You work out as much as you can, go through countless reps of sit-ups and stability exercises and log tons of time on the treadmill—but you still don't know how to get abs. Not even a one-pack. It can be disheartening, we know.
The saying "abs are made in the kitchen" is cliché by now, but its foundation is still true. It doesn't matter how strong your core is, no one will be able to see those abs if you don't do something about the pesky layer of fat that's sitting on top of it.
To beat the belly bulge and get those abs you've been dreaming of, you'll not only have to ditch the junk food, you'll also have to incorporate foods that boost metabolism, torch belly fat, ward off future weight gain, and banish bloating. Eat through this list to trim inches from your waistline and make your abs pop. And while you're making changes, be sure to check out the best healthy cooking hacks of all time:
Even if you eat well and exercise, chronic stress can prevent your abs from showing. When we stress out, the body starts pumping out the hormone cortisol, which encourages the body to store cholesterol-raising fat around the midsection. The good news is that vitamin C-rich foods like peppers, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts have nutrients that lower levels of cortisol during stressful situations, which in turn prevents your body from storing fat.
A bloated belly can make even the most toned stomach look a bit paunchy. Fight back against the gas and water retention with bananas. One Anaerobe study found that women who ate a banana twice daily as a pre-meal snack for 60 days reduced their belly-bloat by 50 percent! Not only does the fruit increase the good stomach flora, it's also a good source of potassium, which can help diminish water retention. Once you've kicked the bloat to the curb, you can hit the beach with confidence and show off that hard-earned body!
Yes, oats are loaded with carbs, but the release of those sugars is slowed by fiber, and because oats also have 10 grams of protein per half-cup serving, they deliver steady, ab-muscle-friendly energy. And that fiber is soluble, which lowers the risk of heart disease. The éminence grise of health food, oats garnered the FDA's first seal of approval. For some crazy-delicious ways to add oats to your morning routine, check out these overnight oats recipes for weight loss!
Apples are one of the very best sources of fiber, which means you should eat them at every opportunity. A study at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center found that for every 10-gram increase in soluble fiber eaten per day, belly fat was reduced by 3.7 percent over five years. And a study at the University of Western Australia found that the Pink Lady variety had the highest level of antioxidant flavonoids—a fat-burning compound—of any apple.
Sipping green tea can make your time spent at the gym more worthwhile. A Journal of Health Sciences study found that the tea increased belly fat burning at rest and even during exercise. What makes the drink such a powerful ab-chiseler? This brew contains catechins, an antioxidant that hinders the storage of belly fat. Not a fan of tea? Munch on fresh pears instead. The fruit is another good source of the antioxidant.
They're are a delicious, phytonutrient-rich snack. But the true cherry bomb is the tart cherry—not the sort you're used to seeing each summer in bunches at the supermarket. In most of the country you'll find them dried, frozen, or canned. But they're worth seeking out because they are a true superpower fruit. A study at the University of Michigan found that rats fed tart cherries showed a 9 percent belly fat reduction over rats fed a standard diet. Moreover, researchers noted that the cherries alter the expression of fat genes!
Double-team your belly bulge by eating lean cuts of turkey and chicken every day. A study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that eating protein not only boosts satiety and helps people eat less at subsequent meals, it also has a high thermogenic effect compared to fats and carbs. Translation: Your body actually burns off a fair amount of the meat's calories as it digests. For the best flab-frying results, experts suggest consuming 0.8 to one gram of protein per kilogram of body weight each day.
Whole Wheat Pasta
You know brown is better, but do you know why? It's because whole wheat contains three parts of the grain, all nutrient rich and fiber-filling. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who followed a diet rich in whole grains saw a significant decrease in body fat in the abdominal region. You can also whip up a pasta made with lentils, chickpeas, black beans, or quinoa. Before your next shopping trip, check out our guide to the best pastas for weight loss!
The king of slow carbs (meaning they're digested slowly and keep you feeling fuller and energized longer), sweet potatoes are loaded with fiber and nutrients that can help you burn fat. The magic ingredient 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) gives you more energy to burn at the gym.
Besides serving up a third of the day's fiber, a one-cup serving of this highly nutritious, naturally sweet veggie contains 30 percent of your daily vitamin C needs. The body uses the nutrient to form muscle and blood vessels, and it can even boost fat oxidization, according to Arizona State University researchers.