By Noelia Trujillo
You know what cellulite looks like--cottage cheese, anyone?--but you may not know what it is exactly. As fat cells accumulate and expand beneath skin, they push against tissue, causing an uneven appearance "commonly found on the hips, thighs, buttocks and back of arms," says osteopathic physician Robert A. Kominiarek, DO. But you don't need to stay inside during swimsuit season or avoid clingy clothing. Adding the right foods and drinks to your diet can reduce cellulite. Munch your way to a smoother-looking body with these nutritious picks. Photo by Getty Images.
Reel in a serving of this healthy catch. It's rich in antioxidants, which break down fat cells in cellulite, says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City. The omega-3 fatty acids also in salmon "reduce appetite and low-level inflammation and repair and strengthen skin tissue and fibers," says Lori L. Shemek, PhD, a certified nutritional consultant in the Dallas area. This decreases the build-up of toxins inside blood vessels and improves circulation-the waste trapped in the tissues that push against skin filters out.
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2. Sunflower Seeds
They're the new nuts, says nutritionist Rania Batayneh, author of the forthcoming The One One One Diet. That's because they're a good source of vitamin E, potassium and zinc, as well as vitamin B6, a super lump-fighter. "Not only does B6 help metabolize proteins that strengthen and repair connective tissue," says Batayneh, "but it's also a natural diuretic, eliminating excess water and bloating that can make cellulite more visible."
3. Chili and Cayenne Peppers
Break out the hot sauce! These peppers' vitamin B6 restores and fortifies connective tissue, making them an excellent weapon in fighting unwanted dimpling, says Batayneh. Research also shows that hot peppers' capsaicin "can boost your metabolism by up to 25% for three hours after you eat them," says Dr. Shemek. This makes your body efficiently burn off calories, which aids in fat loss. It also improves blood flow, flushing out toxins and reducing fat deposits under connective cords, lessening the puckered look.
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4. Dark Berries
Blackberries and blueberries enhance collagen production, creating new skin tissue, says Dr. Shemek. And that improves skin's tone and texture. But that's not all: These dark berries also contain antioxidants, which break down fat attached to the connective tissue. "This allows skin to keep fat beneath it at bay and not push forward and appear lumpy," says Dr. Zeichner.
5. Apple Cider Vinegar
Great for mixing into salad dressing and juice, this vinegar's potassium, magnesium and calcium "flush out toxins and relieve water retention around the thighs and stomach," says Dr. Shemek. The result: reduced bloating and cellulite. "Flushing out toxins also helps flush out stress hormones, detox your liver and rebalance estrogen production, which contribute to reducing or reversing cellulite," she adds. Plus, apple cider vinegar may also help you lose weight. Less fat means fewer bumps!
6. Green and Herbal Tea
The active ingredient Epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, in green, dandelion and ginger teas, speeds up metabolism and increases fat burn, says Dr. Shemek. That stops the expansion of fat cells that cause cellulite. Also, tea's small amount of caffeine works with EGCG to flush out toxins and dehydrate fat, which minimizes fat cells pushing against skin and reduces puckering, says Karlene Karst, a registered dietitian in Vancouver. So why not coffee? Its higher amounts of caffeine dehydrate you too much, causing your body to hold on to liquids and toxins that expand fat under skin.
7. Olive Oil
"One major mistake all women make: fearing fat," says Stella Metsovas, a clinical nutritionist in California. Olive oil provides the body with not-so-heavily-processed monounsaturated fats and polyphenols that keep your thyroid healthy. A properly functioning thyroid boosts metabolism, burns fat and energizes skin-building cells-all things that reduce fat cell expansion and thicken skin to cover dents. "Cook olive oil at low temperatures and drizzle it on fiber-rich vegetables throughout the day" for the biggest benefits, Metsovas adds.
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8. Dark Chocolate
Attention chocoholics! You don't have to sacrifice your favorite sweet for firm skin. Natural cocoa is full of antioxidants, which break down fat in cellulite and improve the function of all cells, including skin-building ones, says Karst. The caffeine aids in dehydrating fat cells under skin, evening out the surface. Karst recommends satisfying your sweet tooth with 1 square or ounce of at least 80% dark chocolate per day to metabolize fat and keep skin dimple-free.
This popular spread is a low-glycemic food, meaning your body can use it efficiently for energy, "resulting in smaller fat cells and a decreased appearance of or prevention of cellulite," says Dr. Kominiarek. While there's no particular component of hummus that fights cellulite most, the food puts only a small amount of glucose into the blood, causing a minimum insulin release. Since insulin is a fat storage hormone, eating low-glycemic foods prevents fat cells from expanding and forming cellulite.
Spice up your meals for a fat-bursting effect. "Saffron contains anti-inflammatory ingredients that discourage fat cell expansion," says Alan Roberts, PhD. Just a couple ounces of this ingredient in spice or liquid form can suppress your appetite and increase circulation between tissues. "Boosting circulation can reduce cellulite by increasing muscle tone under the skin," eliminating the valleys on the surface and creating a stronger, smoother look, he says. Sprinkle saffron onto avocado wedges for a healthy snack, suggests Dr. Roberts, or add it to your favorite salad dressing or sauce.
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