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Foods to Shrink Your Belly and Holiday Stress

Healthy Living
November 5, 2012

By Erin Palinski RD, CDE, LDN, CPT for GalTime.com

Shrink your belly and holiday stress!
Shrink your belly and holiday stress!

Lose the stress and the extra weight before the holidays hit.

As the holidays approach, no doubt your stress level starts to rise. And when under stress, your body increases the production of stress hormones -- pesky chemicals that can actually increase belly fat. That means that not only can the holiday food pack on the pounds, but the hustle and bustle of the season can expand your waistline as well!

And not only can stress cause the scale to increase, it can also be quite damaging to health.

It's estimated that as many as 90% of doctor's visits are for symptoms that are at least partially stress-related. Chronic stress can lead to complications such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and even depression. But the good news that just by making small adjustments to your diet, you can actually cut stress levels and burn up stubborn belly fat! In my newly released book, Belly Fat Diet for Dummies, I point out the best foods and nutrients for cutting stress levels and slimming the waistline.

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Here are five of the most effective ways to cut stress and belly fat through your diet:

Try a cup of green tea instead.
Try a cup of green tea instead.


Think you need several giant cups of joe to be sharp and soothe the stress? Not so. Weaning yourself from large amounts of coffee will help reduce stress levels and improve your mental performance.

Replacing coffee with decaffeinated green tea is a great way to cut stress and load up on antioxidants (which can also fight off disease-causing free-radicals, a stressor to the body). Cutting back on caffeine can also help with both sleeping problems and jitters during the day.

In addition, the main polyphenol in green tea, EGCG, has been shown to have thermogenic properties and helps to increase fat oxidation in several studies. In fact, one study found that when overweight individuals consumed the same amount of calories and performed the same amount of exercise, those dri-king green tea lost more weight, especially weight from the abdomen! Green tea is loaded with powerful antioxidants, which help decrease inflammation (another belly fat contributor) and fight off disease and infections!

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When the stress hormone cortisol is chronically elevated in the body, it has been shown to increase fat storage in the abdominal area. A study found that vitamin C helps reduce stress levels and return blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol to normal levels after a stressful situation - which may help prevent chronic stress. This may, in turn, help to prevent increased belly fat storage. So aim to consume at least two vitamin-C rich foods each day, such as oranges, kiwis, and green peppers.

Eat more whole grains.
Eat more whole grains.


Research shows that carbohydrates cause the brain to produce more serotonin, a hormone that relaxes us. Eating large amounts of fiber can also help to stabilize blood sugar, helping to stabilize mood and controlling appetite. This could prevent mid-day and late-night stress-related binges. And be sure to increase your intake of whole grain. A study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that dieters who ate five servings of whole grains every day for twelve weeks lost twice as much belly fat as people who ate refined carbohydrates instead!

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Not only have omega-3 rich foods been shown to help reduce abdominal fat storage, but a recent study found that omega-3s keep the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline from peaking. This helps prevent damage to our body from chronic stress and wards off increased fat storage caused by elevated cortisol levels. Fatty fish, such as salmon, is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. However, plant-based sources such as chia seeds, walnuts, and flax seeds are also terrific sources of omega-3 fatty acids!


The monounsaturated fats and potassium in avocados have been shown in research to lower blood pressure and stabilize stress levels. Studies have also linked monounsaturated fats with a decrease in belly fat. The reason for this may be due to the anti-inflammatory properties of monounsaturated fats. Lowering the chronic inflammation in your body may in turn decrease the internal stressors that can pack on the pounds.

What triggers your stress and weight-gain over the holidays?

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