Belly fat — that’s the stubborn layer of fat around the waistline — can cause various metabolic problems associated with obesity. This fat is also called visceral fat, as it’s located deep under the skin, around the organs. You can estimate whether you are carrying too much belly fat by simply measuring your waist (at the navel, standing with your feet together) with a tape measure. Anything over 80 cm (31.5 inches) in women and 94 cm (37 inches) in men can mean an increased risk of heart problems and stroke. Reducing belly fat can be difficult, but there are a few proven strategies to target the fat around the waistline. Here are some of the most reliable.
Avoid foods that increase belly fat
Losing belly fat isn’t just about what you eat, it’s about what you avoid as well. Some foods increase belly fat, while others can help burn it. These are the foods to avoid, and the best substitutes.
– Refined grains
Unlike whole grains, refined grains lose valuable nutrients during processing. Eat brown rice and pasta and wholemeal bread rather than their white equivalents. Whole grains affect the body’s insulin and glucose responses, and that makes it easier for the body to burn fat, especially the visceral fat that accumulates in the abdomen.
– Saturated fats
Saturated fats come from animal foods such as meat and dairy products. Reducing the level of saturated fats in your diet will help you lose belly fat and is good for your general health. Eat more unsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats, which mostly come from plants. Olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocados are nutritious and filling, so they keep you feeling fuller for longer, often at a lower calorie cost. Monounsaturated fats also boost the metabolic rate, which means you burn fat quicker, particularly from the abdominal region.
– Trans fats
Trans fats are produced by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil, forming a solid fat that is unhealthy. Some foods that contain trans fats are commercially prepared bakery goods and fast foods, which are high in calories and do not satisfy hunger. Avoid them.
– Sugary drinks
Sweetened drinks, even fruit juices, can contribute to belly fat. Once again, they are high in calories with no real filling power. Studies show that sweetened drinks encourage people to eat more food later in the day, which is bad news for dieters. Whole fruits contain fiber and other nutrients, so make your own juices from fresh fruits.
Aerobic exercise such as walking, running, cycling, and swimming can contribute to belly fat reduction. Exercise for 30 minutes a day, at least five times a week for maximum fat-burning benefits. You can target your belly fat by doing ab workouts and cardiovascular circuits.
Exercise burns calories and builds muscle, and muscle mass burns calories more efficiently than fat; the more muscle you have, the more calories you’ll burn. Another bonus is that as you become fitter, you’ll be able to exercise more and burn more visceral fat from around the abdominal area. Always consult a health professional before starting an exercise regimen.
Drink lots of water
Water helps boost metabolism by keeping your body adequately hydrated, and faster metabolism means better fat burning. Drink as much as you can, and don’t allow yourself to get thirsty. Carry a bottle of water with you when you’re away from home. To know if you’re drinking enough water, check your urine. If it’s almost clear, then you are drinking enough; if it’s a deeper yellow color, then you need to drink more water.
Eat more fiber-rich foods
Soluble fiber lowers insulin levels, and that speeds up the burning of visceral fat. Vegetables, fruits, and pulses contain plenty of fiber, so add them to your diet gradually, to avoid digestive problems and diarrhea.
Know the cost
Understanding the health risks associated with carrying too much belly fat can be a great motivational tool. Visceral fat can contribute to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some cancers. By getting rid of belly fat, you will not only look better, you’ll be protecting your health for the future.
Losing belly fat is not a quick process — it didn’t appear overnight, so it will take time to get rid of — but it is straightforward if you are armed with the right knowledge. Know the right foods to eat and those to avoid, exercise more, drink plenty of water, and increase the fiber in your diet for best results.