Struggling with belly fat? Avocados may help.
Most of us know—belly fat is not only unsightly and irritating, it’s bad for your health. A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that men and women with the biggest waistlines had twice the risk of dying compared to those with smaller waistlines.
Another study in Cell Metabolism reported that increased deep belly fat around organs increases risk for insulin resistance and type II diabetes. Belly fat is also linked to a higher risk of heart failure, atherosclerosis, and cancer.
Why is belly fat so dangerous? Visceral fat in the abdomen has been found to be more metabolically active, producing more changes in cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar than fat in other areas of the body, like the legs and the buttocks. In fact, according to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, even just a two-inch increase in waist circumference is associated with an increased mortality risk of 17 percent in men and 13 percent in women, regardless of your overall weight or body mass index.
What can you do?
Belly Fat Tough to Battle
Most people who are dealing with excess belly fat know that it can be particularly difficult to get rid of. Women going through pre-menopause or menopause often can’t shed it even if they make changes in their diet and exercise programs, because fluctuating hormones seem to want to deposit everything into the waistline.
Both men and women can also suffer from increased stress, which is connected to increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Unfortunately, excess cortisol in the body can also increase belly fat. A study in 2000 found that non-overweight individuals vulnerable to the effects of stress were more likely to have excess body fat. Researchers added that cortisol causes fat to be stored around the organs.
If stress is a factor for you, in addition to getting some daily exercise, you may also want to consider some stress-relieving activities like meditation, yoga, and journaling, and make sure you’re getting enough sleep. A lack of sleep is also connected with an increase in cortisol levels, as well as an increased desire to eat—both detrimental to your weight-loss efforts.
Foods that May Help
Though it’s best to be sure you’re cutting back on calories and increasing your daily exercise, adding the following to your diet may help trim belly fat.
- Sour cherries: In animal studies, tart cherry powder helped rats lose 17 percent of their belly fat in three months. Crushed blueberries also helped in another study.
- Avocadoes: Experts from Yale’s Prevention Research center note that monounsaturated fats, which are plentiful in avocadoes, can help prevent fat from being deposited around the middle. A study of 1,600 women who switched to a high-monounsaturated-fat diet shed a third of their belly fat in a month.
- Green tea: Studies have reported that overweight and obese adults who sipped a sports drink with a high concentration of green tea extract every day dropped about 8 percent of their belly fat in three months. Researchers speculate that the compounds in green tea may speed up the body’s metabolic rate. You can also try pu-erh tea.
- Whole grains: One study found that obese adults who ate 4-7 daily servings of whole grain foods lost twice as much abdominal fat as those eating refined grain products. Try oatmeal, brown rice, plain popcorn, whole grain pasta and whole-wheat tortillas.
- Vinegar: Add some vinegar to your steamed veggies and your belly may respond. A Japanese animal study found that it helped.
- Hot tomatoes: Any food with carotenoids, beta-carotene, and lycopene will work here, as recent research showed that people who eat more of these foods have smaller waistlines. Tomatoes have all three and they become more potent when cooked.
- Raspberries: There is some preliminary research that shows that one of the antioxidants in raspberries, called the “raspberry ketone,” may help bust belly fat.
- Cinnamon: Studies indicate that cinnamon can reduce insulin resistance. This may help reduce belly fat, as high levels of insulin and insulin have been linked to abdominal fat. An animal study also showed that dietary cinnamon reduced the accumulation of white fat in the abdomen.
- Coconut oil: Huh? Yes, even though it’s high in saturated fat, new research says it can help reduce body fat and waist circumference in women who had high triglycerides.
- Safflower oil: It’s a good source of linoleic acid, which may help rev up metabolism. A study also showed that just two tablespoons a day encouraged the loss of belly fat.
- Oranges: All fruits high in vitamin C, according to an Arizona State University study, can help you burn up to 30 percent more fat during exercise.
- Black beans: Studies show the flavonoids in beans may help discourage the storage of fat in the belly.
- Cold potatoes: Chilled potatoes form resistant starch crystals, a constituent of fiber that triggers appetite-suppressing hormones, and helps the body burn more fat for fuel while making less fat available to store in fat cells. Add a little vinegar to your potato salad and you have a double-sided belly fat buster.
Do you know of other foods that may help trim belly fat?
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“Is belly fat more dangerous to our health?” CNNhealth.com, December 25, 2008, http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2008/12/25/is-belly-fat-more-dangerous-to-our-health/.
Yale University (2000, November 23). Stress May Cause Excess Abdominal Fat In Otherwise Slender Women, Study Conducted At Yale Shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 15, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2000/11/001120072314.htm.
Cynthia Sass, RD and Melinda Dodd, “11 Foods (and One Trick) to Fight Belly Fat,” More.com, http://www.more.com/health/healthy-eating/11-foods-and-one-trick-fight-belly-fat.
“Eight Delicious Foods that Help Fight Belly Fat,” CBS News, January 17, 2011, http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-500165_162-7254362.html.
Real Age, “9 Foods That Help Fight Belly Fat,” RealAge, http://www.realage.com/mens-health/9-foods-that-fight-belly-fat#fbIndex2.
Couturier K et al, Cinnamon improves insulin sensitivity and alters the body composition in an animal model of the metabolic syndrome, Arch Biochem Biophys, pages 158-161, September 2010.