Belly Fat Diet For Dummies
Belly fat not only looks less than desirable, but it also can have very real and very dangerous health implications. The latest research links belly fat to everything from heart disease and type 2 diabetes to certain cancers and even an increased risk of dementia. Sadly, more individuals today are overweight than not, so something needs to change. You can adopt simple, effective strategies and lifestyle changes to shrink belly fat, improve your health and dietary habits, increase your physical activity, and improve how you look.
Fighting Belly Fat by Eating the Right Foods
As you transition into a belly-flattening lifestyle, you need to make a few key dietary changes that will help you reduce belly fat. You can make these changes gradually over time. The more regularly you stick with these changes, the better your results. The following are some general guidelines to follow:
Consume an adequate amount of fiber per day. Aim for a minimum of 30 grams of fiber daily. Fiber provides you with a sense of satiety without any calories. Increasing your fiber intake helps stabilize blood sugar, control cravings, and prevent overeating — all things that help promote weight loss and flatten your belly.
Consume an adequate amount of healthy fat each day. Don’t worry. Dietary fat doesn’t equal belly fat. In fact, it’s actually the opposite! Healthy fats in the diet, mainly monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, have been shown to help promote a decrease in belly fat. But portion control is still key here. Even though these fats are healthy, they’re still rich in calories.
Consume an adequate amount of lean protein. Lean proteins — which include animal proteins like chicken breast and fish as well as plant-based proteins like tofu and beans — are what make up the majority of your muscle. Without enough dietary protein each day, you may begin to lose muscle mass as you lose weight, which can slow your metabolism. Protein, like fats and fiber, is a nutrient that is slowly digested, helping to regulate appetite and control hunger. Include a source of lean protein at each meal to help you feel satisfied and avoid cravings.
Increase your intake of whole fruits and vegetables. Vegetables and fruits are not only rich in filling fiber, but they’re also loaded with antioxidants and phytochemicals. Certain antioxidants, such as vitamin C, have been linked with reducing belly fat by helping to regulate stress hormones in the body. They’re also rich in minerals like potassium, which helps to expel excess water from the body, slimming the belly.
Drink up! Drinking at least 8 cups of water per day helps keep you hydrated, gives you increased energy, and helps prevent water retention that can bloat your belly. Drinking adequate amounts of fluid also helps with appetite regulation, promoting weight loss.
Avoiding Foods That Cause Belly Bloat
Some foods can cause belly bloat. This bloat can come on overnight or even after eating just one meal full of belly-bloating foods. Bloat isn’t true belly fat, but it can distend your stomach, making your waistline appear larger. Some foods have an instant belly-bloating effect due to their ability to introduce added gasses to the body, causing stomach distension. Other foods bloat the belly by causing your body to hold on to fluid, giving you that puffy look and feel. You especially want to avoid belly bloat when you’re trying to look your best, such as for an upcoming event like a wedding or party. Some instant belly-bloating foods to avoid in your diet include the following:
Carbonated beverages: These gassy drinks fill your belly with air, causing your stomach to look distended and bloated. Instead, drink water or calorie-free beverages that are rich in antioxidants, such as unsweetened green tea with a squeeze of fresh lemon.
Gassy vegetables: Vegetables that increase gas production, such as cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts, can cause your stomach to look and feel distended due to a buildup of gas in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. But you don’t have to give up these vegetables entirely. If you slowly increase your portions of these vegetables over the course of a few weeks, versus all at once, it allows your body to adjust to them, helping to produce less gas during digestion. When eating these gassier options, also be sure to cook them thoroughly (raw vegetables can produce even more gas).
Gum: Chewing gum may trigger you to swallow air, which can bloat your belly and cause it to look distended. And even though sugar-free gum may sound like a better choice, it actually contains a high amount of sugar alcohols. These alcohols are only partially digested in your body, so they can lead to gas, bloating, and GI upset — all things that cause your belly to look and feel bloated. If you do want to chew gum, try to limit yourself to only one or two pieces per day.
High-sugar drinks: Drinking a large amount of simple sugars through drinks can lead to spikes in insulin levels. Because an increase in insulin promotes increased fat storage in the abdominal area, you want to avoid these high-sugar drinks. Instead, choose calorie-free beverages, such as water or unsweetened green tea.
Or try this lightly flavored, belly-slimming beverage: Freeze 100 percent fruit juice in an ice cube tray. After the juice cubes are frozen, you can pop one into 12 ounces of water. The juice will slowly melt, infusing the water with all-natural flavor with none of the bloat and only a small number of calories.
Trans fats: Studies have shown that the intake of trans fats can promote an increase in belly fat. So carefully screen your foods by looking for the words partially-hydrogenated oil in the ingredient list. If you see this term, the food you’re selecting contains a source of trans fats. It’s best to avoid foods with trans fats or partially-hydrogenated oils. Foods most likely to contain these belly-busting ingredients include baked goods and pastries, commercially fried foods, snack foods like chips and microwave popcorn, and some instant coffee drinks.
Be sure to look at the ingredient list, not just the number of grams of trans fats listed on the Nutrition Facts Panel. Foods can list 0 grams of trans fats if they contain less than half a gram per serving. Less than half a gram sounds fairly harmless, but if you eat multiple servings, you’re still taking in a significant source of trans fats. In fact, research has shown that as little as 2 grams of trans fats can be detrimental to your health, so read those ingredient lists carefully!
White flour: Foods that list white flour or enriched flour as the first ingredient are mainly made up of refined carbohydrates. These carbs are digested very quickly, causing spikes in both insulin and blood sugar levels, promoting increased fat storage in the abdominal area. Choose whole-grain options instead. Make sure the first ingredient listed is a whole grain, such as oats or whole wheat.
Be cautious when reading labels. Even if a label says enriched wheat flour or wheat flour, it’s still a refined flour. You want to see the word whole in front of the ingredient, such as whole-wheat flour, to ensure you’re getting a true whole grain.