Ask any trainer or dietician and they’ll tell you the one thing you probably don’t want to hear: Flat abs are made in the kitchen. In fact, according to J.Lo’s trainer Jay Cardiello, it takes approximately 250,000 crunches to burn just one pound of fat. Who’s got time for that?! Fortunately, Shape.com contributor Ysolt Usigan asked experts to reveal what you should and shouldn't eat to beat the bloat, check out their picks for best and worst foods for flat abs below:
Best Food: Plain or Greek Yogurt
For a nice mid-section, nutritionist and owner of Essential Nutrition For You Rania Batayneh says to reach for yogurt that's plain flavored or Greek. “The probiotic bacteria in most yogurts help keep your digestive system healthy, which translates into a lower incidence of gas, bloating, and constipation, which can keep your tummy looking flat."
Worst Food: Soda
The carbonation in diet soda often causes bloating in people almost immediately upon drinking it. “These gassy drinks can fill our bellies with air, causing the stomach to look distended," says registered dietitian and certified personal trainer Erin Palinski. “Instead aim for water or calorie-free beverages rich in antioxidants (which decrease inflammation which may be linked with increased abdominal fat storage) such as green tea."
Best Food: Whole Grains
For killer abs, make whole grains your friend: wheat bread, lentils, brown rice, etc. “A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that a calorie-controlled diet rich in whole grains trimmed extra fat from the waistline of obese subjects," Palinski says. “This may be due to the decreased insulin response to whole grains versus refined carbohydrates, making it easier to mobilize fat storage."
Worst Food: Refined Carbs
If you want a flat belly, you’ll want to steer clear of white flours and white rice. These carbs get digested very quickly, causing spikes in both insulin and blood sugar levels, Palinski says. "This increased level of insulin in our body can promote increased fat storage in the abdominal area," she adds. In a study of those eating more refined, packaged, and processed carbs, their waistlines expanded three times more (about a half inch per year) compared with the group that ate whole grains.
Best Food: Vinegar
Research published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2005 notes that the acetic acid in vinegar helps to reduce the glycemic index of foods, which slows the rate at which sugars are released into the bloodstream from the intestines. According to Palinski, a Japanese study found that “vinegar's acetic acid may switch on genes that pump out proteins that break down fat.” Vinegar also stimulates digestion, which reduces the amount of time that fats remains in the digestive tract.
Worst Food: Salty Foods
Many packaged and processed foods contain high amounts of sodium, which can lead you to retain an unusually high amount of water weight. "When we are retaining fluid, the fluid often causes our belly to look puffier and bloating, masking your flat abs. Aim to consume less than 2000 mg [of sodium] per day," Palinski says.
For the full list, check out Shape.com.