When you eat could be as important as what you eat, according to a new study.
Eating within an eight-hour window between 10am and 6pm could help you lose more weight than dining well into the evening, according to research in the Nutrition and Healthy Aging journal published this month.
Now nutritional therapist Jeannette Hyde, of London, the author of The Gut Makeover, says eating within a restricted time-frame could also be the secret to beating the bloat for good too, reports Daily Mail.
She has shared with FEMAIL Food&Drink 10 ways that will help get your gut in shape - and her main advice is to eat within daylight hours.
The new study investigated the effects of eating within an eight-hour time-frame between 10am and 6pm in obese adults.
It concluded that even without calorie counting, adults who ate in an eight-hour window lost more weight than those who ate across a 10 or 11-hour period in the day.
The diet, known as time-restricted feeding, is advocated by Ms Hyde, who says the practice can also help reduce bloating.
Here she reveals the other ways you can get a flat stomach by changing your diet and your eating habits.
1. EAT DURING DAYLIGHT HOURS
Ms Hyde says: "Try to eat during daylight hours. The digestive system is primed to work best during the day time, and slows down its digestive functions at night which can lead to digestive complaints.
"We have evolved to eat in daylight – it wasn't until recently we had light at night to cook and eat at a time which isn't our natural rhythm."
2. DON'T SLEEP STRAIGHT AFTER A MEAL
Ms Hyde says: "Leave at least two and a half hours between finishing your last meal and going to sleep. Contractions which move food along the digestive tract slow down at night, meaning you can have digestive issues, wind and bloating, if you eat close to bedtime."
3. FAST FOR 12 TO 14 HOURS
Ms Hyde says: "For weight loss, the timing of your meals, can be even more important than what you eat. There really is no need to count calories if you practice time-restricted feeding.
"Having a fasting stretch of 12-14 hours between dinner and breakfast can promote weight loss and encourage beneficial bacteria to thrive in the gut which can improve metabolism and balance hunger hormones.
"It's easy to do if you are eating nice and early – say 7pm for dinner and then just having water between then and 7am breakfast the next day."
4. DRINK KEFIR
Ms Hyde says: "Include fermented foods such as fermented milk kefir in your diet regularly, such as The Collective's kefir. Kefir contains billions of beneficial bacteria, which you can parachute into your gut to help redress the balance between friendly bacteria and non-friendly bacteria.
"Kefir, a staple in Eastern Europe, tastes like a slightly fizzy drinking yoghurt and is delicious blended with fruit."
She added: "Kefir contains very low lactose after it has been fermented which means it is often well-tolerated by people who can't usually tolerate milk foods well, and it can help plant lactobacilli bacteria into your gut so you tolerate lactose from other foods better too."
5. EAT VARIETY
Ms Hyde says: "Try to eat lots of variety. Often when people have chronic bloating they become nervous of many different foods and cut out lots which contain fibre. This can sometimes help in the short term, but for long term gut health it can make gut health worse.
"It is vital to includes LOTS of different vegetables and some fruit. Build up gradually for comfort. We all have about a kilo and half of bacteria in the digestive tract, principally the colon (the last compartment).
"This needs to be thriving with lots of different types of bacteria for good health, and the way to promote lots, is by feeding the bacteria lots of different types of textures and colours from plants."
6. TRY ELIMINATING GLUTEN - AND THEN REINTRODUCING IT
Ms Hyde says: "Do you suspect that wheat or the protein in it, gluten, make you feel gassy and bloated? Does your tummy feel like a hard, inflated drum in the hours after a pizza or a bowl of pasta?
"If so, it may be worth avoiding it for three weeks, and noting if you are less bloated during that time, then trying some wheat again and seeing what the reaction is. This is called elimination and challenge and can provide useful information for you to tailor your diet accordingly longer term."
7. KEEP A FOOD DIARY
Ms Hyde says: "Everyone is individually different and what foods suit one person may not suit another. This is where a food and symptom diary comes in handy.
"Write down on one side of the paper the foods in every meal and snack you eat, and then on the other side of the paper any symptoms of bloating and when they appear. You may discover a pattern and find out which foods are the culprits to make you bloat."
8. EAT SLOWLY
Ms Hyde says: "Do you bolt your food down? Eat on the run? Shovel your food down while working at your desk? Food which hasn't been chewed properly can cause bloating further down the digestive tract.
"Leaving your desk for 20 minutes and finding somewhere quiet and relaxing to eat may seem like a small change, but for some people can reward big results with less bloating. Try to relax when you eat."
9. KEEP SUGAR INTAKE LOW
Ms Hyde says: "Try to keep your sugar intake low. It isn't known exactly why sugar can lead to an imbalance of beneficial bacteria and non-beneficial bacteria (known as dysbiosis) and bloating, but to look and feel your best it's worth keeping as a treat.
"Artificial sweeteners such as those contained in diet drinks have been shown to cause dysbiosis in animals, so may be worth avoiding too if you want a flat tummy."
10. VISIT YOUR GP
Ms Hyde says: "If you do the above, but can't pinpoint which particular foods are making you bloat, consider seeing your GP or a BANT CNHC registered nutritional therapist in the UK and ask for a stool test to see if a parasite infection is present and get it eliminated. Parasites can cause chronic and severed bloating, usually at its most dramatic at the end of the day."