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 love handles look—or live with them. And luckily for you, when it comes to how to get rid of love handles, a well-balanced plant-based diet can help. Here are the best foods to add to your diet to lose love handles.
Wondering how to lose belly fat and love handles? Well, if you like to start your day with oatmeal, you’re on the right track. All you need to do is give your healthy breakfast an upgrade. While oatmeal is a terrific breakfast, with 8 grams of fiber and 12 grams of protein per cup, oat bran 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? Oat bran 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.
The king of slow carbs (meaning they’re digested slowly and keep you feeling fuller and energized longer), sweet potatoes should be a diet staple. 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.
3. Shredded Wheat
To melt your love handles, look for a cereal with the most fiber and the least sugar (so none of the unhealthiest cereals on the planet). 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.
4. Minestrone Soup
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!
5. Black Rice
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.
6. White Tea
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.
7. Black Beans
High in fiber and low in fat, beans are a Zero Belly (and love handles!) 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.
8. Corn Tortillas
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.
9. Jerusalem Artichokes
In one Canadian study, subjects who were supplemented with a type of gut-healthy insoluble fiber called oligofructose not only lost weight in their love handles area, but also 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, hence the alternative name of “sunchoke”—are one of the best sources of the fiber. Ogliofructose is also found in onions and leeks, as well as rye and barley.
High in fiber and heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, guacamole is another love handles superfood. 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.
11. Tiger Nuts
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.
12. Chickpea Pasta
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.
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.
14. Frozen Peas
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.
16. Dark Chocolate
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.
17. Ezekiel Sprouted 100% Whole Grain Bread
What’s unique about Ezekiel bread 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.
18. Spa Water
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!
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, which is optimum for eliminating love handles.
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 love handles 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, particularly when it comes to love handles. 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.
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!
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