Crunches? Check. Planks? Check. You’ve done every core workout under the sun, so where are the promised six-pack abs? If your muscles are still hiding under a pesky layer of belly fat, it might be time to reconsider your diet choices. Luckily, it’s not too late to change your ways and uncover your abs before beach season has come and gone. Cut back on the carbs, as Muscle & Fitness advises, and stick to only eating them in the morning or right before a workout. And don’t forget to skip the junk food!
When it comes to what foods you should put in your body, reach for any of these 15 options to speed your way to six-pack abs.
If you’re trying to kill your gut, dark green veggies like broccoli are a necessity. Broccoli may have the potential to make you feel a little bloated at first, which seems pretty counter-intuitive if you’re trying to slim down. But since this low-calorie veggie is packed with fiber and nutrients, research shows it will fill you up and help you lose weight. You can’t spot-treat your midsection to reduce flab, so losing weight in general will help you achieve the six-pack of your dreams. For the same effect, chow down on some kale, spinach, or other dark green veggies.
Eggs have been your longtime fitness friend. Since they’re packed with protein, a morning omelet or scramble is a great option before a workout. But did you know eggs also contain a nutrient called choline that boosts your metabolism? According to Eat This, Not That!, research has shown eating eggs for breakfast makes it easier to lose weight and shred those abs. If you want to maximize on eggs’ sculpting potential, hard boil a few and bring them to work as an afternoon snack.
3. Green tea
Instead of reaching for that protein shake right after the gym, consider steeping some hot tea. Research suggests green tea may greatly aid in weight loss, which is good news for your emerging six-pack. The reason for this miraculous phenomenon? According to a meta-analysis published in the International Journal of Obesity, green tea contains epigallocatechin gallate, a natural chemical compound that causes the body to use fat as fuel. And of course, since it’s a zero-calorie beverage, you can drink as much green tea as you’d like without worrying about adding weight.
Dairy is another crucial element of an ab-sculpting diet. Research has shown that incorporating this calcium and protein source into your daily meals will help you eliminate fat, especially around your stomach. In fact, one study published by the International Journal of Obesity found consuming yogurt greatly reduced belly fat in obese participants. Half of the participants got their calcium from yogurt while the other opted for supplements. Both groups were also put on diets to cut 500 calories per day. After 12 weeks, those who consumed the yogurt lost a lot more weight, most of which was from their midsection.
While dairy is a great option for trimming down, The Huffington Post Canada reminds readers to beware added sugar. Stick to products like unsweetened Greek yogurt or skim milk over flavored, sweetened options.
5. Lean meat
When it comes to meat, the leaner the better. This added protein helps you stay full and keeps you from overeating during subsequent meals. In fact, protein has been shown to boost post-meal calorie burn significantly, which is great news for your long-awaited six-pack. Go for options like lean turkey, chicken, or salmon. In addition to the protein benefits, turkey breast contains nearly one-third of your daily requirements of niacin and vitamin B6.
There seems to be a never-ending debate in the fitness world about bananas. But when it comes to uncovering your abs, bananas are key. They increase bacteria in the stomach that reduces gas build-up, plus all the potassium cuts down on water retention (aka, no more ab-hiding belly bloat). Throw some bananas in your oatmeal, or bring a few to the gym as a pre- or post-workout snack. Your gut will thank you.
7. Split peas
When it comes to blasting belly fat, fiber is key. Kristen Hairston, M.D., tells WebMD that those who eat 10 grams of soluble fiber a day build up less fat around the abdominal cavity — and that’s without even making any other dietary changes. Greatist recommends eating a nice big bowl of split peas to take care of all your fiber needs. Split peas offer 16.3 grams of fiber per cup — more than enough to fulfill the quota Hairston suggests.
Unsure of how to incorporate split peas into your meals? Try making a delicious soup or looking at some Indian recipes for flavorful inspiration.
8. Canola oil
We usually think of olive oil as the healthier alternative to canola, but research suggests when it comes to belly fat, that container of canola oil you have sitting in your pantry may come in handy. Penny M. Kris-Etherton, professor of nutrition at Penn State, says the monounsaturated fats found in canola oil can decrease abdominal fat. You can’t spot-target fat reduction, but Kris-Etherton says in a press release, “monounsaturated fatty acids seem to specifically target abdominal fat,” so this one is worth a try.
