10 Essential Flat Belly Foods

By: Michele Wolfson

Christmas is over and New Year's is right around the bend, which most likely means that you've sipped on far too much eggnog and eaten about two-dozen Christmas cookies. Can I get an amen? If you are like most blue-blooded Americans, you've gained an average of 6 pounds since Thanksgiving. Each holiday season no indulgence seems too big and one small cookie here and there doesn't seem like it could do much harm. Let me add it up for you- That extra jiggle probably came from all of those holiday parties at work and with your friends plus cheerful neighbors bringing over freshly baked cookies and cakes and let's not forget the highly caloric holiday beverages that we all use to wash down those calorie-packed treats.

2012 is the year that we should vow to eat higher quality foods and consume less in general. In fact, there are foods that can actually help you lose weight while also tasting delicious. Here is a list of 10 flat-belly foods to add to your everyday diet. Some may really surprise you!

Also click here to read our list of Stress Relieving Foods.

10. Full Fat Cheese: Men's healthy magazine reports that this dairy product is an excellent source of casein protein-one of the best muscle-building nutrients you can eat. What's more, Danish researchers found that even when men ate 10 ounces of full-fat cheese daily for 3 weeks, their LDL ("bad") cholesterol didn't budge.

9. Coffee (Iced Coffee): Coffee reduces your appetite, increases your metabolism, and gives you a shot of antioxidants. A study published in the journal Physiology & Behavior found that the average metabolic rate of people who drink caffeinated coffee is 16 percent higher than that of those who drink decaf. Caffeine stimulates your central nervous system by increasing your heart rate and breathing. Honestly, could there be a more perfect beverage? Plus, frequent mini servings of caffeine (8 ounces of coffee or less) keep you awake, alert, and focused for longer than a single jumbo one would, according to sleep experts. When you quickly drink a large coffee, the caffeine peaks in your bloodstream much sooner than if you spread it out over time. Start your day with an 8-ounce coffee (the "short" size is available by request at Starbucks). Or, ask for a large half caf. Then keep the caffeine lightly flowing with a lunchtime cappuccino (it's got only 75 mg, which is about one quarter of what you'd get in a 16 ounce coffee).

8. Spinach and other green vegetables: Green veggies neutralize free radicals, molecules that accelerate the aging process. They also help fight cancer, heart disease, stroke, obesity, and osteoporosis.

7. Steel Cut Oatmeal: Hot cereal boosts energy, reduces cholesterol and maintains blood sugar levels. Sweet or even savory, a bowl of this kind of oatmeal helps fight heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer and obesity.

6. Turkey: Lean meats build muscle and strengthen the immune system. They are packed with important nutrients like B vitamins (niacin, thiamin, riboflavin and B6), which help the body's metabolism, aid in red blood cell formation and play a vital role in our nervous system; iron, found particularly in red meat, helps maintain energy and carry oxygen through the bloodstream. Use one slice of whole grain bread for your sandwich at lunch and pack extra protein like turkey slices.

5. Grapefruit: In a recent study, Louisiana State University scientists discovered that people who ate half a grapefruit three times a day lost 4 pounds in 12 weeks, even though they hadn't deliberately altered any other part of their diets. Although the mechanism isn't clear, the researchers speculate that grapefruit's acidity may slow your rate of digestion, helping keep you full longer.

4. Apple: An apple a day really CAN keep the doctor away. Also, the weight! Penn State researchers discovered that people who ate a large apple 15 minutes before lunch took in 187 fewer calories during lunch than those who didn't snack beforehand. (The apples had around 128 calories.) What's more, they reported feeling fuller afterward, too. Sure, the fruit is loaded with belly-filling fiber, but there's another reason apples help you feel full: They require lots of chewing, which can make you think you're eating more than you really are, says study author Julie Obbagy, Ph.D.

3. Eggs: Forget the bowl of cereal- Eating eggs in the morning can help you control your hunger later in the day. Indiana University scientists determined that dieters who consumed their biggest dose of daily protein at breakfast felt full longer than those who ate more of the nutrient at lunch or dinner. The upshot: "They were less likely to overeat the rest of the day," says study author Heather Leidy, Ph.D. To fend off hunger, shoot for at least 20 to 30 grams of protein at breakfast.

2. Walnuts & Sunflower Seed Mix: Walnuts contain omega- 3 fatty acids, which help protect your heart and preserve brain health. Sunflower seeds are packed with B vitamins, which play an important role in protecting against inflammation- and they're an excellent source of vitamin E. Sunflower seeds are also great for curbing hunger.

1. Natural Peanut Butter: A serving of peanut butter contains the antioxidants vitamin E, bone building magnesium, muscle-friendly potassium, and immunity-boosting vitamin B6. Have a tablespoon of natural peanut butter with an apple or even in a fruit smoothie!

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