Want to learn how to burn belly fat faster? Eating a plant-based diet consisting of mostly whole foods is a sure-fire way to speed up your metabolism and start shedding unwanted pounds. But for many of us, losing belly fat can be difficult and frustrating. That one area seems to hold on to fat no matter what we do. What’s more concerning is belly fat poses a high health risk, as it’s associated with chronic diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes, according to a recent study.

To help you get started on your path to a flatter stomach and to lose that stubborn belly fat, we spoke with dietitians who reveal the six best plant-based foods that help burn belly fat.

Can you lose belly fat?

Certain foods (like avocados, nuts, and even potatoes) can help promote weight loss based on their nutrient and chemical makeup, according to Lisa Richards, CNC, a nutritionist and the creator of The Candida Diet. They increase the body’s thermogenic effect of food (or TEF), which is the increased metabolic rate after eating a meal. TEF is a measure of how fast your body can burn calories. Therefore, the higher TEF a food has, the faster you’ll burn those calories and lose belly fat.

“While certain foods help burn belly fat by increasing calorie burning rates, this isn't necessarily the only change that should be made for maximum results," says Richards. "However, it can be effectively combined with physical activity, balanced eating, and other healthy lifestyle decisions.”

High fiber foods high in antioxidants can help your body naturally burn fat, says Mandy Enright, MS, RDN, RYT, a registered dietitian and the author of 30-Minute Weight Loss Cookbook: 100+ Quick and Easy Recipes for Sustainable Weight Loss. She tells The Beet, “No food is going to melt off belly fat magically. But some foods may help reduce inflammation and insulin resistance, which can lead to fat accumulation. This includes foods rich in antioxidants and fiber, so consuming more plant-based foods can help reduce belly fat.”

Enright stresses the importance of focusing on foods rich in antioxidants and fiber. While there’s no science showing antioxidants themselves burn fat, foods high in antioxidants are the best at helping you burn belly fat. They also fill you up since fiber slows down the absorption of food in the system, which helps with gut health and weight management because by keeping blood sugar low, your body has to pull fuel from fat cells. So if you’re looking for antioxidant and fiber-rich foods to lose belly fat, eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

Can you spot target weight loss?

You may have heard that certain foods or exercises can spot target weight loss in specific areas of your body. But is this a fact or myth? Enright says: “It’s physiologically impossible to spot target certain areas of the body for weight loss. You can do all the sit-ups in the world, but that alone won’t make belly fat disappear.” (It will make your abs stronger, however, which benefits your overall core strength, back health, and sitting or standing posture, however.)

Are there any foods at least that target the belly for burning fat? Unfortunately, there’s no research backing up this claim. According to Enright, effective weight loss comes from eating a variety of whole foods that are high in fiber and plant protein. These foods promote weight loss, but this varies significantly between people and is highly dependent on your genetics.

Nutritionist Richards elaborates, “Certain foods can help promote weight loss better than others, but where the weight is lost will depend largely on the individual's genetic makeup and problem areas. Additionally, this increase in metabolism and fat burning is also temporary while the body digests and processes the food and nutrients.”

The best way to burn belly fat and maintain a healthy weight is to combine a whole food plant-based diet with various exercises that include cardio and resistance training. Enright explains that building muscle and improving cardiovascular health will help you become more metabolically active, allowing you to burn fat more efficiently as an energy source.

The 6 Best Foods to Burn Belly Fat Fast

As recommended by Lisa Richards and Mandy Enright, here are the top plant-based foods that help burn belly fat.

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1. Nuts

It may be counterintuitive since nuts are high in calories, but eating nuts as a regular part of your diet actually helps in reducing weight gain, according to a recent study. Nuts are loaded with plant protein and heart-healthy fat to help keep you satiated and prevent overeating. In addition, they promote weight loss by providing the body with iron, selenium, and other minerals which help keep the thyroid running efficiently. When your thyroid isn’t working optimally, it can slow down your metabolism, inhibiting weight loss.

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2. Peas

Peas are nutritional powerhouses. Technically pulses, or the edible seed of the legume, peas are in the same category as beans and lentils and are high in fiber and complex carbs, as well as protein. Because of this peas help reduce hunger and prevent overeating and make for an excellent plant protein source that can stave off cravings and encourage weight loss without the saturated fat of meat and other animal protein sources. Studies that looked at pulses and weight loss showed diets that include them result in greater weight loss than diets that did not.

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3. Red Fruits

Red fruits such as apples, cherries, raspberries, strawberries, and watermelon have been linked to burning fat and weight loss in studies. This is because they contain powerful antioxidants that act to fight inflammation and cell aging.  Fruits such as cherries are an incredible source of fiber. The phytonutrients found in red fruits may help turn off obesity genes. Several studies have shown that tart cherries contain high levels of flavonoids, particularly anthocyanins, which help lower inflammation and improve sleep efficiency, two important factors that play a big role in fat burning.

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4. Green Tea

Green tea delivers antioxidants and fiber that are linked to fat loss. Green tea also contains epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which studies indicate effectively reduces belly fat. EGCG is  a powerful plant compound that has several known health benefits, including reducing inflammation and increasing CCK, or cholecystokinin, which is a hormone that makes you feel full. While all tea contains antioxidants and some levels of EGCG, green tea has the most, and matcha tea even more, so drinking green (unsweetened) tea instead of another beverage during the day is an easy way to promote natural fat burning in the body.

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5. Chili Peppers

If you can tolerate spicy foods, chili peppers are surprisingly effective for burning fat, a study in the International Journal of Food Sciences Nutrition found. Chilis contain a compound called capsaicin that can increase satiety and deter overeating by decreasing the production of the hunger hormone ghrelin. Plus the study concluded that capsaicin promotes fat metabolism, energy expenditure, and thermogenesis. Specifically, the researchers pointed out, "Chili directly reduces energy expenditure by activating Brown Adipose Tissue," which is the most stubborn belly fat.

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6. Spices

Spices like cinnamon have been shown in studies to help speed up fat burning and crank up metabolism, while ginger has been proven in a review of studies to help promote weight lossTurmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory and works by turning off a mechanism linked to obesity. (Just add a pinch of black pepper with your turmeric for maximum absorption during digestion.) These spices also reduce the need for added salt or sugar in foods, which inhibits fat burning.

Bottom Line: There are foods that can help you burn belly fat.

Eating a variety of nutrient-dense whole plant foods high in antioxidants and fiber is the best health choice for maintaining a healthy weight and burning off fat. Paired with cardio and strength exercises, you’ll be able to lose belly fat for good and look and feel your best.

Want to lower blood sugar, too? Here are the seven best foods to lower blood sugar and help burn fat.

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