Getting older brings a slew of changes to the body–especially to the metabolism. And one area you may be noticing more fat accumulation is around the belly.
“Belly fat builds due to excess caloric intake, genetics, aging, cortisol, stress, high saturated fat intake, and lack of sleep,” explains registered dietitian Jonathan ValdezRDNowner of GenkiNutrition and a spokesperson for the New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
And that belly fat buildup can lead to serious health problems.
“Accumulating belly fat can cause an increased risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and inflammation,” adds Valdez.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet as you age can not only reduce belly fat but also help slow the aging process. If you want both benefits, here are seven foods you should be adding to your diet, according to dietitians.
“Almonds are an excellent source of plant protein that keeps you feeling satisfied while keeping you from reaching for less healthy mid-day munchies,” says Bonnie Taub-DixDRa registered dietitian and creator of the website BetterThanDieting.com.
She adds that one serving of almonds provides six grams of protein, about the amount that’s in one egg or one ounce of chicken.
“Almonds are rich in healthy monounsaturated fats that may help reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol and help promote heart health,” she says. “Almonds are also rich in vitamin E, an antioxidant that has been shown to reduce wrinkles, a natural process of aging. Almond oil is often included in beauty products for a reason!”
“Strawberries can add natural sweetness to any dish while also adding fiber, potassium, folate, and antioxidants,” says Taub-Dix.
She notes that strawberries, both fresh and frozen, are one of the best sources of vitamin C. “A serving of about eight strawberries has as much vitamin C as an orange, which is all the vitamin C we need in a day!” says Taub-Dix. “Vitamin C helps to support collagen in skin and bones — both important to support healthy aging.”
Adds Valdez, “Fruits also fight off sweet cravings, and also have antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals to optimize the body’s function.”
If you want to lose belly fat and slow aging, whole grains like oats, quinoa, and brown rice are good options to add to your diet. “Whole grains are high fiber (and also have some protein) that increases satiety while minimizing caloric intake,” says Valdez. “Compared to non-whole grain counterparts, they contain more minerals, vitamins, and other antioxidants as well that can help with slowing the aging process.”
“Beans, also known as pulses or vegetables, are probably the most underrated food in the store! Beans provide a wealth of nutrients, including plant protein and fiber, that will move you and help you feel satisfied at the same time,” says Taub-Dix. “Since beans also help to control the natural process of aging by regulating blood sugar levels and lowering cholesterol levels, beans help you throughout the life cycle.”
“Vegetables are high in fiber, which increases satiety on lower calories–which also prevents excessive caloric intake,” says Valdez. “In addition, they contain antioxidants that help fight off inflammation while decreasing the risk for diabetesheart disease, and certain cancers that can ‘age’ the body.”
“lean protein helps with satiety to prevent overconsumption of calories,” says Valdez. “In addition, lean meats contain minerals like zinc and iron, which are responsible for numerous enzymes in the body. Also, protein is needed to create collagen that is used to help the elasticity of the skin.”