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What is the best diet to lose belly fat?

Losing belly fat can be a frustrating process. Your belly is one of the most stubborn areas to lose fat from, and no single diet is best for everyone. However, there are some strategies backed by science that may help target belly fat more effectively.

Why is belly fat harmful?

Belly fat, also known as visceral fat, is located deep inside your abdominal cavity and surrounds many of your vital organs. Carrying too much visceral fat is associated with an increased risk of diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

Additionally, having a large amount of belly fat can make your waistline expand over the years. This can negatively impact your body image and self-esteem.

That’s why losing belly fat through diet and exercise should be a priority for your health and well-being.

How does belly fat accumulate?

Your belly stores fat differently than other parts of your body. It’s more metabolically active and responds differently to weight loss strategies.

Belly fat accumulation is largely influenced by your genetics, hormone levels, and lifestyle factors like diet and exercise. Consuming too many calories and not burning enough through activity can cause fat to build up over time.

Other factors like stress, inadequate sleep, smoking, and alcohol intake can also encourage belly fat storage.

Best diets to lose belly fat

When choosing the best diet to lose belly fat, opt for a plan that helps create a calorie deficit through diet and exercise. A deficit of 500–1000 calories per day can result in 1-2 pounds (0.5-1 kg) of fat loss per week.

Here are some of the top diets to consider:

1. Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes eating whole, minimally processed foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, healthy fats like olive oil, and seafood. It limits red meat and foods high in added sugar.

Studies show the Mediterranean diet may promote belly fat loss better than low fat diets. One study in over 292 adults found it reduced belly fat more than other plans over a 5-year period.

2. Low carb diets

Low carb diets like the keto diet restrict your carb intake to 20-50 grams per day to induce fat burning. They are excellent for decreasing belly fat.

One study showed low carb diets decreased belly fat in over 100 people. Another 12-week study had similar findings, with low carb dieters losing double the amount of belly fat as those on a low fat diet.

3. Intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting cycles between periods of eating and fasting. It limits your eating window to just 4-8 hours per day.

Studies indicate intermittent fasting may be as effective as traditional calorie restricted diets for decreasing belly fat. One study showed a 7.7% decrease in belly fat over 12 weeks.

4. Volumetrics diet

The Volumetrics diet focuses on eating low energy dense foods that make you feel full. Foods like non-starchy veggies, broth-based soups and high fiber fruits and veggies.

One study in over 200 overweight adults found the Volumetrics diet significantly reduced belly fat compared to a low fat diet over 6 months.

5. DASH diet

The DASH diet stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy. It limits foods high in saturated fat like fatty meats and full-fat dairy.

Studies indicate the DASH diet leads to significant reductions in belly fat, especially when coupled with exercise. One 12-week study showed a loss of 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) from participant’s waists.

How to choose the right diet for you

When selecting the best diet for losing belly fat, consider the following factors:

  • Your food preferences – Pick a nutritious diet you can stick to long-term.
  • Health conditions – Consider any conditions like diabetes or heart disease.
  • Convenience – Opt for a plan that fits your schedule and lifestyle.
  • Nutrition needs – Make sure the diet provides sufficient protein, carbs, fat and nutrients.
  • Personalized approach – You may respond better to low carb, low fat, or another approach.

Other effective strategies to lose belly fat

Complement your diet with the following strategies to boost belly fat loss:

Priority #1: Exercise

Exercise is one of the most powerful tools for decreasing belly fat. Ideally, aim for 150–300 minutes of moderate activity or 75–150 minutes of vigorous activity weekly.

Some great belly fat burning exercises include:

  • Aerobic: Walking, jogging, cycling, swimming
  • Strength training: Lifting weights 2-3 times a week
  • High intensity interval training (HIIT): Bursts of intense cardio like sprinting or jumping rope
  • Core work: Planks, crunches, side bends, stability ball exercises

Priority #2: Reduce stress

Managing stress levels is key for losing stubborn belly fat. Stress causes your body to produce the hormone cortisol, which encourages belly fat accumulation.

Relaxation techniques like meditation, deep breathing, yoga, massage and listening to music can help decrease high cortisol levels.

Priority #3: Improve sleep

Not getting enough quality sleep can make it nearly impossible to lose belly fat. Poor sleep is linked to higher cortisol levels and weight gain.

Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night by sticking to a regular sleep-wake cycle and limiting screen time before bed.

Priority #4: Stay hydrated

Drinking enough water supports belly fat loss. Dehydration can actually cause water retention and bloating, which hides fat loss on the scale and visually.

Drink at least 2-3 liters (68-101 oz) of water daily to see results. Cut back on sugary drinks that can encourage tummy expansion.

Tips to maximize belly fat loss on your diet

Follow these tips to accelerate your belly fat loss:

  • Track your calories – Apps like MyFitnessPal help ensure you stick to your target deficit.
  • Increase protein – Eat 25-35% of calories from protein to retain muscle during fat loss.
  • Fill up on fiber – Eat plenty of fruits, veggies, beans, nuts and whole grains to curb appetite.
  • Cut back on alcohol – Limit to 1-2 drinks 2-3 times per week due to high calorie and sugar intake.
  • Drink green tea – Contains antioxidants that may help boost belly fat burning.
  • Add in cardio – Try to get in 150 minutes per week to maximize fat burning.
  • Lift weights – Preserves metabolism-boosting muscle when losing fat.
  • Manage stress – Use relaxing techniques like yoga and meditation to lower cortisol.

Foods to eat and avoid on a belly fat diet

Focus your belly fat loss diet on the following foods:

Foods to eat more of

  • Non-starchy veggies: Broccoli, carrots, spinach, tomatoes
  • Lean proteins: Chicken, turkey, salmon, eggs, Greek yogurt
  • Fruits: Apples, berries, citrus fruits, pears, peaches
  • High-fiber carbs: Oats, quinoa, sweet potatoes, beans, lentils
  • Healthy fats: Olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds

Foods to limit

  • Added sugars: Soda, candy, ice cream, baked goods
  • Refined carbs: White bread, pasta, rice, pastries
  • Fried foods: French fries, mozzarella sticks, tempura
  • Processed meats: Hot dogs, sausage, deli meats
  • Alcohol: Beer, wine, cocktails, liquor

Sample 5-day meal plan

Here is a 5-day sample meal plan to help lose belly fat:

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5
Scrambled eggs with spinach and tomatoes Greek yogurt with berries and almonds Banana protein oatmeal Grapefruit and cottage cheese Veggie and egg white omelet
Chicken salad wrap Tuna salad with crackers Leftover roasted chicken over greens Salmon salad with balsamic vinaigrette Turkey and avocado lettuce wraps
Broiled fish with quinoa and roasted broccoli Grilled chicken breast with roasted cauliflower Shrimp fajitas with peppers and onions Tofu stir fry with veggies over brown rice Turkey chili with mixed greens
Sliced apple with peanut butter Protein smoothie Cottage cheese and mixed berries Hard boiled eggs Edamame snack pack


Losing belly fat requires patience, consistency and utilizing a combination of diet and exercise strategies. Focus on creating a mild calorie deficit, managing stress, staying active and getting enough sleep.

Diets like the Mediterranean, low carb, intermittent fasting and Volumetrics approaches have shown great promise in targeting belly fat. But the diet you choose should be tailored to your preferences and lifestyle for long-term success.

Couple your belly fat diet with regular strength training and cardio exercise for best results. With time and consistency, an effective belly fat loss plan can help improve your health, slim your waistline and enhance your self-confidence.