Sometimes even though we manage somehow to get to the gym a few times a week, try our best to eat the ‘right’ food and do all the other things we’re meant to do to stay healthy, we just don’t see the results we’d like to.
The good news is, if you’re trying to get a flatter tummy, there are some foods that are better than others for reducing bloating and getting your digestive system moving.
Here are 5 things you should include in your diet to help you on your way to a flatter tummy.
When your jeans feel tight around the tum, stimulate your digestion rather than soothing it, says nutritional therapist Emma Gardner. ‘A key reason for bloating is due to incomplete break down of foods, which then causes the production of gases. Pineapple and papaya contain enzymes that will aid digestion and reduce wind.’
✱ PAIR WITH Coconut water, which is rich in potassium and reduces water retention, as well as turmeric or ginger for their anti-inflammatory properties. ‘Whizz them up in a tropical smoothie by combining 1/2 diced pineapple (frozen or fresh) or 1 papaya with 130ml coconut water, 1 tbsp coconut milk, 1⁄2-cm peeled ginger, 1 handful spinach, 1 tsp turmeric and a couple of ice cubes,’ says Emma.
All of us have probably felt the embarrassment of ‘the big bloat’ at some point – and the culprit can often be water retention. Exacerbated by prolonged sitting or standing, and certain meds or high-salt diets, it can be relieved by eating naturally ‘diuretic’ foods, such as cucumber, which has a high water content, increases urination and helps to flush out excess fluids.
Also low in kilojoules, cucumber has the added benefit of being rich in sulphur and silicon, which are thought to support healthy kidney function.
✱ PAIR WITH Diuretic beetroot and soothing mint. Stir bite-sized chunks of roasted beetroot and fresh cucumber into a dressing made from chopped mint, Greek yoghurt, olive oil, crushed garlic and lemon juice.
‘Research suggests that ground linseeds (or flaxseeds) show promising results in studies focused on IBS patients, and may help with symptoms, such as bloating and constipation,’ says nutritionist Charlotte Stirling-Reed. ‘Linseeds also contain plenty of fibre and additionally are one of the richest sources of plant-based omega-3s.’
✱ PAIR WITH Potassium-rich parsley (used for centuries as a digestive tonic) and garlic. Think ‘flaxo’ rather than ‘pesto’ and add ground flaxseeds/linseeds to a classic pesto recipe in place of the basil and pine nuts.
Peel away the skin of this sweetie and you’ll reveal a potassium powerhouse. ‘We know potassium can reduce water retention by helping balance sodium levels,’ says nutritionist Daniel O’Shaughnessy. ‘Plus, being deficient in this mineral has been linked to bloating and constipation,’ he adds.
✱ PAIR WITH Some probiotic-packed yoghurt, along with manuka honey, which is thought to be an aid against acid reflux and indigestion. Blend these with a banana and a little milk to make a smoothie.
Constipation or sluggish digestion can be down to a lack of dietary fibre, but it’s hard to find fibrous foods that won’t turn your figure from prom to puffball. ‘Oats have a low glycaemic index, so release their energy steadily, helping to keep you feeling fuller for longer,’ says nutritionist Dr Emma Derbyshire.
✱ PAIR WITH Water or milk. As half the fibre in oats is soluble, mixing them with a liquid is the best way to digest them slowly, allowing your intestine to absorb all those lovely nutrients. Make a simple porridge or oat milk, but try to skip the honey.
5 low-kilojoule snacks to help
Smart snacking can make all the difference to your tum. These healthy nibbles have minimal fat but still have tons of flavour.
✱ GET DUNKING
Dip vegetable crudités into a whizzed-up can of salmon with 1/2 cucumber, 2 tbsp low-fat mayonnaise, a pinch of paprika and a squeeze of lemon.
✱ SKINNY SKEWERS
Thread pineapple chunks and prawns onto wooden skewers and marinate in lime, grated fresh ginger, crushed garlic and a handful of coriander. Grill.
✱ TOP TINY TOASTS
Pulse 1 can tomatoes with 1 chopped onion, 2 crushed garlic cloves, ½ green pepper and a handful of fresh herbs. Brown thin slices of polenta under the grill and top with the salsa.
✱ LOW FAT & FRUITY
Make mini canapés by stirring 1 tsp vanilla extract into fat-free Ayrshire plain yoghurt and sandwich between halved, scooped-out strawberries.
✱ TURN OVER A NEW LEAF
Cook chicken strips in 3 tbsp soy sauce, a cube of freshly-grated ginger, 1 tsp sugar, 1 crushed garlic clove and an egg cup of linseeds, then fill lettuce leaves with the mixture.