Carbohydrates: Belly Shrinkers and Belly Bloaters

Carbohydrates play a critical role in belly fat in two ways: by increasing it or decreasing it. To successfully achieve your weight loss and belly-flattening goals, you must know the carbohydrate sources that can shrink belly fat as well as the ones that can actually increase it.

Describing the sources is pretty simple: Whole-grain carbohydrates help fight belly fat, and refined carbohydrates increase it. So the key is to identify which carbs are whole grain and which are refined. After you can distinguish one from another, you’re on your way to selecting only belly-friendly carbohydrates that will have you burning up belly fat and slimming down!

How to identify whole grains

A grain is made of the following three elements:

  • Bran: This is the outer layer of the grain. It’s rich in B vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, and fiber.

  • Endosperm: This is the middle starchy layer of the grain. It’s where complex carbohydrates and some proteins are found.

  • Germ: This innermost layer of the grain is rich in B vitamins, vitamin E, minerals, antioxidants, and even essential fatty acids.

A whole grain, which is basically in its original form, contains all three of these important elements, making it rich in essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, complex carbohydrates, and fiber.

When trying to find whole-grain products, you need to look closely at the packaging. Look for the words “100%” followed by a grain on the product packaging. If your product says “100% whole wheat,” for example, you’re getting all parts of the grain, or a whole-grain product.

You can also look at the ingredients. The first ingredient is what makes up the majority of the food. The first ingredient should be a “whole” product like whole-wheat flour or whole-rye flour. If the second ingredient lists a “whole” ingredient (and the first one doesn’t) you can’t be sure of the proportion of whole grain in the product, so it may not be your best choice.

Avoid refined carbohydrates

Refined carbohydrates are processed, or refined, to remove layers of the original grain. Typically, when grains are refined both the inner layer (germ) and outer layer (bran) are removed, leaving just the middle starchy layer (endosperm). This processing leaves behind all the energy (calories) but little to no fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. About 25 percent of the protein in the grain is removed during refining as well.

Some processers replace some vitamins and minerals to their products. These products are known as enriched grains. However, these enriched grains don’t contain the original amount of antioxidants, fiber, or protein of the whole grain.

When trying to identify a refined grain, look for any of the following terms as the first ingredient listed on the product packaging:

  • Bran flour (without the word “whole”)

  • Cornmeal

  • Durum wheat

  • Enriched flour

  • Mixed grain

  • Multigrain

  • Semolina

  • Unbleached flour

  • Wheat flour (without the word “whole”)

You want to see the word “whole” before any grain; otherwise, some parts of the grain may be missing and won’t provide all the nutrients and nutrient benefits.

The impact of whole grains and refined carbohydrates on belly fat

When you eat a refined grain, you’re consuming mostly carbohydrates with very little fiber or protein to help slow down the absorption of the food. Because digestion happens rapidly, your body quickly converts the carbohydrates into glucose (sugar). After glucose enters your bloodstream, your body releases insulin to bring the sugar into your cells for energy.

But here’s where the problem arises: When your blood sugar increases quickly (which is what happens when a food is digested rapidly), your body releases that much more insulin to quickly bring your blood sugar back down by transporting it into your cells.

Insulin is one of the main culprits of belly fat. The more insulin that’s introduced into your bloodstream, the more your body stores fat, specifically belly fat.

All foods create an insulin response. However, certain foods, specifically refined carbohydrates and simple sugars, cause the largest spike in insulin, which is why you want to avoid them. These foods not only lack nutrients, but because of the insulin response, they also store belly fat — even if you keep your overall calories reduced!

Whole grains trigger an insulin response, but because of the fiber and protein in the whole grain, this response is reduced. As a result, you have less insulin circulating throughout your body, and therefore less belly fat is being stored.

Just because all grains, even whole grains, cause an insulin response doesn’t mean that you should avoid them all together. Carbohydrates are essential to your body in many ways, with the main reason being energy.

If you reduce your intake of grains too much, you may notice a dip in energy levels. In fact, you may even have trouble thinking clearly (because sugar is the main source of energy for your brain).

You need whole grains daily. Besides helping you achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, these grains have quite a few health benefits, including the following:

  • Reduced risk of heart disease and stroke

  • Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and help promoting the maintenance of blood sugar levels

  • Reduction in cancers related to the digestive system

  • Help in lowering cholesterol

  • Help in maintaining digestive system regularity

The whole grain and hunger connection

In addition to limiting the insulin response, whole grains help promote weight loss and a reduction in belly fat in another way: They help control your appetite. Because whole grains are digested more slowly than their refined counterparts, they help provide an increased feeling of satiety after eating.

However, when you eat a refined carbohydrate and promote an increase in insulin, not only does the insulin store fat, but it also increases your appetite. So after eating a refined carbohydrate, you may feel hungrier sooner and even experience cravings for more simple sugars.

As a result, you end up in a cycle of eating too many refined carbohydrates over and over, which just causes you to continue to pack on belly fat.

By decreasing hunger and preventing cravings, whole grains can help you stay on track with your Belly Fat Diet plan, helping you to achieve your weight loss goals even faster.

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