Everyone wants a flat stomach that doesn’t press into their jeans or bulge out like a baby bump or beach ball. Yet, all aesthetics aside, recent research suggests that excess belly fat (AKA “visceral fat”) puts you at a higher risk of life-threatening heart disease, type II diabetes and inflammation. Those three are obvious, but do you know belly fat also makes you more likely to develop asthma and dementia too?
In the past, it was difficult to really assess how much visceral fat a person had. Sure, you could measure body mass index and measure your waistline, but these tests still failed to offer up the whole picture. More recently, doctors are starting to use the CoreScan technology, a scanner that uses dual energy x-rays to measure visceral fat much like they would measure bone density for osteoporosis. This noninvasive test can be done with all your clothes on in your doctor’s office and only takes 10 minutes. You can leave there knowing the results. The bad news is that the new technology is not yet covered by insurance and may cost anywhere from $50 to $150.
Here’s more good news: there are foods that can help you burn belly fat. Diet starts in the kitchen, so take heed and begin adding more of the following items into your pantry.
- Nuts: Foods containing mono or polyunsaturated fats (like oils, nuts, dark chocolate and avocados) are less likely to be stored as belly fats. Yet, it’s also important to watch your portion sizes with these caloric foods, so keep it to an ounce of nuts and no more than two tablespoons of olive oil per serving. Add nuts to your yogurt, oil to your salad, and peanut butter to your apple slices for fat-busting healthy snacks.
- Whole Grains: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that choosing brown rice instead of white rice can help flatten your belly. Those who ate more whole grains lost more weight from their mid-section than those eating refined grains because there is less of an insulin spike and less fat storage in the nutrient-dense whole grains. Every day, you should be eating oatmeal, whole wheat bread, whole grain cereal, and whole wheat pasta.
- Fiber: Most people eat only 15 grams of fiber a day, but the average active woman should be consuming at least 25 grams. A study from the University of Southern California revealed that women could melt belly fat by 4 percent by upping their fiber intake over a two-year period. Conversely, those who ate less fiber saw a 21 increase in abdominal fat on average. Fiber not only helps you feel full, but it delays the absorption of sugars, fat and cholesterol as well. Try eating high-fiber cereal, adding beans to your lunch and having a cup of raspberries for dessert to add more fiber to your diet.
- Tofu: The isoflavones in tofu have been associated with belly fat reduction. As little as 70 grams of soy protein can help. Use tofu as a substitute for ricotta cheese, add to a stir-fry, or mix the silky variety into a shake to decrease your belly fat.