A Nutritionist’s Top 5 Foods To Lose Belly Fat

February 13, 2018

As a registered dietitian, my take on belly fat is that it’s not a vanity issue. Numerous studies have shown that holding excess fat around the abdomen increases health risks. This is especially true for people who have a lot of visceral fat. Unlike subcutaneous fat, which is the kind that wiggles under the skin, visceral abdominal fat sits deep in the abdominal cavity and surrounds internal organs.

Visceral abdominal fat fuels inflammation, which is a known cause of premature aging and disease. This is likely one reason why having more of this type of abdominal fat is linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, certain cancers, and even reduced cognitive function with aging. (There’s no surefire way to know if you have short visceral fat by getting an MRI, since it’s located under the abdominal muscles and inside the body cavity. But some studies have associated visceral fat with waist measurements of 35 inches or more in women and 40 inches or more in men).

It’s important to note that excess visceral fat is a risk for people who are not overweight or obese. In other words, even if your body mass index (BMI) is in the normal range, sticking to visceral fat puts your health at risk.A 2019 study published in JAMA found that among more than 150,000 women, those who weighed in the healthy range but had more abdominal fat died from any cause compared to healthy-weight women whose abdomens didn’t carry the fat Riskier.

While chronic stress and poor quality sleep can increase visceral fat, exercise helps, and certain foods can have a big impact on reducing belly fat. A recent study found that by improving the overall quality of your diet, you can curb the accumulation of belly fat. Researchers specifically looked at adhering more closely to the Mediterranean diet, which includes nine components. These include eating more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and fish; eating more monounsaturated fats and animal saturated fats from foods such as extra virgin olive oil and avocados; and consuming less red meat and alcohol.

Some specific foods and nutrients have also been shown to help target belly fat, including some staples of the Mediterranean diet. Here are five foods and how you can incorporate these health-promoting foods into your daily diet.

Avocado.
Avocados are nutritional powerhouses, containing good fats – including potassium, a mineral that supports heart function – in addition to fiber, antioxidants and numerous vitamins and minerals, and also act as a natural diuretic to help regulate blood pressure and get excess sodium and fluid out of the body.

A recent study suggests that this satisfying fruit may also help attack belly fat. In the study, 111 adults were randomly divided into two groups. One group consumed one fresh avocado at their daily meal, while the second group ate the same number of calories without the avocado. After three months, the avocado eaters had reduced visceral fat in their abdomens, an effect not seen in the control group (without avocado).

Even if you don’t eat a whole avocado every day, incorporating more of this good fat food into your diet is a smart, health-protective strategy. Whip avocados into smoothies, mash them up and spread them on toast, sprinkle them on salads, black bean tacos, lentil soup or baked potatoes, or just enjoy half an avocado as an accompaniment to any meal. You can even puree the avocado and incorporate it into chocolate pudding!

 

nuts

Nuts are a staple of the Mediterranean diet, providing wholesome fats in addition to plant proteins, antioxidants, fiber, and a variety of vitamins and minerals. Among them are many nutrients that adults tend to be deficient in, such as magnesium that supports mental health and sleep.

Government tracking data shows that adults who regularly ate at least a quarter-ounce of tree nuts a day on average – including almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, Filberts (hazelnuts), macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts – had lower BMIs and blood pressure than those who didn’t eat nuts. They also had smaller waist circumference measurements, which are an indicator of abdominal fat accumulation.

If you’re not allergic or sensitive to nuts, they’re easy to add to almost any meal or snack. Blend nut butter into smoothies, add nuts to overnight oats or drizzle nut butter over them, sprinkle nuts on salads, cooked vegetables and stir-fries, and eat nuts straight or with fruit. You can even combine nut butters and chopped nuts with additions like oats, cinnamon, dried fruit crumbles and dark chocolate chips to make a batch of energy balls.

lentils

I’ve always considered lentils to be one of the most underrated superfoods on the planet. In addition to being naturally gluten-free, economical, eco-friendly, versatile and satisfying, lentils are incredibly nutritious. They’re full of plant proteins, key minerals, vitamins and antioxidants, and they’re the king of fiber.

One classic study, which tracked abdominal fat in adults over a five-year period, found that every 10 gram increase in soluble fiber intake reduced visceral fat accumulation by 3.7 percent. One cup of cooked lentils provides 14 grams of fiber, about half of which is soluble fiber, and this type of fiber also helps support gut regularity and lower cholesterol.

Choose to use lentils instead of meat as a source of protein in your meal, seasoned with herbs and combined with extra-virgin olive oil, plenty of vegetables, and a small amount of healthy starch from sweet or fingerling potatoes, spaghetti squash, or quinoa. Add lentils to salads, make a simple lentil curry, cook lentil soup in the crockpot, or turn these treasures into meatless meatballs or lentil bread.

Whole Grains.
The popularity of keto and paleo diets has led many people to shun grains altogether, but whole grains are actually protective of health in many ways, including reducing abdominal fat. The study involving more than 2,800 Framingham Heart Study participants found that whole grain intake was inversely associated with both subcutaneous and visceral abdominal fat, while refined grains, such as white bread, rice and pasta, increased abdominal fat.

Rather than avoiding all grains, it’s better to consume moderate amounts of whole grains or portion sizes that align with your energy needs (i.e., smaller portions when you’re less active and larger portions when you’re more active). Good options include oats for breakfast, quinoa in your salad at lunch, and brown or wild rice in your stir-fry at dinner. Homemade popcorn, a great crunchy and filling snack, can also be counted as a whole grain.

wild salmon
Vitamin D is important for a variety of functions such as immunity, bone density regulation and mental health. Studies have also shown that low levels of vitamin D in the blood are associated with increased total body fat and visceral abdominal fat in women as well as in men.

Few foods are important sources of vitamin D. The best of these is wild-caught salmon, which can be purchased fresh or in pouches and cans. A four-ounce serving of canned salmon provides 80 percent of the daily value of vitamin D. Add it to avocado toast at breakfast, to a salad at lunch, transform it into a salmon burger, or toss it with vegetables, olives, and chickpea pasta for dinner.

If you don’t eat fish or don’t like salmon, look for foods already fortified with vitamin D, such as certain plant milks, or consider taking a vitamin D supplement that provides 800-1000 IU of vitamin D daily.