Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In


Food & Health News

Flat-Belly Foods

As a cover model, nutritional therapy 
practitioner and creator of the Eat-Clean Diet® series, Tosca Reno knows a thing 
or two about tightening and toning her midriff. Here, she shares her top secrets.

Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.

I’m living proof that abs are made in the kitchen, not in the gym! But like you, I’m human, and that involves a little experimentation to discover which foods give me the nice tight tummy I’m after, and which have the opposite effect. There’s nothing worse than a puffy stomach. Just this morning I put on my favorite pair of trousers and struggled to get the zipper done up. Immediately, my mind shot back to yesterday’s joyful consumption of wine, cheese and charcuterie, connecting my indulgence to my current state of slight discomfort.

My Grain Pain

Food has an unmistakable impact on the waistline, an impact that can be good or bad. While grains provide nutrients – particularly vitamins, carbohydrates and fiber – and can often help shape a flat stomach, a person who is gluten intolerant may tell you otherwise. The reaction to wheat protein sets up a cascade of inflammatory responses in the gut that can leave you looking several months pregnant. This began to happen to me, and I have the pictures to prove it. The pain and discomfort from the gluten intolerance was excruciating and left me unable to even think about wiggling into my skinny jeans. As I eliminated grains from my diet, I began to feel better and my tummy became flatter. Now, I am not suggesting that everyone remove grains from their diet, but if you suffer from bloat and discomfort after eating them, it couldn’t hurt to experiment with an elimination diet to find the source of the problem. Perhaps it’s grains, but perhaps it’s something else. Only an elimination diet will reveal the issue. When in doubt, consult with a naturopath.

See alsoour collection of gluten-free recipes.

Skip Sugar

Sugar is another “food” capable of causing untold damage in the body, much of it inflammatory. I use quotations on the word “food” to make the distinction between “food” and fuel. “Food” is anything you consume, whether it’s beneficial to your body or not. Fuel is food that delivers nutrients to your body, helping to strengthen and reinforce it for optimum health. In my opinion, no other “food” in the history of mankind has caused so much damage to the human condition as much as sugar. One dose will leave you wanting more and then more again. Sugar is not recognized as a “food” by the human body. When sugar and other “foods” perceived as sugar by the body (think processed “foods,” so-called diet “foods” and man-made sweeteners) are consumed, the body’s blood glucose levels quickly spike. Inflammation is a natural response to handling disease or injury, but when inflammation is self-inflicted by overconsumption of sugar, there’s an increased risk for illness. Having a flat stomach is impossible when your diet is based on sugar and its counterparts.

See also Our Favorite Clean & Natural Sweeteners.

Probiotic Power

Another way to help keep your tummy flat is to treat the organisms living in your gut well. In each of us lives at least 400 types of healthy bacterial organisms located in our digestive tract; these organisms are charged with the task of maintaining our health. Sometimes the balance between good and bad bacteria is interrupted as a result of disease, stress, alcohol, environment and even antibiotics. When that happens, a bloated tummy always appears, along with other unpleasant digestive upsets. Consuming a probiotic can be of enormous help to put the body back into perfect balance, and it’s as easy as eating plain yogurt or kefir, a fermented milk drink. If you wish, you can also take a probiotic supplement. My favorite tummy tamer is kefir. I absolutely love the stuff, not only because it tastes good but also because it calms my tummy. It’s loaded with so many nutrients and probiotics that it’s often given to cancer patients. And because kefir is fermented dairy, it has no ill effect for those with lactose intolerance. Prebiotics such as artichokes, bananas and onions are indigestible carbohydrates that become food for the millions of bacteria in your gut.

Flax & Fiber

Several years back, I did a swimsuit shoot with another model. I arrived at my call time, but the other girl took hours to arrive. The reason? She didn’t want to come to the beach and put on a skimpy bikini because she was constipated and embarrassed by her bloated belly. Unfamiliar with the regularity so many of my friends enjoyed, I used to have the very same issue. In my experience, I’ve found that a simple fix is to eat ground flaxseed. High in fiber and omega-3s, flaxseeds work as a gentle laxative and solve that problem very effectively. Imagine if you could get rid of all that discomfort by doing something as simple as taking one to three tablespoons of ground flaxseed daily. How enlightening!

Crisp, raw veggies do wonders for a sculpted tummy.

On the subject of fiber, never underestimate fiber’s ability to help you achieve a flat midsection. Insoluble fiber, found in vegetables and whole grains, helps to cleanse the bowel, giving it a good scrape on the inside and encouraging waste elimination. On the other hand, soluble fiber, found in some fruits, vegetables and nuts, plays a role in slowing the absorption of food – and more specifically, it slows down the absorption of sugar. What this means is that you’ll remain full even after food is digested, and you’ll extract more nutrients from your food, which translates to fewer cravings. A slower absorp
tion of sugar is perfect for reducing the load on the organs that handle blood sugar and also for minimizing the unwelcome inflammatory effect. Voilà! Tight midriff.

See alsoWhich Form of Flax?

One Thing is Certain

Foods can and will work in your favor, giving you optimal health and the flat stomach you’ve always desired. Learn to work with your body to build the healthiest version of yourself possible.

See alsoHow to Stop a Sugar Binge and Reboot.

10 Flat-Belly Foods + The Latest Research

  • Black currants: These tart fruits can boost your metabolism even if you indulge in a high-fat food, a new Swedish study reveals. Black currant milkshakes, anyone?
  • Cayenne pepper: While a scary Friday-night movie speeds up your heart rate, you can speed up your metabolism by spicing a bowl of popcorn with this pantry staple.
  • Coffee
: A morning cup of joe has been found in clinical trials to raise metabolic rate for 3 hours after consumption, which in normal-weight individuals is accompanied by a significant boost in fat oxidization.
  • Cooked beet greens
: While scarfing down large salads of superfoods can distend your belly, cooking beet greens gives you the same antioxidants as you’d get in a nutrient-packed salad while flushing out water weight.
  • Corn Bran: With 22 grams of fiber per ounce, corn bran is a top pick for replacing refined carbs. A new report shows that a diet rich in fiber-heavy foods works better as a weight-loss aid than just cutting out fat.
  • Garlic: This pungent herb wards off not only vampires, but also weight gain, thanks to the way it improves insulin resistance (often tied to belly fat) when eaten raw, a recent Nutrition & Metabolism study shows.
  • Kidney beans: These fiber-rich legumes are also high in potassium for a double whammy in weight management.
  • Whey protein: This supplement can help speed up fat loss while maintaining your muscle tone, according to a Nutrition & Metabolism study.
  • Yogurt: A new study in the journal Cell shows that we’re at higher risk for obesity when our gut microbes are thrown off course – the probiotics in yogurt can help keep them consistent.
  • Grapefruit: There may have been some truth to that old grapefruit diet. Compounds in citrus help manage your insulin levels and metabolism, reports a Western University study published in 2013.