Despite these windy 60 degree days that aren’t quite yet spring-like, the time has finally arrived for warm weather to hit the Northwestern campus. Not feeling ready to strut your stuff in a bikini on North Beach? Have no fear — incorporating these belly-slimming foods into your diet and fitness routine will drive you toward that six pack in no time.
Regardless of the hours spent at the gym, stomach bloating can derail any progress towards flat abs. Add in some of these foods to detox and eliminate excess gas.
Fiber is key in easing bloating and keeping digestion on track. While apples, bananas and leafy greens are more accessible, papaya contains greater benefits. Not only does this tropical fruit pack a healthy dose of vitamins C and E, but it also contains the enzyme papain, proven to breakdown proteins. Blend some papaya into a breakfast smoothie, or simply dig into a ripened fruit with a spoon. Just make sure to remove the seeds first!
Though some believe chia seeds to be merely a fad in the fitness world, these tiny seeds pack an abundance of nutritional value. Just two tablespoons of chia seeds contain 11 grams of fiber, and the seeds are also considered one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are critical to healthy blood pressure and brain function. These ancient seeds absorb water instantly and act as a great thickening aid. Sprinkle a few into yogurt or a smoothie, or whip up some easy overnight oats topped with chia seeds for the ultimate healthy breakfast.
Even if you aren’t lactose intolerant, dairy can still cause digestive disruption. The exception to the rule: yogurt. High in probiotics for healthy digestion, it’s a no-brainer addition to any diet. However, many brands have a ton of added sugar that negate the positive properties of the food. Go for plain unsweetened yogurt — the Greek variation will give you a protein boost and keep you full — then mix in fresh fruit to satisfy any sugar cravings.
Exercise alone isn’t effective; a healthy diet is necessary for promoting weight loss. It’s no surprise that “a six pack is made in the kitchen.” These staples will boost your metabolism and help burn more calories throughout the day.
Starting your day off with a cup of joe is a great way to wake up the brain and stomach. Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant that not only keeps you bright-eyed, but also increases metabolic burn by five to eight percent. A classic cup of black coffee is recommended for before and after a sweat session.
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts blast more calories during the digestive process because they require a greater source of energy to break down. Broccoli is easy to incorporate into any meal; simply chop some raw and throw them atop a salad, or steam a few florets for a side dish. If you’re feeling daring to get a little more hands-on, try some parmesan roasted broccoli with chili pepper flakes.
While spices such as ginger, cumin and cayenne are known to raise metabolic levels, cinnamon is the clear winner. This spice not only increases insulin sensitivity to provoke the body into fat-burning mode, but it also lowers glucose levels in the blood, thus controlling appetite. Sprinkle a bit on top of popcorn, or throw some into your favorite cookie recipe for some extra flavor.
Want to bulk up? For maximum results, complement a weight lifting regimen with these protein-packed foods.
One of the best sources of protein out there, eggs are not only a great post-workout meal, but are also a nutritious way to start the day. Choosing eggs over a breakfast primarily consisting of simple starches — a bagel or pancakes — will keep you satisfied till lunch rolls around. While dieters often choose egg whites, don’t forgo the yolk; the yellow center contains B12, a key nutrient to breakdown fat and monitor muscle contraction. Scramble eggs with some veggies, poach over whole grain toast, or whip up this avocado egg salad for a hearty meal.
Similar to beef, bison is loaded with iron and zinc. However, bison offers a richer taste with less fat than beef; a 3-ounce serving of beef sirloin contains 12 grams of fat and 5 grams of saturated fat, while a bison sirloin of relative size contains a mere 5 grams of fat and 2 grams of saturated fat. Cook bison as you would beef — throw a steak on the grill or use ground meat for a juicy burger.
Chickpeas offer a healthy dose of both protein and fiber — about 12 grams per cup. This legume is fat-free and can act as a substitute for refined flour in a variety of recipes. Throw chickpeas on top of a salad, use them in a classic hummus recipe, or roast them for a crunchy snack.
While often overlooked, water could be the missing link in a healthy diet. Drinking up to eight 8-ounce glasses a day is not only crucial to staying hydrated, but also helpful in fighting hunger. So, carry a water bottle around with you to class and drink up!