Tribune Media Services
9:51 PM EDT, June 6, 2012
If you want a flatter stomach, cutting calories and exercising are must-dos. But new research also shows some foods may have waist-shrinking (and consequent health-boosting) properties. Here are some tummy tamers to add to your diet:
Canola oil: Already dubbed a heart-healthy cooking oil, canola now touts another boon: When Brazilian researchers fed rats a diet containing either canola or soybean oil for two months, the canola eaters gained nearly 20 percent less fat in and around the organs of the belly (also known as visceral fat) than those who chowed on the soybean-oil-enriched diet.
Though researchers can't say exactly how much canola oil people would need to include in their diet to achieve this effect, they believe that canola oil's high omega-3 content lowers insulin levels, ultimately discouraging fat storage in the abdomen.
Beans: Swapping animal proteins in your diet for vegetarian proteins like beans may do more than help your heart (and the planet).
A 2011 Diabetic Medicine study found that a six-month-long calorie-controlled vegetarian diet was more effective at blasting belly fat and stimulating weight loss in diabetic volunteers than a calorically equivalent nonvegetarian diet.
The vegetarian diet burned more deep (visceral) abdominal fat, as well as that extra layer just under the skin (subcutaneous fat), explains lead researcher Dr. Hana Kahleova, with the Institute for Clinical and Experimental Medicine in Prague.
Red peppers: In a recent Journal of Nutrition study, Dutch researchers asked 374 men about the foods they ate most frequently.
They found that those whose diets contained the most beta carotene and lycopene (phytochemicals that make carrots orange and give red peppers and tomatoes their brilliant hue) had the smallest waists and the least abdominal fat.
Because beta carotene and lycopene are potent antioxidants, researchers think they may mop up the harmful compounds that promote fat storage. Peppers are also packed with vitamin C, a nutrient needed for fat burning.
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