Diet, along with exercise, forms the corner stone in any strategy to lose belly fat. Whether you have a lot of belly fat to lose or you just need to burn a little belly fat, you need to pay careful consideration to your diet. Research shows that there are some foods that appear to increase belly fat, while other foods can help you lose belly fat.
FOODS TO LOSE BELLY FAT
1. MONOUNSATURATED FATS (MUFA’s)
Monounsaturated fats, or more simply MUFA, may help you lose belly fat. Research suggests that a diet rich in MUFA may be more effective than a carbohydrate rich diet in burning belly fat. While a carbohydrate rich diet appears to increase belly fat, there is evidence that a MUFA-rich diet helps get rid of belly fat – even in the absence of exercise. A study published in the journal Diabetes Care showed that participants who ate a diet rich in monounsaturated fats lost more stomach fat than those participants who consumed the same amount of calories but less of the healthy fats. A study published in the journal Diabetes Care showed that participants who ate a diet rich in monounsaturated fats lost more stomach fat than those participants who consumed the same amount of calories but less of the healthy fats. Not only does it help burn belly fat, but MUFA also help control satiety, reduces risk of diabetes and confers cardiovascular benefits. Therefore, including MUFA in your 5 daily meals and snacks will help you stick to your calorie controlled diet to lose belly fat. Include one serving of MUFA at every meal.
How does it work? Spikes in blood sugar, which you get when eating a high carb diet, signal your body to store fat in the abdominal area. However, monounsaturated fats counter these spikes in blood sugar, keeping blood sugar levels steady and thus preventing belly fat accumulation.
A word of warning. You need to keep a close eye on your portion sizes, as it is very easy to overeat foods such as nuts and guacamole. Although they are high in nutrients and MUFA’s, they are still fats, which means they are high in calories. Therefore, you need to be careful, to ensure that you control your intake of these foods to ensure you lose belly fat. Add small, but regular portions of MUFA containing foods to your meals.
Foods high in MUFA include:
- Olive oil
- Canola oil
- Nut oils (peanut, walnut)
- Seed oils (sesame, flaxseed)
- Grape seed oil
- Soybean oil
- Dark chocolate
2. OATS TO LOSE BELLY FAT
Oats are high in fiber, which means stomach is fuller for longer, reducing appetite and thereby decreasing calorie intake help. Furthermore, oats are easy to digest, particularly if soaked overnight, which helps reduce bloating. Oats are relatively high in protein and rich in B Vitamins and minerals. Just add cinnamon for extra effect. A Scandinavian study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that 3 grams of cinnamon sprinkled over cereal resulted in less insulin being produced after eating. Since insulin is a hormone that turns excess sugar into fat, decreased insulin levels also means less weight gain. What’s more, cinnamon is also thought to slow down stomach emptying, which means you feel fuller for longer.
3. SWAP REFINED GRAINS WITH WHOLE GRAINS
Not all carbs are created equal. A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that dieters who eat whole grains lose more belly fat than those who consume refined grains. How does it work? Whole grain foods are high in fiber, which help maintain low insulin levels. Research from the University of Kuopio in Finland suggests that low levels of insulin may shrink fat cells.
4. NATURAL YOGURT TO LOSE BELLY FAT
Natural yoghurt is rich in protein and makes an excellent snack. Just add a little honey, fruit or granola. Yoghurt contains lactobacillus bacteria, which are the “good” bacteria that improves intestinal function and nutrient absorption and reduces bloating. Furthermore, yogurt can help you not just reduce bloating, but also belly fat. A study from the University of Tennessee showed that people who ate yogurt, as part of their calorie controlled diet, lost more weight, lost more belly fat, lost more inches from around their weight and lost LESS muscle mass. Indeed, they recommended that dieters should eat 3 servings of fat-free or low-fat dairy products every day.
4. GREEN TEA TO BURN BELLY FAT
Although there are a few studies that have suggested green tea helps boost weight loss, there is also evidence (in a study published in The Journal of Nutrition) that green tea targets belly fat and can make it the first area targeted during weight loss. In other words, it makes losing belly fat easier. The precise mechanisms by which green tea works is still poorly understood. However, scientists do believe that green tea increases the rate at which fat is broken down by the body. Green tea is also thought to help improve insulin sensitivity (i.e. better blood sugar regulation), which helps reduce cravings for refined carbohydrates and sugar and decrease the risk of diabetes.