In Kris-Etherton’s study, 101 participants who had abdominal obesity or increased weight circumference were given a specific amount of canola oil to incorporate into their diets every day. After a month of their assigned oil diets, participants generally had about a quarter pound less belly fat than they did before the diet began.
9. Collard greens
Not a huge fan of dairy? You can still get your calcium in the form of greens. You may be surprised to know one cup of chopped and cooked collard greens provides 27% of your daily value of calcium, which is quite significant. Studies show calcium is associated with less abdominal fat, so it’s important to incorporate it into your diet if that coveted six-pack is what you’re after.
This mineral can also aid in reducing cortisol, the stress hormone that can lead to weight gain if overproduced. It can also help your body more effectively use estrogen, which can lead to less fat accumulation in the belly area. If you’re not a fan of collards, then kale would be another great option for plant-based calcium.
There’s no magical belly-melting secret to nuts, but they are a rich source of protein and fiber — two key ingredients to getting that six pack. Health explains almonds, cashews, and pistachios should be your go-tos, as they provide omega-3 fatty acids, that necessary protein and fiber, and fewer calories than other nuts. You can snack on 23 almonds or 49 pistachios and get 6 grams of protein.
Need another reason to snack on almonds? They have more calcium than any other nut, a mineral we’ve mentioned before that’s particularly great for your waistline.
11. Chia seeds
Chia seeds aren’t just for sprouting hair on your favorite childhood decor anymore. These seeds are taking the health world by storm because of their benefits, and if you’re looking to drop tummy weight, incorporating them into your diet can really help. Muscle & Fitness explains this food is rich in fiber and calcium — two things we know are great for blasting belly fat.
The seeds are also 20% protein, so sprinkling them over a salad or making a delicious chia pudding for dessert are great incorporation methods. You’ll feel fuller for longer, drop a few pounds, and finally see those stomach muscles that have been hidden for so long.
We all know fish is high in protein and full of healthy fats, but there are a few fish in particular you should stick with if you’re looking to lose weight. Eat This, Not That! explains halibut boasts an impressive amount of protein. Oysters should be another go-to, as they provide 21% of your recommended daily value of iron.
Of course, wild salmon also makes the list. This fatty fish is known for its high omega-3 content and its ability to aid in weight loss. One fillet will keep you full for hours due to its high protein content. General weight loss means you’ll be shedding belly fat and exposing those six-pack abs in a flash.
13. Hot peppers
There’s good news for hot sauce lovers — incorporating chili peppers into your meals is a great way to blast away belly fat. Julieanna Hever, author of The Vegiterranean Diet, tells Redbook spicy peppers contain a compound known as capsaicin, which can help you feel more satisfied after eating. Capsaicin also helps you burn more fat by improving your body’s control of insulin, says one review found in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition.
If raw peppers in your dishes prove to be too much for you, try sprinkling cayenne over your meals or even adding dried chili flakes into your tea for a kick. You’ll accelerate your weight loss and reveal that six-pack in no time.
14. Whole grains
You’ll want to switch that loaf of white bread in your fridge to whole grain for six-pack abs. One study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition instructed half of participants to eat whole-grain-rich foods in conjunction with a reduced-calorie diet, and the other group was told to consume refined grains alongside a reduced-calorie diet. After 12 weeks, both lost weight, but the group who ate grains had significantly less body fat around their abdominal region than the other group.
Unsure of how to incorporate whole grains into your diet? Aside from switching your bread, Rodale’s Organic Life suggests adding bulgur, brown rice, and buckwheat to your meals. And skip out on anything that’s “multigrain” or “wheat” — this sounds healthy, but they might not be 100% whole grain.
Fresh berries are a favorite once summer comes, but you may want to stock up on the frozen varieties all year round to reap the fat-fighting benefits. Blueberries have low energy density, SFGate explains. This means you can take in an abundance of the fruit without worrying about eating too many calories — an entire cup is only 84 calories, which is great news for those trying to lose belly fat. And, because blueberries are more than 80% water, you’ll be more hydrated and fuller between meals, too.
This little fruit packs a punch in terms of fiber as well. This means you’ll be keeping your appetite in check.
Additional reporting by Lauren Weiler