It's been scientifically proven: Eating fat helps you become slim, says Aragon. In fact, the Institute of Medicine recommends that fatty foods make up 20 to 35 percent of your total calories. This, of course, isn't an invitation to head over to the nearest fast-food joint. You have to include the right fats--primarily monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) like nuts, avocados, and healthy oils--and stay away from processed foods that contain trans fats, such as baked goods. A report in the British Journal of Nutrition found that a MUFA-rich diet helped people lose small amounts of weight and body fat even when they didn't change their calorie intake. What's more, dieters who took a high-fat approach needed 25 fewer days to lose 10 pounds than those who used a high-carb approach, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University--and that was on a diet of 30 percent fat! So go ahead and indulge (in moderation) in fatty foods that are good for your body, including beef (top round and sirloin), pork, eggs (yolks too), and reduced-fat sour cream and cheese.
Is counting calories the only way to guarantee a flat stomach?
What matters most for shedding belly fat boils down to calories in versus calories out. For sure, counting those suckers at every meal will help you stay consistent with a healthy eating plan, says Aragon--but it isn't necessary to lose weight. If worrying about Every. Single. Calorie. is stressing you out, put away the calculator (research shows that stress itself can cause you to stuff your face). Instead, fill your plate with whole, energy-dense foods, such as lean protein, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Because they pack a lot of nutrition into comparatively few calories, you're able to eat more and feel full without expanding your waistline. For an example of how to combine specific foods into belly-flattening dishes, see Good Eats for Great Abs.
Aren't protein shakes just for bodybuilders?
Don't be fooled by labels featuring ripped, bulked-up dudes. Anyone, jock or not, can benefit from the belly-flattening power of protein powder. Opt for whey protein over soy: According to a study in The Journal of Nutrition, participants whose diets included whey protein for 23 weeks had less body fat and a smaller waist than those who consumed soy protein. In fact, as strange as it sounds, dieters who included whey protein in their eating plan doubled their fat loss compared with those who ate the same number of calories but didn't drink any shakes. To reveal your abs once and for all, try including a whey protein shake once a day or at least a few times a week.
Do carbs cause tummy fat?
Despite what nearly every diet plan in the late '90s led you to believe, carbs are not your enemy. Yes, if you overeat them, you'll gain--just as with any other food. But when it comes to weight loss, your total calorie balance is what matters. If you eat more than you burn, the unused calories turn into fat that gets stored in your belly (and elsewhere), regardless of what particular foods those calories come from, says Aragon. That said, if just the sight of carb-heavy dishes melts your willpower into goo, avoiding them is the foolproof way to control your weight. More realistic, perhaps, is making sure most of your carbs are the complex kind found in whole grains and raw fruits and vegetables. Because these tend to fill you with fiber, it's easier to eat them in controlled portions than it is with highly processed refined carbs like white bread, pasta, and rice.
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