It’s a common scenario: You’re dressed and ready to go, giving yourself that once-over in the mirror before heading out the door
THERE’S JUST ONE LITTLE PROBLEM.
Despite the fact that your clothes fit perfectly everywhere else, an annoying roll of flab is spilling over the waistband of your pants. That muffin top is rearing its ugly head, and you’re convinced everyone else notices it, too.
Many women wonder why this “spare tire” shows up as they start getting older. Even when you’re eating clean and religiously using your Ab Master, it’s not uncommon to see extra belly fat growing as the years go by. The pudge that accumulates around the abdominal area tends to be from visceral fat – the type of fat that surrounds your organs and can increase your risk for high blood pressure, insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease and even dementia.
SO WHAT CAUSES VISCERAL FAT STORAGE – EVEN WHEN YOU’RE EXERCISING LIKE A MANIAC AND EATING RIGHT? IN A NUTSHELL, IT ALL COMES DOWN TO YOUR HORMONES.
Several different hormones can contribute to midsection fat, but three power players tend to rule the game: leptin, which lets your brain know you’ve had enough to eat and decides whether to use food as fuel or store it in your abdomen; cortisol, which can feed a muffin top when there’s too much of this “stress” hormone floating around (belly fat cells contain four times more cortisol receptors compared with other cells!); and insulin, which keeps visceral fat stored securely where it is (and where it’s unwanted!) and hikes your risk for metabolic syndrome.
With elevated insulin levels and cortisol acting like your enemy, that muffin top’s not going anywhere.
Food First: Eating for a Flat Belly
Before I talk about what foods you should eat to help minimize that tummy flab, it’s also important to know what you shouldn’t be noshing on.
Ditching the muffin top includes getting rid of what I call the “white stuff,” which sends insulin levels soaring. This includes foods like sugar, pastries, cookies, cake, bread, rice and potatoes. I’m not suggesting you can never eat a sandwich again, but a diet that is generally high in processed carbohydrates and sugar paves the way for midsection fat – and increases your risk for disease.
TO BREAK THE FAT-STORING CYCLE, TURN TO THE FOLLOWING FOODS:
- Wild salmon. With high-quality protein that stabilizes blood sugar and healthy omega-3 fatty acids, wild salmon is helpful for regulating insulin. Human intervention trials also show that supplementing with omega-3 can help reduce visceral fat.
- Rich in healthy monounsaturated fat, potassium and other nutrients, one cup of avocado also contains 10 grams of filling, fat-busting fiber. A study in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that adolescents who ate more fiber reduced visceral fat and inflammation.
- Raw nuts. Loaded with healthy fats, fiber and protein, raw almonds and other nuts and seeds help stabilize blood sugar and make a delicious snack. Nuts and seeds are also rich in magnesium, a mineral most of us are deficient in. A study in the journal Magnesium Research found that a high-fructose diet with low magnesium levels is a combo that increases inflammation and promotes fat storage in the belly.
- Green tea. Dump the cortisol-raising java for a calming cup of green tea. Numerous studies show that the catechins (antioxidants) in green tea help reduce body fat. You’ll need to drink a good amount to get those benefits, so supplementing might be the way to go.
- A University of Michigan study that found obese rats had lower visceral fat triglycerides and improved insulin sensitivity after eating a blueberry-enriched powder for 90 days. Blueberries add real fiber and a phytonutrient punch to your protein shakes or Greek yogurt.
So while it may seem frustrating that you can’t melt away that belly fat with good old-fashioned crunches, know that your diet and hormones are the true gatekeepers to a flat tummy. Turn to these fat-busting foods and you’ll send the muffin top packing in no time.