How to Beat Belly Fat
A Fat-Fighting Food Plan
So are belly fat and its attendant health problems inescapable side effects of aging? The answer is a qualified no. "It's never too late to have a tight stomach," says Jackie Keller, author of Body After Baby. "But there's no easy fix."
The best way to shrink fat cells overall is to lose weight. But make no mistake: Visceral fat is not easy to shed. Start by figuring out your current daily calorie intake. Then cut that number by one quarter. Researchers from Columbia University found that simply reducing daily calories (without adding exercise) can shrink fat cells by up to 18 percent, particularly those in subcutaneous fat. Health bonus? Fat shrinkage also improves the body's ability to use insulin, thereby guarding against diabetes.
Beyond counting calories, you can try the following strategies, which will help you lose weight overall and belly fat specifically:
- Balance the power. An ideal fat-burning meal plan includes 30 percent protein, 40 percent carbohydrates, and 30 percent fat. In a 2009 study, dieters who stuck to these ratios lost 22 percent more belly fat after four months, and 38 percent more after a year, than those who followed a low-fat diet.
- Turn up the volume. Foods containing a lot of water and fiber (salads, vegetables, fresh or dried fruits, and whole-grain breads or pasta) expand in your stomach and make you feel full faster with fewer calories.
- Stack the snacks. Eat small portions of healthy snacks three times a day. In research from Georgia State University, athletes who followed this pattern burned more fat and calories than those who waited for long periods to eat.
- Go green. In a 2009 study, women who drank about five cups of a beverage containing green tea each day, combined with exercise, lost more belly fat than those who merely exercised. In addition to losing one inch around the waist, the tea drinkers decreased subcutaneous fat by 6 percent and visceral fat by 9 percent within 12 weeks. Researchers attributed the loss to catechin, an antioxidant in green tea.
- Fight fat with fat. It sounds counterintuitive, especially after the 1990s fat-free craze, but a growing body of research suggests that a diet rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (popularly dubbed MUFAs) keeps belly fat at bay. Among the most common foods containing MUFAs are olives, nuts, avocados, and the oils from these foods.