Smart Food Switches for Flat Abs and an Energizing Life

The road to having six-pack abs is not an easy one. You can do all the ab workouts or core workouts in the world, but if you're not maintaining a healthy diet, all your efforts will be for naught. It may seem strange, but eating your way to flat abs is possible, if only you know which foods to consume. There are a few foods out there that can help you reduce bloating, slim down your belly, and of course, improve your overall health. Pam Sherman previously listed all the steps you can take to elevate your nutrition, but if you want to focus on improving your diet and working your way to flat abs all at the same time, you should fine tune your meals and incorporate foods to be more sculpted. Here are some of the foods to take note of:

Dark chocolate over milk chocolate and other sweets

Who would have thought that consuming chocolate is the key to a flat belly? Dark chocolate, that is. If you have a sweet tooth, you'll be delighted to know that not all chocolate is off-limits. When taken into moderation, dark chocolate can serve as a natural appetite suppressant that can also stimulate your metabolism. Dietitians note that good quality dark chocolate (anything above 65% cacao) can be good for you. Similar to avocados, dark chocolate contains healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, which helps speed up metabolism. The only thing to take into account is your portions, as you still want to keep your calories in check. As a rule of thumb, just have a piece the size of a dental floss container if you want your chocolate fix.

Green tea instead of coffee

Coffee — or any caffeinated beverage like soda and energy drink — has always been the default go-to for an energy boost, but little do people know that tea like green or black tea work just as great. In fact, they're more beneficial than java because, for one, they are naturally sugar-free. For another, they are packed with heart-healthy antioxidants such as chlorogenic acids, which function to protect against cell damage that contributes to heart disease. It's a good thing that green tea is increasingly becoming known as a worthy substitute for coffee, which is why it has been incorporated in a lot of popular coffee drinks as well. Aside from its energizing effect, Pretty Me's review of Lean N Green Coffee highlights how green tea also helps in protecting brain health, promoting heart health, lowering blood sugar, and increasing the number of calories burned for better digestion. When you drink green tea regularly, you can expect faster metabolism and weight loss.

Nuts over chips

When you're craving a snack, it's hard not to reach for a pack of salty, crunchy chips. But keep in mind that that bag of chips is beset with sodium and contains unhealthy fats, which John Hopkins Medicine points out can contribute to a buildup of plaque on the inner walls of your arteries, thereby increasing your risk of coronary heart disease. Additionally, the refined carbohydrates found in chips can also spike your blood sugar. In short: not only can they make you gain weight, but they can also put you at risk of heart problems. In the event that your urge to munch on something strikes, you may want to grab a handful of nuts instead. People who make it a point to eat nuts regularly are found to be 14 percent less likely to develop cardiovascular disease, and 20 percent less likely to contract coronary heart disease. As opposed to chips, nuts contain heart-healthy, unsaturated fats along with fiber and a slew of other nutrients. Of course, you should consume them in moderation as they are still high in calories. Just eat a small portion and don't mindlessly munch.

Whole grain instead of white bread

Many of us have a deep hankering for the pillowy texture of white bread over heartier alternatives like whole wheat or rye, but like all refined grain products, Healthline underscores how white bread offers little nutritional value. It's low in fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and pretty much every nutrient you're supposed to be getting from grains. You're better off swapping it with healthier options to improve your overall wellbeing. If you're looking for healthier bread, opt for the whole grain, sprouted type, like the Ezekiel bread. Not only is it rich in protein and fiber, but the sprouting process it goes through increases the availability of certain nutrients and reduce's the bread's effect on your blood sugar levels. You can also try butternut squash toast, cauliflower bread, flax bread, and 100% rye bread as a replacement to white bread. But if grain-free alternatives are what you're after, it's also worth looking into sweet potato toast, Swiss chard or lettuce wraps, and Portobello mushroom caps. These options are versatile, and are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They're low in calories, too.

Yogurt over ice cream

If your goal is to really have flat abs, you ought to be looking for food that helps strengthen your gut health. Having an imbalance of bacteria in your gut will only cause your digestive system to slow down, resulting in feeling backed up and bloated. Considering how yogurt is a belly-friendly bacteria like probiotics, it helps you tame tummy bloat by causing an improvement in intestinal mobility, thereby relieving constipation. Prevention suggests eating four ounces of plain yogurt containing live, active cultures daily. If you're not too fond of mixing it with fruit, you can add it to homemade salad dressings, or use it to prepare a meat marinade. You can also make it a pre-gym breakfast or post-gym treat. But if you don't want to dairy but still want to supply your gut with beneficial bacteria, looking into other fermented food is the way to go. You can try kimchi or sauerkraut, or maybe even tempeh or miso. Exclusively written for by Jane Brailey