Excess abdominal fat causes more problems than having difficulty fitting into your favorite jeans. There are two types -- visceral, which surrounds your abdominal organs, and subcutaneous, which lies between the abdominal wall and your skin. Visceral fat can raise your risk for serious diseases, says Harvard Health Publications, including heart disease. While no particular food can increase abdominal fat, consuming too many calories from the wrong foods can. Exercising routinely and eating a healthy diet limited in these foods can help keep added pounds off your waistline and these health risks at bay.
Refined grains are those that have been stripped of valuable nutrient content during processing, resulting in a less satiating, less nutritious food. In a study published in the "Journal of the American College of Nutrition" in 2012, researchers analyzed the diets and abdominal fat levels of 2,834 adults. While whole grain intake was associated with low levels of abdominal fat, refined grains were linked to higher levels. Replace refined grain products, such as white rice, egg noodles and pretzels, with whole grains such as brown rice, oatmeal and popcorn.
Fatty Animal Foods
Replacing saturated fats, the majority of which derive from animal products such as meat and dairy products, with unsaturated fats, prevalent in plant foods, has been shown to improve abdominal fat levels and marginally reduce overall body weight, according to a report published in "Obesity" in March 2012. The American Heart Association recommends limiting your saturated fat intake to no more than 7 percent of your total caloric intake, or up to 16 grams within a 2,000-calorie diet. To cut back on saturated fat, replace common sources, such as butter, heavy cream, beef and other fatty meats, with unsaturated fat sources, such as nuts, seeds and avocados.
Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil
Replacing trans fats in your diet with unsaturated fats can also help trim your tummy, says Harvard Health Publications. Listed on nutrition labels as partially hydrogenated oils, trans fats are made through a process in which hydrogen is added to vegetable oil, forming a solid fat that can also seriously damage your cholesterol health. Common sources include fast food and commercially prepared baked goods, pizza dough, crackers and pie crust. The American Heart Association recommends limiting trans fats to less than 1 percent of your total calories, or less than 2 grams per day within a 2,000-calorie diet.
Added sugars, which are particularly high in sweetened beverages, can also increase abdominal fat. In a study published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition," 47 overweight adults consumed 1 liter of either regular cola, skim milk with a similar number of calories, diet soda or water daily for six months. Participants who consumed sugary soft drinks had significantly higher increases in visceral, skeletal muscle, liver and blood fat than those who drank other beverages. The Harvard School of Public Health recommends consuming particularly sugary drinks, including cranberry juice cocktail, orange soda, orange juice, cola and sports drinks, only sparingly and infrequently. Although the sugars in juices are often natural and derived from fruit, they're typically far more concentrated in juices and contain less fiber than whole fruits.
- Harvard Health Publications: Abdominal Fat and What to Do About It
- Journal of the American College of Nutrition: Whole- and Refined-Grain Intakes Are Differentially Associated With Abdominal Visceral and Subcutaneous Adiposity in Healthy Adults: The Framingham Heart Study
- American Heart Association: Whole Grains and Fiber
- Obesity; Dietary Saturated Fat Intake Is Negatively Associated With Weight Maintenance Among the PREMIER Participants
- American Heart Association: Know Your Fats
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Sucrose-Sweetened Beverages Increase Fat Storage in the Liver, Muscle, and Visceral Fat Depot: a 6-Mo Randomized Intervention Study
- Harvard School of Public Health: How Sweet Is It?
- Today's Dietitian: Raising a Glass to 100% Fruit Juice