Belly fat is more than a nuisance that makes your clothes feel tight.
It’s seriously harmful.
This type of fat – referred to as visceral fat – is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions. Many health organizations use body mass index (BMI) to classify weight and predict the risk of metabolic disease. However, this is misleading, as people with excess belly fat are at an increased risk even if they look thin. Though losing fat from this area can be difficult, there are several things you can do to reduce excess abdominal fat.
Eat plenty of soluble fiber and drink lots of water
Soluble fiber absorbs water and forms a gel that helps slow down food as it passes through your digestive system. Studies show that this type of fiber promotes weight loss by helping you feel full, so you naturally eat less. It may also decrease the number of calories your body absorbs from food. What’s more, soluble fiber may help fight belly fat. Make an effort to consume high fiber foods every day. Excellent sources of soluble fiber include:
- Flax seeds
- Shirataki noodles
- Brussels sprouts
Avoid foods that contain trans fats
According to a Citrus Heights CA health coach Trans fats are created by pumping hydrogen into unsaturated fats, such as soybean oil. They’re found in some margarines and spreads and also often added to packaged foods, but many food producers have stopped using them. These fats have been linked to inflammation, heart disease, insulin resistance, and abdominal fat gain. To help reduce belly fat and protect your health, stay away from products that contain trans fats. These are often listed as partially hydrogenated fats.
Don’t drink too much alcohol
Alcohol can have health benefits in small amounts, but it’s seriously harmful if you drink too much. Research suggests that too much alcohol can also make you gain belly fat. Observational studies link heavy alcohol consumption to a significantly increased risk of developing central obesity – that is, excess fat storage around the waist.
Eat a high protein diet
Protein is an extremely important nutrient for weight management. High protein intake increases the release of the fullness hormone PYY, which decreases appetite and promotes fullness. Protein also raises your metabolic rate and helps you to retain muscle mass during weight loss. Many observational studies show that people who eat more protein tend to have less abdominal fat than those who eat a lower protein diet. Be sure to include a good protein source at every meal, such as:
- Lean meat
- Low-fat dairy
- Whey protein
Reduce your stress levels
Stress can make you gain belly fat by triggering the adrenal glands to produce cortisol, which is also known as the stress hormone. Research shows that high cortisol levels increase appetite and drive abdominal fat storage. What’s more, women who already have a large waist tend to produce more cortisol in response to stress. Increased cortisol further adds to fat gain around the middle. To help reduce belly fat, engage in pleasurable activities that relieve stress. Practicing yoga or meditation can be effective methods.
Don’t eat a lot of sugary foods
Sugar contains fructose, which has been linked to several chronic diseases when consumed in excess. These include heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and fatty liver disease. Studies show a relationship between high sugar intake and increased abdominal fat. It’s important to realize that more than just refined sugar can lead to belly fat gain. Even healthier sugars, such as real honey, should be used sparingly.
Do aerobic exercise (cardio)
Aerobic exercise (cardio) is an effective way to improve your health and burn calories. Studies also show that it’s one of the most effective forms of exercise for reducing belly fat. In any case, the frequency and duration of your exercise program are more important than its intensity.
Cut back on carbs – especially refined carbs
Reducing your carb intake can be very beneficial for losing fat, including abdominal fat. Diets with under 50 grams of carbs per day cause belly fat loss in people who are overweight, those at risk for type 2 diabetes, and women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). In the famous Framingham Heart Study, people with the highest consumption of whole grains were 17% less likely to have excess abdominal fat than those who consumed diets high in refined grains.
Perform resistance training (lift weights)
Resistance training, also known as weight lifting or strength training, is important for preserving and gaining muscle mass. Based on studies involving people with prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, and fatty liver disease, resistance training may also be beneficial for belly fat loss. In fact, one study involving teenagers with overweight showed that a combination of strength training and aerobic exercise led to the greatest decrease in visceral fat.
Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages
Sugar-sweetened beverages are loaded with liquid fructose, which can make you gain belly fat. Studies show that sugary drinks lead to increased fat in the liver. One 10-week study found significant abdominal fat gain in people who consumed high fructose beverages. Sugary beverages (especially carbonated ones – e.g. sodas, etc.) appear to be even worse than high sugar foods. Since your brain doesn’t process liquid calories the same way it does solid ones, you’re likely to end up consuming too many calories later on and storing them as fat.
To lose belly fat, it’s best to completely avoid sugar-sweetened beverages such as:
- Sweet tea
- Alcoholic mixers containing sugar
Get plenty of restful sleep
Sleep is important for many aspects of your health, including weight. Studies show that people who don’t get enough sleep tend to gain more weight, which may include belly fat. A 16-year study involving more than 68,000 women found that those who slept less than 5 hours per night were significantly more likely to gain weight than those who slept 7 hours or more per night. The condition known as sleep apnea, where breathing stops intermittently during the night, has also been linked to excess visceral fat. In addition to sleeping at least 7 hours per night, make sure you’re getting sufficient quality sleep. If you suspect you may have sleep apnea or another sleep disorder, speak to a doctor and get treated.
Eat fatty fish every week
Fatty fish are incredibly healthy. They’re rich in high quality protein and omega-3 fats that protect you from disease. Some evidence suggests that these omega-3 fats may also help reduce visceral fat. Studies in adults and children with fatty liver disease show that fish oil supplements can significantly reduce liver and abdominal fat. Aim to get 2–3 servings of fatty fish per week. Good choices include:
Stop drinking fruit juice
Although fruit juice provides vitamins and minerals, it’s just as high in sugar as soda and other sweetened beverages. Drinking large amounts may carry the same risk for abdominal fat gain. An 8-ounce (240-mL) serving of unsweetened apple juice contains 24 grams of sugar, half of which is fructose. To help reduce excess belly fat, replace fruit juice with water, unsweetened iced tea, or sparkling water with a wedge of lemon or lime.
Add apple cider vinegar to your diet
Drinking apple cider vinegar has impressive health benefits, including lowering blood sugar levels. It contains acetic acid, which has been shown to reduce abdominal fat storage in several animal studies. Taking 1–2 tablespoons (15–30 mL) of apple cider vinegar per day is safe for most people. However, be sure to dilute it with water, as undiluted vinegar can erode the enamel on your teeth. Adding a high-fiber powder (e.g. Psyllium Husks) to the mixture improves the effectiveness, and adds some probiotic benefits as well.
Eat probiotic foods or take a probiotic supplement
Probiotics are bacteria found in some foods and supplements. They have many health benefits, including helping improve gut health and enhancing immune function. Researchers have found that different types of bacteria play a role in weight regulation and that having the right balance can help with weight loss, including loss of belly fat.
Drink green tea
Green tea is an exceptionally healthy beverage. It contains caffeine and the antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), both of which appear to boost metabolism. EGCG is a catechin, which several studies suggest may help you lose belly fat. The effect can be strengthened when green tea consumption is combined with exercise.
The bottom line
There are no magic solutions to losing belly fat. Weight loss always requires some effort, commitment, and perseverance on your behalf.