Belly fat consists of two types of fat: subcutaneous, the layer you can pinch, and visceral, the layer deep inside your abdominal cavity. The subcutaneous layer, while not entirely unhealthy, affects your physical appearance. The visceral layer, however, can seriously endanger your health if it accumulates, because it lies near vital organs, including your heart and liver. Shedding belly fat involves avoiding certain foods that promote unhealthy weight gain. Consult your doctor before making any dramatic changes to your diet.
High-Fructose Corn Syrup
A Princeton University research team reported in 2010 that, in rats, the consumption of high-fructose corn syrup led to more weight gain than the consumption of regular table sugar. The effect of high-fructose corn syrup on weight gain in humans remains an issue of debate among nutrition professionals as of 2011; however, nutritionists advise that, as with all sweeteners, you should limit your intake of high-fructose corn syrup.
Refined grains refer to grains from which the nutritious and high-fiber outer bran and germ layers are removed during processing. These include white rice, white bread and enriched flour. A study published in “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” in 2010 showed that a higher intake of refined grains was associated with a higher amount of visceral belly fat. Conversely, higher consumption of whole grains -- grains with all layers intact -- correlated with lower visceral belly fat. To avoid belly-fat weight gain, choose whole grains, such as brown rice, oatmeal and whole-wheat bread, over refined grains whenever possible.
High sugar consumption affects many aspects of your nutritional health. According to Dr. Robert Lustig, a neuroendocrinologist at the University of California, San Francisco, sugar triggers fat storage and deceives the brain into thinking it is hungry when you are otherwise satisfied. This leads to what he calls a “vicious cycle” of overeating, which typically includes the wrong foods. Limit your consumption of high-sugar foods, including sodas and juices, which provide only empty calories.
Trans Fat and Saturated Fat
Trans fat and saturated fat contribute to a host of health problems, including cardiovascular disease and weight gain. High amounts of both fats in your diet can lead to redistribution of fat to your abdomen, according to Dr. Lawrence Rudel, a professor of pathology and biochemistry at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. To help avoid belly fat and for better overall health, limit trans and saturated fats in your diet and incorporate more unsaturated fats. Foods high in mono- and polyunsaturated fats include olive oil, nuts, avocados and fatty fish, such as salmon and tuna.
- “Harvard Women’s Health Watch”; Abdominal Fat and What To Do About It; December 2006
- Princeton University; A Sweet Problem: Princeton Researchers Find that High-Fructose Corn Syrup Prompts Considerably More Weight Gain; Hilary Parker; March 22, 2010
- Harvard School of Public Health: Health Gains from Whole Grains
- “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition”; Whole- and Refined-Grain Intake Are Differentially Associated with Abdominal Visceral and Subcutaneous Adiposity in Healthy Adults: The Framingham Heart Study; N. McKeown, et al.; November 2010
- University of California, San Francisco; Sugar Is Poison, Says UCSF Obesity Expert; Jeffrey Norris; June 25, 2009
- Daily News Central; Trans Fats Linked to Dangerous Belly Fat; Rita Jenkins; June 12, 2006