mere 80 calories and 1 gram of fat. Two flour tortillas will give you just 2 grams of fiber, but they’ll cost you 260 calories and 10 grams of fat. So which should you make your next quesadilla out of? At Mexican restaurants, ask them to replace the flour tortillas with corn in all your dishes.
In one Canadian study, subjects who were supplemented with a type of gut-healthy insoluble fiber called oligofructose not only lost weight but reported less hunger than those who received a placebo. Researchers discovered that the subjects who received the fiber had higher levels of ghrelin—a hormone that controls hunger—and lower levels of blood sugar. Jerusalem artichokes–which are actually the roots of a type of sunflower–are one of the best sources of the fiber. Ogliofructose is also found in onions and leeks, as well as rye and barley.
FLATTEN YOUR BELLY—FAST!
High in fiber and heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, guacamole. A half cup of guac—assuming you didn’t go and blow it by mixing in sour cream or something else that doesn’t belong—gives you more than 7 grams of fiber. For a super quick recipe, mix 1 ripe avocado, the juice of one lime, 2 Tbs chopped fresh cilantro and a pinch or two of sea salt.
No animals were harmed in the making of this food! Tiger nuts are made neither of tigers nor of nuts; they’re actually tubers, which means people with nut allergies can eat them safely. They look a bit like toasted corn kernels and taste kind of like coconut. A serving of 20 tiger nuts delivers 4 grams of fiber for just 60 calories.
With double the protein and four times the fiber of wheat pasta, Banza—made from chickpeas—turns a traditional carb into a muscle-building fat fighter. For anyone avoiding gluten, it’s a better choice than pastas made from corn, rice or potato powder, which are often devoid of any real nutrition. And click here for a cheaper list of The 29 Best-Ever Proteins—many meat-free!
It’s the Spanish term for pumpkin seed, and if you consider them just jack o’lantern innards, you’re in for a treat. One ounce of seeds has eight grams of protein — more than an egg or almonds — and is rich in flat-belly nutrients like fiber, zinc and potassium, which are key to muscle building and recovery. Sprinkle them in salads or over oats.
Looking for a cold, crunchy snack? Keep a bag of peas in the freezer and pour some into a cup for a filling nosh. A cup of peas has 7 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber, and because you pop them a few at a time, they’ll keep your hands and mouth busy, preventing you from seeking out more sinful treats.
Red fruits are an important part of the Zero Belly plan, but even among these nutritional powerhouses, raspberries stand alone as the single best source of insoluble fiber. A cup of the little ruby jewels has 8 grams of fiber, compared to less than 3 grams in the same amount of strawberries. Insoluble fiber helps feed the healthy bacteria in your gut, triggering the production of a fatty acid that reduces fat-causing inflammation throughout your body. And in a Canadian study, researchers discovered that those whose diets were supplemented with insoluble fiber had higher levels of ghrelin—a hormone that controls hunger. And fuel up fast with the muscle-building protein in these 50 Best Snacks for Weight Loss!
Resolve to do more prying. Oysters are one of the best food sources of zinc, a mineral that works with the hormone leptin to regulate appetite. Research shows that overweight people tend to have higher levels of leptin and lower levels of zinc than slimmer folk. A study published in the journal Life Sciences found that taking zinc supplements could increase leptin production in obese men by 142 percent! A half-dozen oysters only has 43 calories but provides 21 percent of your RDA of iron—deficiencies of which have been linked to a significant increase in fat gene expression.
A recent study found that antioxidants in cocoa prevented laboratory mice from gaining excess weight and actually lowered their blood sugar levels. And another study at Louisiana State University found that gut microbes in our stomach ferment chocolate into heart-healthy, anti-inflammatory compounds that shut down genes linked to insulin resistance and inflammation. To enhance the effects, try pairing your chocolate with some apple slices: The fruit speeds up the fermentation process, leading to an even greater reduction in inflammation and weight.
What’s unique about the Ezekial breads is that, unlike most brands, the company doesn’t use sugar in their loaves. With a combination of wheat, barley, millet, lentils, and spelt, this low-gluten brand packs 8 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber into every sandwich.
You see it sitting there every time you’re sitting around waiting for a massage. Spa water–a pitcher of ice water with sliced whole lemons, oranges or grapefruit–is a great substitute for pretty much anything else you might be tempted to drink. The citrus fruit peels add a compound called d-limonene, a powerful antioxidant that stimulates liver enzymes, helping to rid the body of toxins and flush fat from your system. And don’t forget: delicious smoothies really can help you lose weight! For 150+ recipes that will make your belly flat, buy the brand-new book from Abs Diet creator David Zinczenko: Zero Belly Cookbook!
As much as 92 percent of Americans eat a diet that’s deficient in vitamin E. And that trend seems highest among obese people, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Almonds are among the best dietary sources of vitamin E, packing about 20 milligrams per half cup, and are also high in monounsaturated fats and fiber.
It’s a complete protein, meaning that it contains the complete chain of amino acids that are necessary for muscle building and fat loss. (Brown rice is an incomplete protein.) In a 2015 study in the Journal of Diabetes Investigation, researchers discovered that patients who ingested higher amounts of vegetable protein were far less susceptible to metabolic syndrome (a combination of high cholesterol, high blood sugar, and obesity). It’s also high in the amino acid lysine, which helps you burn fat and maintain healthy bones and skin. According to a study published in the journal Food Chemistry, quinoa has the highest level of betaine, a chemical that revs your metabolism and actually shuts down the genes that encourage fat to hang around.
Like a marathoner stretching before the big run, eating half a grapefruit before a meal can enhance your body’s fat-burning performance. A study published in the journal Metabolism found that this “warm-up” tactic can help whittle your middle—by up to an inch—in just six weeks! The scientists attribute the powerful effects to the grapefruits’ fat-zapping phytochemicals. The fruit can interact negatively with certain medications, so as long as you get the green-light from your M.D, plan to have half of a grapefruit before your morning meal.
Polyunsaturated fats like those found in walnuts activate genes that reduce fat storage and improve insulin metabolism. At about 13 grams per one-ounce serving, walnuts are one of the best dietary sources. A small Pennsylvania State study found that a diet rich in walnuts and walnut oil may help the body respond better to stress and can also help keep diastolic blood pressure levels down. For more invaluable tips, check out our exclusive 25 Best Nutrition Tips Ever.
Tuna or to-not? That is the question. As a primo source of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), canned light tuna is one of the best and most affordable fish for weight loss, especially from around your waist! One study in the Journal of Lipid Research showed that omega 3 fatty acid supplementation had the profound ability to turn off fat genes. And while you’ll find two types of fatty acids in cold water fish and fish oils—DHA and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)—researchers say DHA can be 40 to 70 percent more effective than EPA at down regulating fat genes and preventing fat cells from expanding in size.
What the hell is purslane? While not a common food in most of the U.S., this sour, slightly salty green is often used in Greek and Turkish cooking. You can find it at health food stores throughout the year, and in farmers’ markets in spring and summer, but the most likely place you’ll encounter it is growing in the cracks of your driveway. A weed to most, it was a regular part of Gandhi’s diet, and a mere half cup has more than 1,000 IUs of fat-fighting vitamin A. This might be the cheapest stealth health food in the world!
Eggs are the E in “ZERO BELLY” for a reason: They’re the single best dietary source of a fat-fighting nutrient called choline. But you can improve their fat-fighting powers by choosing omega-3 eggs. Omega-3 enriched eggs are laid by hens that are fed flaxseeds, chia seeds, and fish oil, thereby automatically improving your cluck!
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