Most of us appreciate the esthetics of a flat tummy; we all feel sexier when we can button up our skinny jeans and look good in a bathing suit. But the excess belly fat that plagues so many of us is not just unsightly, it is also dangerous to our health. It’s called visceral fat, and as it forms between our internal organs, it secretes proteins that trigger chronic inflammation. It is inflammation that puts us at risk for diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
How do you know if you are at risk? Measure the circumference of your body right at the top of your hipbones. If your number is greater than 35 inches, it’s time to get serious about losing those extra inches. There is good news, however. Getting rid of belly fat is not that hard, if you follow a simple plan such as the one suggested by Dr. Memhet Oz.
Fight Fat With Food
Begin by keeping calories in a healthy range. Stay away from foods that are high in saturated fat, and know the foods that actually burn that excess visceral fat.
Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) can stop belly fat before it begins, and they also help keep your heart healthy and your inflammation levels low. Research published in the journal Diabetes Care showed people who get approximately 25 percent of their total calories from MUFAs gained no visceral fat during the course of the study, compared with those who ate more carbs and fewer MUFAs. Olive oil is rich in MUFAs, as are avocados and nuts. Dr. Oz suggests snacking on an ounce of pine nuts (enough to fill a shot glass) 20 minute before meals, as this will help control appetite.
The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking system of 0 to 100 that indicates which foods are most likely to cause spikes in blood sugar, which in turn triggers the release of cortisol. Choose low-GI foods (those with a rating of 55 or below) like beans, lentils and chickpeas, instead of high-GI foods like white rice and potatoes. This will stablize your blood sugar and lower your risk of disease, as well as supporting weight control.
Research shows people who drink one and a half cups of green tea enriched with a total of 609 milligrans of catechins every day for 12 weeks lost nearly 16 times as much visceral fat as people who drank green tea without the added antioxidants. To match these results at home, brew two to four cups daily, and choose varieties high in catechins.
Low levels of calcium cause your body to store visceral fat. Most adults need 1,000 milligrams, and studies show calcium from dairy is best. Dr. Oz recommends eating low-fat Greek yogurt daily (just six ounces provides 20 percent of your daily needs).
A study at Duke University showed that people who do moderate cardio exercise for 178 minutes weekly (about 30 minutes of walking, six days a week) gained almost no visceral fat over the period of eight months. Try interval training, alternating fast and slow walking.
Once you’ve established your routine of regular cardio, add two or three weight training sessions weekly, on nonconsecutive days. Building muscle tone significantly slows production of belly fat.