By Eileen Ferrer, Skinny Gene Nutritionist
Are you bathing suit ready?
That’s the question I ask myself at the start of every summer, and of course, I rarely say yes. That’s because I do admit to having a little “muffin top,” which is a nice way of saying I have belly fat. It is a continuous effort to shrink and/or maintain the belly fat I have, which is very much dependent on how much food is consumed, in relation to how much physical activity is expended. However, a person having too much fat in the abdomen area poses various health risks.
Fat accumulates everywhere in the body. But in regards to belly fat, the risks are associated with where the fat is located in the belly. There are two easy ways to think about belly fat. Imagine the shape of a body as if they were a pear or an apple. Therefore, for people who are pear shaped, there is more fat accumulated towards the lower body. Fat in this area is subcutaneous, which just lies between the skin and muscle; this is the fat we can pinch. People who are apple shaped, fat is accumulated in the abdomen area, with an increased amount surrounding the internal organs; this is called visceral fat. Subcutaneous fat is more cosmetic, whereas visceral fat surrounding the organs is linked to an increased risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, dementia, breast cancer and colorectal cancer. But not to worry; these risks can be minimized simply by being mindful of the calories taken in, and being physically active to burn those calories.
To beat the belly fat bulge, keep active, portion food, and make healthy food choices. The general recommendation for physical activity is a minimum of 30 minutes per day of moderate intensity, such as walking or light jogging. If you are just starting out, spread the 30 minutes throughout the day, and do burst of 10 or 15 minutes, then gradually go up to do the entire 30 minutes, then up to 60 minutes per day, which would be ideal to control weight. Adding strength exercises by including light weights has also been shown to be helpful in reducing belly fat, especially the visceral kind. Just remember, it’s heating up, and it is very important to keep hydrated when doing any type of physical activity; drink plenty of water.
The battle with belly fat does not end with just physical activity. In addition, it is important to be mindful of portion size and making healthy food choices when eating in our out. MyPlate (click on MyPlate for more information on portion size) is a great reference point. Remember to make half your plate veggies and fruit, and the other half whole grains and a lean protein, with a side of dairy. Limit foods high in saturated and trans fat, such as a marbled steak, butter, pre-packaged cookies or cake, as well as limiting simple carbohydrates, such as white breads and pastas. Lastly, limit sugary drinks, and replace with more water.
Additionally, check out the list of belly fat fighting foods to incorporate into your next meal or snack.
- Avocadoes: Avocadoes contain the healthy kind of fat, poly- and mono-unsaturated fat, and some protein. Add them to your salad for that additional health benefit.
- Berries: Fresh berries are high in fiber, and are good for us. Some studies have shown an element is raspberries called ketones that prevent the buildup of fat in the belly and around the liver.
- Nuts: Walnuts and almonds are especially good because they are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce belly fat, and with hunger pangs. Only a small handful is needed per day.
- Fish: Try salmon, halibut, albacore tuna. Though these are fatty fish, they contain the fat burning omega-3 fatty acids, the healthy kind.
- Oils: Healthy oils like olive and canola oils. Use canola oil for a quick vegetable stir-fry, and drizzle olive oil over a small toasted whole wheat roll topped with avocado slices.
- Dairy: Calcium in dairy helps burn belly fat by decreasing the body’s ability to store belly fat. Make a yogurt parfait with low-fat greek yogurt, and add some berries for the added benefit of reducing belly fat.