Six foods that help shrink belly fat

If you want to lose that spare tyre, try eating these foods

Flax seeds

Visceral fat (the dangerous kind that sits around your organs) can be hard to shift. If you want to lose weight from your tummy, these foods that are worth adding to your diet. Just make sure you watch your calories and exercise. Drinking apple cider vinegar isn't going to make a difference if you sprinkle it over a plate of chips every night!

See also: Five best juicers for every budget

See also: Ten of the best weight-loss friendly foods

1. Apple cider vinegar

If you want to lose weight from your midsection, eat a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar a day. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that obese people who ate a tablespoon of vinegar every day for two months lost more belly fat than those who did not.

It seems that eating apple cider vinegar can help to regulate blood sugar. A separate study published in Diabetes Care found that when adults with type 2 diabetes ate two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before bed with a snack, they had lower blood sugar levels the next day, compared to when they ate the same night time snack with two tablespoons of water.

There's another reason to add apple cider vinegar to your diet. Our stomach contains good and bad bacteria which has an influence over many important body functions including metabolism and how many calories we absorb from food. Several studies have found a link between poor gut flora and obesity.

While our gut health is partly inherited, certain lifestyle factors, including stress, taking antibiotics, eating too much sugar and drinking alcohol, can damage our gut bacteria. Consuming apple cider vinegar and other fermented foods, along with plenty of fibre, is a good way to help feed the good bacteria and promote healthy gut flora.

2. Brown rice

When you eat refined carbs, your blood sugar levels spike and your body releases cortisol, which is linked to excess belly fat. Need another good reason to ditch white rice, bread and pasta for brown 'wholegrain' varieties?

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who ate three or more servings of whole grains per day had 10 percent less visceral, subcutaneous belly fat than those whose diets included very few whole grains.

A half-hearted approach isn't enough. Researchers found that eating whole grains didn't make any difference in the spare-tyre department if people also ate four or more servings of refined carbs per day, such as white bread or white rice.

3. Flax seeds

Flax seeds are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to help the body metabolise fat. They're also a great source of metabolism-boosting B vitamins and protein and fibre, which help to keep you feeling fuller for longer.

Polyunsaturated fats (found in flax seeds and oily fish) don't cause you to gain belly fat like saturated animal fats. In one study, researchers asked two groups of adults to consume an extra 750 calories per day from either polyunsaturated fats or saturated fats. They found that everyone put on some weight, but the saturated fat group gained more around the midsection, while the polyunsaturated group's weight gain included more muscle mass.

Experts believe that saturated fats turn on genes that tell the body to store fat around your abdomen, whereas polyunsaturated fats direct the body to reduce fat storage around your midsection.

4. Oats

A diet high is soluble fibre is also associated with lower levels of abdominal fat and reduced belly circumference. One study found that increasing your intake of soluble fibre by just 10 grams is enough to lower fat gain in the tummy area by 3.7% over five years.

Oats are high in soluble fibre, which helps to reduce levels of bad cholesterol and blood fat. They also digest slowly, so they don't cause your blood sugar levels to spike, keeping you fuller for longer. For best results, opt for rough-cut oats, rather than instant oatmeal.

Other good sources of soluble fibre include vegetables, fruit, beans, peas, lentils, nuts and seeds.

5. Leafy greens

If you want to guard against belly fat post-menopause, eat more calcium-rich leafy greens. Why? Research on post-menopausal women found that when your body doesn't have enough calcium it starts to store more fat. Experts believe that calcium helps the body to use oestrogen more effectively, and oestrogen is linked to less fat around your tummy.

High-calcium diets may also lower production of cortisol, the stress hormone that's linked to visceral fat. Health experts recommend getting 700mg to 1,000mg and no more than 2,500mg of calcium per day. Foods like tofu, kale and sardines are also high in calcium, as well as dairy products.

6. Maitake mushrooms

Maitake mushrooms, commonly used in Japanese and Chinese cooking, have produced promising results in weight loss studies on animals. Experts believe that maitake mushrooms can support blood-sugar levels by enhancing insulin sensitivity.

A separate study on overweight adults found that those who took a maitake supplement (which equates to 200g of fresh mushroom) lost weight, without making any other changes to their diet.