FOODS NOT TO EAT
1. AVOID SATURATED FATS, TRANS FATS & REFINED CARBS
Research suggests that the consumption of high amounts of refined grains, basically refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, refined-grain pasta and sugary drinks may encourage greater levels of belly fat. Indeed, a study found that people who ate 4 to 5 daily servings of white bread, gained significantly more belly fat than those who only ate 1 serving of white bread, despite consuming the same amount of calories. Research also shows that trans fat (found in vegetable shortenings, margarine, cookies, snack foods, crackers, and other foods made with, or fried in, partially hydrogenated oils), can change your body shape causing body fat to be redistributed to your belly. In other words, trans fats increase belly fat. A study in which monkeys were fed trans fats, published in the journal Obesity, showed that their waists were 30% larger than the waists of monkeys that were given monounsaturated fats. Not only that, trans fats increase total body fat. Saturated fat is also linked to belly fat.
2. BANISH JUNK FOODS TO LOSE BELLY FAT
If you are serious about your desire to lose belly fat, you need to stop indulging in junk food. That includes any type of fast-foods or convenience foods you buy. These foods are high in calories, saturated fats, trans fats, refined carbohydrates, salt and sugar and low on vitamins and minerals. They do not help you lose belly fat, but impede your efforts. It is incredibly difficult to reduce your calorie intake and eat high-calorie foods. Why? Because these foods are high in calories, but they are not as filling as they should be considering their high calorie content. Therefore, after eating junk food, you are hungry faster and end up overeating.
Also, cut out alcohol, as the calories in alcohol are high. If you drink alcohol regularly or drink on the weekends, try to tally up how many calories it amounts to per week. Very likely it will be undermining your goal to lose belly fat. Furthermore, alcohol, smoking and caffeine (found in not just coffee bur also soft drinks) increase the stress hormone cortisol, which stimulates the deposition of belly fat.
GENERAL DIET TIPS TO LOSE TUMMY FAT
1. CREATE A CALORIE DEFICIT TO LOSE BELLY FAT
The most important factor to lose belly fat is creating a calorie deficit, i.e. you have to expend more calories than you consume. You can create a calorie deficit by moving more and eating less. First determine how many calories you need each day to maintain your weight. The amount of calories you require depends on your age, gender and activity level. This calorie calculator will help you determine your requirements. Once your know how many calories you need, you can decide on the size of the calorie deficit you want to create.
To lose belly fat, reduce your calorie intake by at least 500 calories below maintenance, but don’t go below 1200 calories if you are a woman or 1800 if you are a man. Cutting back calories excessively will stop you from losing belly fat, or will cause you to gain the weight back once you have stopped your diet (see crash diet.)
2. EAT EVERY 3 HOURS TO LOSE BELLY FAT
To stave off hunger, to ensure your body is getting sufficient nutrition and to avoid it from holding onto fat reserves too tightly, eat little and often. Skipping breakfast and even lunch, may seem like a good idea, but in the end almost all of us end up making up for those missed meals and then some. Skipping meals will negatively impact blood sugar levels, and in turn, reduce willpower. Studies show that people who miss breakfast are less successful at losing weight than those who fuel up first thing in the morning.
Furthermore, when you are reducing calories the body’s first instinct is to hold onto that belly fat with a vengeance, just in case you are starving and don’t know where the next meal is coming from. After all, your body doesn’t know the difference between a diet and starvation. Therefore, between your 3 main meals have a healthy snack to maintain steady energy levels and avoid junk food binges help you lose belly fat. Eat 3 meals and 2 snacks consisting of all three food groups (carbs, fat and protein) every 3 hours. (Click here for more tips on how to reduce calories.)
3. MEDITERRANEAN DIET TO LOSE BELLY FAT
The diet that best fits the above guidelines is a calorie-controlled Mediterranean Diet. As the name implies, this diet is based on Mediterranean cuisine and is high in MUFA (click here for more information on the Mediterranean diet for weight loss.) Being based on Mediterranean cooking, this is a rather delicious way to lose belly fat. The hallmarks of this diet are as follows:
- High intake of olive oil, legumes, unrefined cereals, fruits and vegetables
- Moderate to high intake of fish
- Moderate intake of dairy products (mostly as cheese and yogurt)
- Moderate intake of wine
- Low intake of meat and meat products
This diet is highly valued by healthcare professionals. Research shows that a Mediterranean style diet is effective in aiding weight loss and particularly in losing belly fat. But that’s not all, the Mediterranean Diet also boasts a plethora of health benefits. Studies have shown this diet may improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, the metabolic syndrome and abdominal obesity. Research also shows that the better you are able to stick to the Mediterranean Diet, the more your risk of developing diabetes decreases and the lower your levels of belly fat. Much of these effects are due to the high content of MUFA in the Mediterranean Diet. Overall, this diet is a scientifically proven method to lose belly fat, decrease health risks and improve overall health.