Belly fat is linked with higher risk for developing various health issues, but belly fat burning foods can help you lose belly fat when combined with exercise. It is normal for every person to have some belly fat, even for people with flat abs. A healthy body needs some fat which contains essential nutrients. Our body uses fat to make tissue and create biochemicals, such as hormones.
Some of our fat is close to the surface right under our skin. Other fat can be found deeper inside our body around the organs, such as around our heart, lungs and liver. This deeper fat is called “visceral” fat and too much of it can affect our health.
Why belly fat is dangerous
Too much belly fat (or what is called the “apple” shape) increases the risk of many health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and even certain types of cancers.
The ironic thing is that even slim people can have hidden belly fat that is folded deep inside the belly around the stomach organs and is visible only by medical imaging. This might be due to genetic issues, unhealthy lifestyle and lack of exercising and puts them at risk just like the other people with a more visible belly fat.
Men tend to store more belly fat than women and it’s one of the reasons men have more coronary disease than women. Women tend to be protected before menopause, when their fat tends to be stored on the buttocks and thighs (the “pear” shape”). At menopause, however, women’s fat tends to settle in the belly, and this fat is much more dangerous than buttocks fat and greatly increases a woman’s risk of death from heart disease.
Diet is just part of the picture
While your genetics may play a role in belly fat, this is just part of the picture. Most of belly fat is related to unhealthy lifestyle – being physically inactive and consuming too much calories. Being physically active is a key in losing belly fat and should be combined with healthy nutrition. If you only eat foods that seem to target belly fat without exercising, you will see much slower results. Find activity that you enjoy and do it on a regular basis, such as walking, running or biking. It’s also good if you can find a support group to help you with moral support to maintain the results.
Another part of the picture is sleep. One of the dangers of sleep deprivation is weight gain. When we maintain enough hours of sleep we burn more calories. Recent studies (both in humans and animals) have linked insufficient sleep and a tendency to gain weight. Sleep duration affects the hunger and satiety, as well as the production of various hormones and has a direct effect on the metabolism of the body. In addition, it was found that people who don’t sleep enough are less active the next day and burn fewer calories. It was found that 8 hours of sleep provide the best metabolism. Some even claim that stress is part of the picture as we all know how emotional eating affects our diet.
What is the common link between the various lists of foods that fight belly fat?
Looking at various websites with lists of foods that fight belly fat can be quite confusing. The lists vary quite significantly in the length and content. It’s hard to know where to start from. After all, there is no magic diet for belly fat, but when you lose weight on any diet, belly fat usually goes first. So here are the 5 main food groups that you should consume more of to help you better maintain your weight over time:
1. Fiber rich foods
Research shows that eating 10 grams of soluble fiber per day helped to build less visceral fat over time. This is why many lists contain fiber rich foods, such as beans, legumes, various fruits and vegetables with the skin, whole grains and oats. Try to include soluble fiber in every meal and snack throughout the day. If you’re not used to eating this much fiber, add it gradually to avoid gas and diarrhea and be sure to drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water daily.
2. Foods containing protein
Protein keeps you satisfied for longer and takes longer to digest. The reason for this is that protein molecules are long chains with strong links which are harder to break down, and the whole process is more time consuming. It has been calculated that to obtain 100 calories from a protein food, the system must use 30 calories (but only 12 calories for fat and 7 for carbohydrates). This is why many lists contain low-fat and low-sugar yogurt, skim milk, lean meat, fish and eggs, or plant based proteins such as beans, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds and certain vegetables. 1 egg, for example, contains 7 grams of protein. 1 cup of quinoa has 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. Tabouli is also high in fiber and protein. Also nuts are high in protein, fiber and healthy fats, so if you eat them in moderation, they are excellent to curb hunger between meals. You can also refer to my article about 13 surprising sources of meat-free protein.
3. Foods that are high in water content
These foods take up more space in the gut which signals the body that you ate enough so you have less room for other foods. Many fruits and vegetables contain a lot of water and nutrients, but are low in calories, and this is why they appear in many lists, especially watermelon. Other fruits with high content water are berries, grapefruit, melons, oranges, apples, pears and more. Vegetables that have high water content are cucumber, lettuce, celery, radish, zucchini, tomato, cabbage and more. What’s good in general about fruits and vegetables is that these foods are generally full of water and they are also a good source of fiber and many other nutrients and antioxidants. Fruits have other benefit – being sweet, so can satisfy your sweet tooth for much less calories than cookies or other sweets. Vegetables, on the other hand, satisfy the desire to crunch and can be a healthy snack and a substitute to other unhealthy snacks. Try to munch on carrot and celery sticks or a sweet potato instead of chips, or make an interesting salad (but be careful about the dressing). In addition to eating foods that are high in water content you can drink fat flush water to melt your fat.
4. Hot foods
Hot foods can be of a high temperature or spicy (or both). Hot food takes longer to eat and with added bonuses such as fiber and water content that make you feel full. This is why oatmeal can be found in many lists, or homemade soups (broth based and not cream based). Also cayenne peppers appear in some lists as people tend to eat less when their food is spicy, and because they are believed to increase metabolism.
5. Foods that increase metabolism
There are many articles about consuming the top foods to increase your metabolism. Some of these foods are green tea which has a phytochemical called EGCG that promotes weight loss by promoting the internal heat of the body and fat oxidation. Cayenne pepper contains capsaicin which is known to increase metabolism. Capsaicin increases the internal heat of the body, and in order to increase heat, energy is needed, and thus cayenne pepper contributes to increase metabolism. Also some studies suggest that vinegar may help the body break down fat, hence you can find it in some lists.
There are probably other food categories that can get into the list, but most likely you’ve got the idea. There are no miracles in how to lose belly fat. Lifestyle changes are key to a long term success. Good luck.