Dreaming of a flat stomach without hitting the gym? The good news is your dream may not be too far away. Whether you're hoping to blitz away a muffin top or are battling with bloating, your diet is integral to shaping up this problem area. Start eating your way to a trimmer waistline with these top five foods for a flat stomach.
Flax seeds (often referred to as linseeds) are nutritious seeds packed with monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) - which are actually a lot more diet-friendly than they sound. Monounsaturated fats, unlike saturated fats (the "bad" fats found in junk food), not only lower cholesterol levels but they can also help to reduce body fat. Liz Vaccariello, author of The Flat Belly Diet, advocates these healthy fats for those wanting to specifically target belly fat.
Not only will these super seeds tackle love handles, but they are great for those suffering from bloating. Flax seeds provide high levels of fibre and can help to keep the digestive system running smoothly, helping to banish bloating, constipation and other digestive problems. Try adding a tablespoon of freshly ground flax seeds to your morning cereal, lunchtime salad, or homemade smoothie to start enjoying their belly-flattening benefits.
Blackberries, blueberries, acai berries... What do these fruits have in common? They could all help you to squeeze back into your skinny jeans. A study has suggested those wanting to lose their belly fat should opt for fruit that is blue or red in colour (such as cherries, red grapes and many types of berries). In fact, it is the chemicals that are responsible for giving these fruits their colour (anthocyanins) that, according to recent research, also burn abdominal fat.
Not only is yoghurt low in fat and calories, so good as a weight loss food, but many yoghurts also contain active cultures (probiotics) which promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut and help with digestion, excess gas and bloating. Yoghurt is luckily easy to fit into any diet plan as part of a meal or a snack between meals. You could also try combining natural yoghurt, berries and flax seeds in a morning smoothie or bowl of cereal, getting you off to a great tummy-trimming start before you even leave the house.
Whole grains are great for weight management and shedding those excess pounds. Not only are they a low-fat source of slow-release energy but, due to their high levels of fibre, they will help to regulate the digestive system and also keep you feeling fuller for longer. Eating whole grains also helps to lower levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and insulin in the body, both of which encourage fat to be stored around the belly.
Many people, however, instinctively opt for wheat as their primary source of whole grains, which is often not the best choice. Not only is wheat difficult to digest - which can cause bloating in some - but it is better to eat grains in their natural form rather than as a processed flour. Good alternatives to try are brown rice, oats, buckwheat and spelt. Quinoa - although technically a seed - is also a nutritious alternative that can be used in the place of grains such as pasta and couscous.
Water or other still drinks
While it's not technically a food, a lack of water in your diet could be the one thing still standing in your way of a flat belly. Bloating is something that affects many women and the problem is often worsened - or even instigated - by a lack of fluids in the system. Drinking water will help to flush toxins out of the system, curb hunger, improve the digestive system and reduce fluid retention, all of which will leave your stomach looking flatter.
If you are aiming for a flat belly, it is important to drink a minimum of eight glasses of liquids a day. Although this does not have to be water, it is best to go for liquids that are still (fizzy drinks can cause bloating) and low in calories. If you don't fancy plain water, a good alternative is green tea - which is also rumoured to have fat burning benefits - or fennel, dandelion or peppermint teas, all of which can combat bloating.