The secret to banishing belly fat is, well, fat. But this is not your grandmother's artery-clogging saturated fat, the kind lurking in cheeseburgers, pizza, and pie. This class of healthy fat is known as monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), and it is found in nuts, olives, avocados, and dark chocolate. Instead of hurting your health, MUFAs help improve circulation, strengthen your heart, and can reduce belly fat faster than if you were following a low-calorie diet that contained little to no fat, according to studies. "Monounsaturated fats help you stay satisfied and may help you eat less overall," says Tracy Gensler, MS, RD. Here's how to sneak these fat burners into any meal.
When you're whipping up your post-gym smoothie, add 1 tablespoon of flaxseed oil. Not only does it add a rich nutty flavor, but it's also packed with omega-3 fatty acids and MUFAs. (Video: Smoothies made easy) Though MUFAs whittle your middle omega-3s are important for overall health--they reduce inflammation, which is a risk factor in everything from heart disease to Alzheimer's.
10 Flat Belly Morning Meals
Instead of spreading sat fat--filled mayonnaise on your turkey sandwich, opt for piquant olive tapenade. It will add the perfect amount of zest to your ho-hum lunch and save you 130 calories compared with regular mayo! (Learn how to make smart eating swaps throughout the day when you pick up a copy of Eat This, Not That!) Plus it's packed with MUFAs--the secret belly-trimming ingredient. We like black olive tapenade on turkey with feta, or try green olive tapenade with chickpeas and Mediterranean veggies.
Try the Mediterranean Salad-Wrap
Swap sugar-packed energy bars for cereal bars filled with dry-roasted peanuts, peanut butter, and whole grain cereal. Peanuts are a rich source of MUFAs, plus they may also have special calorie-torching properties. (Search: The best energy bars) "Nuts may elevate resting energy expenditure [how many calories you burn when you're sitting still], which means that you burn a few more calories at rest," says Gensler. In fact, a 2002 study found that regularly eating peanuts increased resting energy expenditure by 11%. With a decadent touch of semisweet chocolate chips, this will fill you up while easing a chocolate craving.
Try the Peanut Butter No-Bake Bar Recipe
Shake up dinner by coating heart-healthy salmon (or chicken) with sesame oil or sesame seeds. These seeds--and their oils--keep your meat tender by locking in moisture and are also a low-cal source of MUFAs. Try in stir-fries or salads for an added crunch.
25 Flat Belly Meals
You don't have to order a double-chocolate brownie to soothe your sweet tooth. Though no dessert will trump a salad in the nutrition department, certain baking ingredients can help dieters. Safflower oil, which is made from the seeds of the safflower plant, is low in saturated fat and can be substituted in muffin, brownie, and cupcake recipes. It's also a natural belly flattener--a recent study found that women who ate safflower oil each day lost an average of 6.3% of fat from their belly area. (Bonus: Healthiest cooking oils)
Try This Lemon Cupcakes Recipe