We’ve heard it time and time and time again: abs are made in the kitchen.
The reason this line is so prevalent when we talk abs is because, well …
… it’s 100 percent true.
Unfortunately, no amount of ab or core work, or even excess cardio, can outdo a bad diet when it comes to achieving a low body fat percentage (an essential for visible abs). Most of us are aware of this concept as a whole, but may not be aware that there are actually certain specific foods that can help expose your abs faster.
Here we’re diving into those foods, along with the ones to avoid if you want to stay shredded long term.
1. Wild Fish
Wild fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have not only shown the ability to improve heart heart and brain function, but also reduce belly fat. One study on 2,874 adults found that those who regularly ate fatty fish tended to have less belly fat, while eating lean fish was also tied to lower waist circumference and triglyceride levels in women. [*]
2. Kimchi and Sauerkraut
Both kimchi and sauerkraut are rich in probiotics, or “good” bacteria, that are also found in our bodies.
To begin, research shows that lean people and overweight people have very different bacteria strains in their bodies. And, in rodent studies, when these strains from lean mice are introduced to overweight mice’ systems, changes in bodyweight usually occur. [*] [*]
It is thought that this effect occurs from certain probiotics’ ability to reduce the absorption of dietary fat, increasing the amount you, ahem, poop out. [*]
Other studies have shown that varied probiotics can increase satiety hormones, making you feel fuller faster, so that you lose more weight overall. [*]
3. Green Veggies and Leafy Greens
We all know veggies and leafy greens like spinach and kale are healthy, but studies show they’re also directly associated with less body fat. In particular, a review of 10 studies found that eating at least 4 servings of veggies per day was associated with less risk of weight gain and a lower waist circumference in women. [*]
4. Nuts and Seeds
Who doesn’t love their almond butter?
It turns out nuts and seeds are one of the best foods to eat to manage abdominal fat specifically. To illustrate, a 6-week study on 48 people eating 1.5 ounces of almonds per day was found to significantly reduce belly fat, while another showed eating chia daily decreased body weight and waist circumference. [*][*]
The only disclaimer with nuts and seeds: they definitely aren’t a free-for-all food. Since they are so calorie-dense, portion size matters immensely, so keep it to one serving per day.
5. Wild Meats
As we know, meat is rich in protein, and research shows that protein intake is strongly associated with less belly fat. Not to mention, studies also show it can help reduce appetite, and therefore aid in weight loss. [*]
Focus on consuming plenty of wild, organic meats like free-range turkey, chicken, and venison.
Foods to Avoid to Stay Ripped
If you’ve been in the game for even a little while, you probably already know what this “naughty” list looks like. Avoid these foods to support long-term abs:
• Sugar in the form of candy, chocolate bars (unless pure, and over 72% cacao), agave nectar, cane sugar, etc…
• Breads, pastas, muffins, cakes, cookies
• Granola bars (added sugar), sweetened yogurts (typically these are the flavored ones), canned fruit, fruit juices
• Sweetened nut milks, dairy in all forms
• Dried fruit
• Sweet tropical fruits like pineapple and mango
• Ice cream
• Flavored lattes
• Salad dressings with dairy, corn, wheat, soy, or added sugars
Keep in mind that some substitutions can be made here that can work for, say, once-a-week “treats” that won’t kill your ab progress. These include low-sugar cookies made with almond or coconut flour, or pancakes made from the same. Raw honey can also be consumed once a week, along with a square of dark chocolate every other night. The point isn’t to deprive yourself of pleasure entirely, but to merely make smart swaps and have them as “treats,” rather than an everyday thing.
Supplements to Support Abs
Like food, herbs and other supplements can also have an effect on your hormones and metabolism that encourage fat burn and leanness. Consider investing in some of these:
Adaptogens are a class of herbs that help your body adapt to stress, lessening its negative effects. These are great to take not only if you’re experiencing physical “stress” from training, but also mental or emotional stress in your life. This is because they help keep the stress hormone cortisol under control, which is known for stimulating fat gain around your belly.
Research has shown that ginger can help stimulate your metabolism. In fact, one review of 14 studies showed that supplementing with ginger significantly decreased both body weight and belly fat. [*]
One study found that the spice turmeric and its active compound curcumin enhanced fat loss and decreased belly fat in 44 overweight people in just one month. [*]
Remember how we mentioned kimchi and sauerkraut as some of the best foods to eat for abs due to their probiotic content? Well, you can ramp up the probiotics to another level by supplementing with them. Be sure to purchase a brand from the refrigerated section of your health food store to make sure they’re alive and well.
In general, eating a diet of whole foods will get you abs faster than any other method. By whole foods I mean sticking to only foods directly from nature in their whole state, like all types of veggies, wild meats, squashes, nuts, seeds, low-sugar berries, eggs, and fish. If you stick to these 90-95 percent of the time, your abs will be asking to show themselves.