Can certain foods give you an edge in the battle of the bulge? The answer appears to be yes.
When it comes to whittling your waistline, research suggests that there may indeed be certain foods and nutrients that can help you lose more weight – or shed more belly fat – than simply cutting calories. Given that belly fat is one of America’s most common complaints, is hard to lose, and can raise your risk of metabolic syndrome and heart disease, it’s worth a closer look. Here are 3 “dynamic duos” I shared with Dr. Oz that you may want to add to your get-lean routine.
Power Duo #1: Oranges and Avocados
Why it works: In Italy, there’s a saying: “What grows together goes together.” In my book, citrus and avocados are a perfect example! Both are in season now. Oranges are an excellent source of vitamin C, an antioxidant that helps to reduce our body’s levels of cortisol, the flight-or-flight hormone released in response to stress. This is key because research has found elevated cortisol to be associated with significantly higher amounts of belly fat.
Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fat (MUFA), and a growing body of evidence suggests a reduced calorie diet rich in MUFAs can help control blood sugar, trim belly fat and even visceral fat (located deep in your abdomen and linked to a higher risk of diabetes) more effectively than a low-fat, high-carb eating plan. Simply slice up half an avocado with orange slices, drizzle with a little olive oil (another MUFA) and a dash of kosher salt for a delicious snack with staying power – or you can try these following recipes.
Orange and Avocado Salad
1 navel orange
1 fennel bulb (stalks cut off and discarded)
Handful of hazelnuts
Mixed dark baby greens
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
Cut peel from orange. Halve orange lengthwise, then cut crosswise into thin slices. Halve fennel bulb lengthwise, then cut crosswise into very thin slices. Halve, pit, and peel avocado, then cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Toss orange, fennel, and avocado with red onion and hazelnuts into mixed dark baby greens salad. Add balsamic vinegar and olive oil for dressing as desired.
Orange and Avocado Chicken Wrap
Makes 4 servings
4 (6-inch) whole grain tortilla
12 oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts, grilled and sliced
1 medium avocado, peeled and sliced
2 navel oranges, segmented
1/4 cup sliced red onion
2 cups mixed salad greens
Balsamic vinegar as dressing, to taste
Arrange all ingredients on the whole grain tortilla; first lay down the salad greens, and build. You may want to combine all the ingredients first (with the exception of the salad greens) and toss with the balsamic vinegar first to fully integrate the flavors. Wrap and enjoy!
Power Duo #2: Calcium and Vitamin D
Why it works: In a recent study, overweight subjects lost significantly more belly fat when they added calcium and vitamin D supplements to a reduced calorie diet than subjects who simply cut calories. This adds to a growing body of evidence that calcium and vitamin D play a role in regulating abdominal fat – and together may help your body increase fat oxidation, when your body burns stored fat for energy.
Aim for 1000 IU vitamin D and 600 mg calcium. Prefer food instead? Try snacking on low-fat yogurt or Greek yogurt every day. Research from Harvard found yogurt to be one of the top foods associated with weight loss.
Power Duo #3: Iced Matcha and Ginger
Trust me, you’ll swoon when you taste this drink recipe (below). Matcha is a gorgeous green powder made from whole, ground green tea leaves; because you are consuming the entire leaf, you get maximum health benefits.
Green tea is loaded with several potent phytochemicals, but one in particular seems to be associated with a metabolic boost: EGCG. Evidence suggests green tea increases energy expenditure by 4-5%, and fat oxidation by 10-16%. The ginger adds a zingy taste and spicy heat, which early evidence (in animals) suggests may give you an additional small boost in your body’s thermogenesis (the rate at which you burn calories).
Why iced? It turns out that sipping it icy cold may boost your metabolic rate as well. A recent study reported that when subjects were given an ice cold glass of water, their metabolic rate rose after 10 minutes, and stayed elevated for about a half hour. While the effect of cold sipping may only be a few extra calories a day, over the course of the year, this healthy habit could translate into a few extra pounds of weight loss with minimal effort.
Ginger Matcha Iced Tea
1 tsp matcha powder
2 tbsp fresh ginger, chopped
1/2 cup ice
Juice of 1/2 lime
Blend ice, matcha powder and ginger together until ice is crushed. Pour into glass. Add lime juice and honey to taste.