Okay, before we start, full confession. These vegetables won’t literally dissolve abdominal fat. You’re not going to suddenly lose two dress sizes or three inches on your waist if you order some broccoli with your potatoes.
You knew that anyway, didn’t you?
But don’t stop reading just yet. The three vegetables (or in one case, vegetable “class”) listed below all contain specific compounds that can indirectly help you say goodbye to belly fat. They can definitely help you stay healthy and they can also help you turn on your fat-burning switch.
The reason I like onions as a belly fat killer comes down to one word: quercetin.
I have a long list of reasons why I like onions as a superstar vegetable for health. They include fighting cancer, improving heart disease mortality and building strong bones, not to mention helping calm down things like asthma and allergies.
But its quercetin—which onions contain a lot of—that makes me put it on my list of belly-fat-slayers.
Quercetin is a member of the flavonoid group of plant chemicals, and is one of the most powerful natural anti-inflammatories in the food kingdom. If you’ve got belly fat, you’ve definitely got some degree of inflammation.
After all, inflammation is a co-traveler of every major degenerative disease we know of from Alzheimer’s to heart disease to obesity, and fat cells contain tons of inflammatory chemicals like cytokines.
What we often perceive as belly fat is actually bloat, which can result from low level food sensitivities. These food reactions, which are often delayed, cause the body to mount a kind of “quasi-allergic” reaction which involves…inflammation.
Removing the offending foods (wheat and dairy are the usual top suspects) accomplishes a great deal, but so does lowering inflammation with supplements like omega-3 fats and anti-inflammatory foods like onions.
Cruciferous Vegetables: Cabbage, Broccoli, Kale, Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts, and Others
Let me be clear: the relationship of cruciferous vegetables to fat burning is purely hypothetical. But stick with me a second and I’ll show you the logic.
We know that cruciferous vegetables contain substances like indoles (indole-3-carbinol) which can and do have an effect on hormones, particularly estrogen.
We also know that estrogen dominance—or any hormonal imbalances—can be a factor in weight gain. Finally, we know that those cool, cancer fighting indoles have a demonstrated effect on estrogen and hormonal metabolism in general.
Now I admit it’s a stretch to say that because compounds in cabbage affect hormones they necessarily cause fat burning.
But look at some other things about cruciferous vegetables: they’re incredibly low in calories, they use a bit of energy to digest and absorb, they’re loaded with minerals and they contain fiber.
And they barely move the needle on raising insulin—the fat storing hormone. So even without the hormone connection they’d be a good bet to include on a regular basis if you’re trying to melt belly fat.
If I had asked you to guess what the three vegetables in this article were going to be before you read it, chances are you’d never have guessed pumpkin. I don’t blame you. The virtues of pumpkin are a well-kept secret though I can’t for the life of me understand why.
Pumpkin is ridiculously low in calories and very high in vitamin A and beta-carotene. On top of that, it’s got 2 ½ grams of fiber per cup.
But the reason it’s on this list has to do with another nutrient, one you probably associate with bananas: potassium. Pumpkins blow bananas away in the potassium department, and here’s why you should care.
Potassium works with sodium to maintain the body’s water balance. In primitive cultures, salt intake is about seven times lower than potassium intake, but in Western industrialized cultures like ours, salt intake is about three times higher than potassium intake.
When sodium is high, especially relative to potassium, the body holds on to a lot of water. This is why your blood pressure goes up when you eat salt, and why it goes down when you consume more potassium. Consuming potassium also lowers bloat, not to mention your risk for stroke by double digit percentages. Not exactly a bad “side effect” for a fat-burning vegetable.
So there you have it..three vegetables that may give you some unexpected benefits when you start including them in your diet on a regular basis.
Remember, these vegetables will barely move the needle on your blood sugar and insulin (the fat-storing hormone), and for that reason alone they’re your powerful allies when it comes to turning on your fat-burning switch melting that spare tire once and for all.
Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS