By Stephanie Stahl

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Call it a spare tire, a pot belly or muffin top. Belly fat plagues millions of men and women, but some say you can minimize your middle by eating certain foods. 3 On Your Side Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl has more on the belly busting diet.

Mary Morin lost 20 pounds, but she’s still working hard to improve her abs.

“I try to do sit ups and crunches,” said Mary.

“If I had to guess I’d say 90 percent of women complain about that area,” said Jayne Drew, a personal trainer.

39-year-old Alexa Moulder says it’s especially difficult after becoming a mom.

“It’s a tough area to fix,” said Alexa.

Research has shown there are health risks associated with belly fat. It can increase your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and even certain cancers.

Exercising can help, but Nutritionist Nicolette Pace says you can whittle your middle by eating the right foods.

“You’ll get flavor, you’ll get freshness, you’ll get vitamins, you’ll get everything you need to help bust that belly fat,” said Pace.

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Pace says leafy greens and high fiber veggies, like artichokes and celery, can help detox your digestive system and flatten your belly.

Citrus fruits, especially lemons and grapefruits, are a super food for weight loss. They’re high fiber and contain compounds that can trim your middle.

“Each of them has some level of plant or phytochemical within it that gives it an extra edge,” said Pace.

Yogurt and fermented dairy products with probiotics help regulate the digestive system to flatten your belly. Look for active cultures on the label.

Pace also recommends aromatic herbs like sage, thyme, ginger, and garlic.

“Each of them not only produces tremendous amount of flavor, but is also containing these plant chemicals that have been found to improve fat metabolism,” said Pace.

While certain foods may help you be less bloated, Dr. Lisa Ganjhu is skeptical about being able to pinpoint just fat around the waist.

“You may lose weight in your belly, but for the most part it’s hard again to just target to that one area, unless you get liposuction,” said Dr. Ganjhu.

If you’re not ready for surgery, some research has shown that tea helps curb appetite, and green tea specifically contains chemicals that rev up fat burning.

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Stephanie Stahl