Carrying excess fat can pose a serious health risk, especially if that fat is deep in your abdomen. This extra fat -- called visceral fat -- secretes compounds that put your body in a state of chronic inflammation, which increases your risk of disease. The foods you eat have a powerful effect on your body fat levels. If you're concerned about accumulating excess fat, eat mostly whole, nutritious foods and save the fattening ones for occasional treats.
Processed, Fried and Fast Foods
Step away from the package! Those processed foods that are oh-so-convenient can expand your waistline. Many packaged and processed foods are designed to appeal to basic cravings for salt, sugar and fat, with no focus on nutritional value or feelings of fullness. As a result, a high-calorie meal that takes up a significant chunk of your daily calorie budget can leave you feeling hungry shortly after. For example, a commercial fast food burger, large fries and medium 21-ounce cola will set you back 1,190 calories. Other vending machine staples can boost your calories, and if you're not careful with portion sizes, your body fat levels, too. A 2-ounce serving of barbecue-flavored chips has 272 calories, while a same-size serving of cheese puffs has 242 calories.
Baked Sweets and Treats
Sure, you likely already know that donuts and cake are fattening, but even so-called "healthy" baked goods can pack some serious calories that put you on track for weight gain. For example, a large commercially prepared corn muffin -- weighing around 5 ounces -- has 424 calories, while a large 5-ounce low-fat blueberry muffin weighs in at 355 calories. Most muffins are also made using refined flour, which causes rapid blood sugar changes that make you hungry shortly after eating.
You should particularly avoid baked goods topped with frosting. An obvious source of calories and sugar, ready-to-eat frostings are also packed with trans fats. These fats clog your arteries and contribute to heart disease, and they are more likely to cause abdominal body fat gain even if you control your calorie intake, explains Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
Sugary Drinks and Candies
Sugary foods are high in calories and low in nutrition, and eating too many make you pack on excess body fat. Like refined grains, sugary foods trigger quick changes in your blood sugar levels, causing a "sugar high" followed by a hunger-inducing crash. And even small portions of sugary foods can take up a significant chunk of your calorie allotment for the day; for example, a single pack of a commercial peanut butter candies has 229 calories, while a serving of 20 gummy bears has 174 calories. Sugary drinks are even worse, since liquids don't trigger satisfaction and fullness like foods. A medium fast-food cola, which is 21 ounces, contains 180 calories, all of which come from sugar.
Prevent obesity and weight gain by keeping your total added sugar intake, which includes sugar from junk foods, as well as "healthy" foods with added sugar, like flavored yogurts and granola -- to 9 teaspoons for men and 6 teaspoons for women.
Avoid Increasing Body Fat With Healthy Foods
Many of the most fattening foods are pre-packaged and pre-made; therefore, you can avoid gaining excess body fat by filling your diet with unprocessed foods. Eat plenty of produce -- frozen or fresh -- at each meal, include nonfat dairy, nuts, beans and legumes in your diet plan, and eat whole grains and lean proteins, like eggs, chicken and tofu. These foods are packed with the vitamins and minerals you need to feel energized and healthy, fiber for digestive health and blood sugar control, and protein for feelings of fullness and muscle growth. Avoid falling into the trap of grabbing unhealthy convenience foods by planning ahead and packing meals you can enjoy on the go. Try an orange or a handful of dry-roasted nuts as a snack, or eat a vegetable and chicken breast wrap or a homemade smoothie when you need a portable meal.
Keep in mind that any excess calories will make you gain body fat, though -- even if they come from healthy foods. Fill your calorie-controlled diet with healthy foods, but don't take your diet's healthiness as a license to eat as much as you want with impunity.
- HealthAliciousNess: Nutrient Facts Comparison Tool (Burger, Fries, Soft Drink)
- HealthAliciousNess: Nutrient Facts Comparison Tool (Potato Chips, Cheese Puffs, Corn Muffins)
- HealthAliciousNess: Nutrient Facts Comparison Tool (Blueberry muffins, Candy, Gummy Bears)
- FDA: Talking About Trans Fat: What You Need to Know
- Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center: Trans Fat Leads To Weight Gain Even on Same Total Calories, Animal Study Shows
- Harvard School of Public Health: Added Sugar in the Diet