Everyone has some belly fat (yes even that person with the six pack), but if you have too much deep belly fat, also known as visceral fat, you may be more likely to get high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, dementia, and certain cancers, including breast cancer and colon cancer.
Here are some of the steps you can take to rid yourself of visceral fat and get a healthier lifestyle.
- Moderate exercise
Moderate amounts of exercise can reduce the inflammation in belly fat, even without a change in diet. Exercise also helps to prevent re-gaining abdominal fat after weight loss. Cutting calories alone, will not substantially lessen your visceral fat.
What to do: Find a fun moderate aerobic activity that you enjoy doing, such as running, walking, swimming, cycling, etc. And if you want to take it up a notch, engage in high-activity sports like tennis, racquetball, basketball and surfing.
- Skip the sodas
The amount of calories adults get from sweetened beverages has almost doubled over the past 37 years, contributing significantly to bigger waistlines. So skip the sodas and other high calorie sweetened beverages, and over time this will reduce your belly fat.
What to do: Substitute sweetened beverages for water, unsweetened tea or pure fruit juice diluted with at least 80% water.
- Skip the diet sodas as well
Diet sodas are not a good substitute for regular sodas. Research has found an association between the consumption of diet sodas and a wider waist circumference. Research has found that the widespread use of no-calorie sweeteners found in diet beverages may actually make it harder for people to control their food intake and body weight. One study has found that diet soda drinkers have a higher percentage of belly flab compared to those who don’t drink diet soda. Recently, a new study has also linked diet soft drinks to an increased risk for stroke and dementia.
What to do: Don’t fool yourself by thinking diet sodas are helping you lose that belly, science has shown otherwise.
- Eat more protein
Research has shown that a higher consumption of animal protein over a period of five years was associated with a significantly reduced risk of gaining belly fat.
What to do: Increase your protein to carb ratio intake. Eat healthier free range meat, poultry and eggs. If you are vegetarian, incorporate complete protein sources into your diet such as rice and beans, quinoa, buckwheat and chickpeas.
- Eat healthy fats
Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) can help prevent belly fat. A study found that individuals who got about 25% of their total daily calories from MUFAs did not gain any extra visceral fat, but those who consumed less MUFAs and more carbs did gain belly fat.
Medium chain fatty acids (MCTs) are metabolized differently than the longer chain fats. MCTs go directly to the liver from the digestive tract, where they are immediately used for energy. Coconut oil is the richest source of MCTs. Research has shown that coconut oil consumption can lead to a significant reduction in waist circumference and belly fat.
What to do: Olive oil is MUFA-rich, as well as avocados and nuts. Cook with coconut oil and use olive oil for salads. Substitute unhealthy snacks for nuts. Put a tablespoon of coconut oil in to your morning oats.
- Go easy on the carbs
Studies have shown that low-carb diets are particularly effective for targeting belly fat. When 69 overweight study participants were put on a diet with a modest carbohydrate reduction for 8 weeks, they gained 11% less deep abdominal fat compared to those who ate a lower-fat diet.
What to do: Cut out all refined cards such as white sugar and white flour, and reduce your intake of unrefined carbs. Don’t be fooled by “fat free” labeling on carbohydrate products, the fat is not the culprit here.
- Eat more fiber
Soluble fiber can be effective for reducing belly fat. Study participants who ate 10 grams of soluble fiber a day had a 3.7% reduction of abdominal fat.
What to do: Oats is a good source of soluble fiber. Start your day with rolled oats for breakfast or add oat bran to your morning cereal.
- Say no to yo-yo diets
Losing weight and then regaining it, can make subsequent weight loss more difficult as well as more rapid weight regain. Yo-yo diets have been shown to increase lipoprotein lipase (LPL), an enzyme that helps to clear fat out of the blood stream. LPL is particularly active in the abdominal area.
What to do: Regular exercise can help to reduce the high LPL levels resulting from a yo-yo diet. Stick to the exercise regime as LPL level reduction can take a while to normalize.
- Cut out the potato crisps and French fries
Research has shown that daily potato chip consumption can contribute to two pounds of belly fat every four years. Regular consumption of French fries resulted in 3.3 pounds gained every four years.
What to do: Replace potato chips with healthier snacks like nuts and berries. Order salad instead of French fries with your meal.
- The right amount of sleep
Research has shown that an average of five hours or less of sleep a night increases visceral fat. More than an average of eight hours of sleep a night has a similar affect.
What to do: Establish a nightly wind down routine before getting into bed so that it’s easier to fall asleep.