Every year when swimsuit season approaches, millions of people scramble to lose their belly fat.
The midsection is one of the most challenging areas to lose weight in and one of the unhealthiest places to gain it. (See Why Crunches Alone Won't Burn Belly Fat.)
Research over the past few years suggests that the belly fat surrounding the abdominal organs (visceral fat) is potentially the most harmful type of fat. It appears to decrease the sensitivity of insulin receptors on cells while increasing the likelihood of insulin resistance. Over time, this can lead to Type 2 diabetes.
Fat around the abdomen can also increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes for fighting belly fat, but adding the following nutrients to your diet can help you tighten things up. (If you're already at a healthy weight, adding them can give you more energy and help you feel better overall.)
You can get these nutrients from supplements, but your body will absorb them better from healthy foods. (See Are There Foods to Help You Lose Belly Fat?)
People with high levels of vitamin C burn more fat during exercise than people with low levels, according to a study out of Arizona State University. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, which helps with the formation of collagen (a protein that helps build muscle tissue), immune function, and proper metabolism of fat.
Found in yogurt, fermented vegetables, and kombucha tea, these friendly bacteria increase immunity. They also help the body digest fats and carbohydrates, as well as absorb and make good use of nutrients.
In addition, probiotics help maintain a healthy balance of ghrelin and leptin—the hunger and hunger-suppressing hormones, respectively—so you're hungry only when your body needs nourishment.
This is the spicy compound that gives jalapenos their kick. It not only promotes saliva flow, it may also help boost your metabolism. (See also The 6 Most Promising Weight-Loss Supplements.)
Capsaicin has been shown to cause thermogenesis (heat production) in the body, promoting fat loss. It may also reduce appetite and shift the body from burning carbohydrates to burning fat.
Sunlight is the natural source of this powerful fat-soluble vitamin, which is needed in appropriate amounts to maintain physical, mental, and emotional health.
Vitamin D may also help you lose fat by regulating blood sugar and decreasing the risk of developing insulin resistance—a condition where the body stores glucose in the blood as fat, rather using it to provide energy to cells.
Along with regulating your hunger hormones and boosting your mood, Vitamin D can help cut down on emotional eating. People tend to eat more when their mood is low. (Athletes: See Why You Need Vitamin D in Your Diet.)
The benefits of fiber go far beyond improving regularity. In addition to relieving constipation and reducing bloating, fiber may also be a powerful fat-buster. (But Can You Eat Too Much Fiber?)
When fiber is added to meals containing carbohydrates, it reduces the glycemic load on the body. It then slows the spike in blood sugar and insulin so it takes less time to break down carbohydrates into simple sugars. This keeps energy levels up and helps prevent overeating.
Remember, though—to lose fat, you can't just take vitamins. You must practice a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, plenty of sleep, and a sensible eating plan.
Before you add these nutrients to your diet, check with your doctor.