5 eating strategies that'll get you a sleeker belly.
Researchers have found that women put on more fat around their midsection as they get older -- and if you're stressed, overweight or menopausal, your waistline is more likely to balloon. But that's not to say a poochy tummy is inevitable with age: Couple cardio and core exercises with a sensible eating plan and you can stay trim and look fab, say health experts. With these belly-friendly diet tips, you'll be empowered to beat the flab.
1. Up your fiber intake
A recent Danish study found that women who ate more fiber gained less weight with age, particularly around their middle, than women on low-fiber diets. So how much fiber should you aim to take? 25 to 30 grams a day, recommend experts. Good sources include fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains.
2. Eat frequently
Stress causes weight gain because when you're often anxious or feeling overwhelmed, your body produces stress hormones like cortisol, which encourages the storage of fat in the abdomen. Studies have shown that hunger can trigger the same effect and send cortisol in overdrive, leading to an expanding waistline. To keep your hunger under control, eat five or six smaller meals instead of three main meals.
3. Cut back on salt
Sodium causes your body to retain fluids. That's why a diet high in sodium can result in a bloated stomach as well as raise your blood pressure. Stay away from high-sodium culprits such as processed and canned foods, and whenever possible add flavor to your foods with herbs and spices instead of salt.
4. Eat less fast food
Here's yet another proof that fast food isn't exactly the most diet-friendly food around: A study by the University of Minnesota found that people who ate fast food more than twice a week gained an extra 10 pounds over 15 years, compared with people who ate fast food less than once a week. Fast foods are notoriously high in saturated fat and sodium, which not only lead to weight gain, but also elevate your risks of health problems such as diabetes and heart disease.
5. Cut back on refined carbs
According to recent findings published by the American Journal of Epidemiology, it's not the amount, but the kind of carbohydrates you consume, that triggers weight gain. Contrary to popular belief, overweight people don't eat more carbs than normal-weight individuals, but nutrition researchers found that they are more inclined to eat an excess of refined carbs.
Refined carbohydrates are, for example, those found in sugar, white bread, white rice, white bread, pasta and cereals. Meals and snacks that are laden with refined carbs have a high glycemic index, meaning they quickly break down into sugar, causing insulin levels to skyrocket and blood sugar to spike. If this blood sugar is not used by the body, it is stored as fat.
Replace refined carbs with unrefined carbs (wholemeal bread, whole wheat pasta, oats, veggies) and protein (lean meat) in your diet -- these nutrients break down more slowly, so you'll stay fuller for longer.