5 foods to fight the festive flab
The good eggs
Every year, for nearly three full months, we dedicate our diaries to socialising, family, culture, custom, and – let's be honest — food. There's no time as chock full of indulgence as the festive season — which starts from weeks before Christmas and continues all the way till Chinese New Year. Our standard "three square with the occasional nibble" transforms into a steady stream of hors d'oeuvres, desserts, cocktails, sweets, rich traditional dishes, pineapple tarts, and multi-course meals. By February's end, we're loosening belts, retiring skinny jeans, and hiding the bathroom scale. How to shed extra weight and trim your tummy and your thighs as soon as you can? Don't leave the supermarket without dropping these must-haves in your grocery basket.
The live active bacterial cultures, protein and calcium in Greek yoghurt mount a three-pronged attack on stubborn abdominal fat. Probiotics are primarily promoted for their digestion and immune supporting properties. However, certain strains (a few in the Lactobacillus family) influence metabolism and appetite hormones in favor of weight loss, in the midsection especially. As a dairy product, yoghurt is also rich in calcium, and Greek varieties rank highest in protein — with nearly 9-10 grams per 4-oz, 120mL serving. Recent research suggests that diets higher in calcium and protein are both associated with less belly fat in the long-term.
Quick tip: Don't be fooled by labelling — "Greek style" products are more processed and less nutritious than authentic Greek yoghurts. Be sure to buy unsweetened, plain varieties to cut calories and sugar.
Sichuan, hot sauce, sambal or jalapenos, anyone? Chilli adds feisty flavor when it hits the palate, but it also fights weight gain and cellulite from the neck down. Capsaicin — the natural compound that imparts pepper's characteristic heat — also stokes our metabolic fire, turning up calorie-burning for two to three hours after meals. It also reduces inflammation and stimulates blood flow. These effects work synergistically with chilli's vitamin C and B vitamins (especially B6) to repair and strengthen connective tissues. Together they reduce fat deposits, flush out impurities and smooth out cellulite dimpling in the thighs and buttocks.
Bonus points: Use chili powder and ground pepper in place of salt or sodium-rich seasonings and you'll beat fluid-swelling and belly bloat.
When choosing a brew for your mid-morning mug of tea, go green. In doing so, you'll steep your system in antioxidants and a polite dose of caffeine. These work together to boost fat metabolism. One phytochemical, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG for short), has been shown to target belly fat specifically. While the effects don't occur overnight, regular green tea drinking is associated gradual and sustained weight loss — most of which seems to occur in the abdomen.
For best results: Opt for a high-quality loose leaf or sachet to retain the most antioxidants. Avoid bottled teas sweetened with syrups — as these are shown to have the opposite effect — causing weight gain, especially in the midsection.
Chia seeds are tiny in size but big on fibre-packing a whopping 11 grams in just a 30-gram serving (that's over a third of our daily requirement). When soaked, they absorb over ten times their weight in water and form a gel. This is thanks to their high soluble fiber content. This type of fibre is shown to be a particularly helpful weight loss aid — slowing the movement of food through the GI tract, helping us feel fuller longer, and delaying (possibly preventing) calorie and sugar absorption. In the long-term, diets higher in soluble fibre can prevent belly fat gain, too. Unbeknownst to many, chia seeds also offer generous dose of calcium — two tablespoon's worth meeting 20 percent of daily needs — which also supports a slimmer midsection. They're a valuable plant-based source of anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids, too. Diets rich in omega 3s are touted to preserve collagen in the skin and superficial tissues — protecting against fat clumps and cellulite bumps on the backside and thighs.
How to eat them? Stir into yogurts and cereals. Blend into smoothies. Sprinkle on fresh salads. Or soak overnight in flavoured nut milk for a nutrient-rich dairy-free pudding.
Once considered a nutritional no-no, coconut oil is back in health specialists' good graces. Turns out, the plant based fatty acids found naturally in coconut can reduce the amount and the way the body stores fat. Studies suggest that coconut oil can modestly stimulate metabolism and decrease the accumulation of fat at the waistline — even when no other changes are made to diet or exercise regimens.
How to do it best? Purchase extra virgin, cold-pressed whole-kernel coconut oil and you'll retain more of the oil's valuable antioxidants and phytochemicals. Also, remember that all oils are high in calories. So, use coconut oil "in place of" rather than "in addition to" other oils in your daily meals.
About Eve Persak MS RD CNSC CSSD, COMO Shambhala Nutrition Advisor
Eve Persak is a Registered Dietitian (RD) with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She is a board certified specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) and one of 3,500 medical professionals globally to hold Certified Nutrition Support Clinician (CSNC) credentials. In Singapore, Eve offers private nutritional counseling at the COMO Shambhala Urban Escape wellness centre and consults for Club21's SuperNature grocery store. She serves as the Nutrition Advisor for COMO Hotels and Resorts and COMO Shambhala, COMO's holistic wellness brand. 2018 marks the inaugural year of COMO Shambhala's curated series of holistic workshops led by a diverse collective of health and well-being experts globally — please visit COMO Shambhala for dates and details.