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Whet your appetite with these foods that help whittle your middle.

by Joan Teotico

JUNE 2012

Perhaps you’ve tried various restrictive diets—such as low-carbohydrate and high-protein or low-fat and high-protein—but when you look in the mirror, there’s still no sign of the seemingly elusive six-pack abs.

“There is no easy natural way [to get] six-pack abs. It takes proper nutrition and a lot of discipline to do specific exercises for the belly,” says Pamela Aclan, R.N.D., clinical dietitian of the Nutrition Management Services in The Medical City and member of the Nutritionist-Dietitians' Association of the Philippines. “Nutrition plays a vital role in losing body fat, including belly fat.” If you eat more than you burn, you will gain weight. She adds, “Sa belly fat wala kaming specific na diet para talaga doon. In general, we help sa pag lo-lose ng total body fat.”

Aclan emphasizes the need to eat a balanced diet that includes all macronutrients—carbohydrates, protein and fat—because, “Wala kasing single food that will give every nutrient that our body needs.” She reveals various food items across the food groups that could help men lower body—especially belly—fat, boost energy when working out and enhance recovery after exercising.

• Increase intake of fiber-rich food to lower body fat. Try leafy vegetables like kangkong, pechay, cabbage and malunggay. According to Aclan, leafy vegetables are rich in calcium to build bone strength; iron to prevent anemia; and fiber to help clean the digestive system, eliminate cholesterol and control blood sugar. Brown rice is also great source of fiber and carbohydrates, which is our main source of energy. Wheat bread and oatmeal are other excellent options.

• Look for options high in carbohydrates, adequate in protein and moderate in fat and fiber to increase energy when exercising, says Aclan who cites the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). She recommends eating a large meal three to four hours before exercising. Instead of chomping down on a fast-food burger with nearly a thousand calories, whip up a lean grilled hamburger with only 378 Kcal. “This meal is a balanced source of carbohydrates, protein, fat and fiber. Protein is important for muscle formation and wound healing. Proteins are also important to synthesize hormones and enzymes.”

• Replace carbohydrates (muscle fuel), sodium and potassium that are lost during exercise to enhance recovery after exercising, according to the AND. Aclan says protein may also be needed to aid in muscle repair. After a hard workout or taxing sporting event, eat a nutrient-rich snack or meal within 15 minutes to an hour.

Beating belly flab depends on dietary discipline. Inevitably, it’s still about wise food choices, adequate exercise and a healthy attitude. Before you follow any meal plan, be sure to consult with your doctor and nutritionist regarding food items that may have possible interactions with medications you are currently taking.

For more tips and bonus recipes to fight the flab that hides your abs, get a copy of the June issue of HealthToday magazine, out now in newsstands and bookstores.

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